HAVERSTRAW, N.Y. -- The first church for African Americans in Haverstraw will be celebrated at the Juneteenth African American Park Dedication on Clinton Street Saturday.
The first annual event takes place from 1 to 3 p.m. with a jazz performance by Sam Waymon and Magic Brother. The dedication is part of Haverstraw's Quadricentennial Celebration.
The park was restored by the Haverstraw African American Connection, chaired and founded by Virginia Norfleet. She launched the project after discovering a historic brick with a three-dimensional cross, near the home she was building on Clinton Street.
She discovered the brick was the cornerstone of the African Methodist Episcopal Bethel Church, Rockland's first house of worship for blacks dating to the civil war, according to lohud.com.
It was that discovery a decade ago that sparked Norfleet's interest in creating a park to honor the church, she told the Daily Voice in an interview.
The park is in memory of the contributions to the area of African-Americans and former slaves, she said, adding Africans were brought to the area by the Dutch as slaves 400 years ago.
Norfleet said 238 slaves came to Haverstraw and worked in the area's brickyards, a fact discovered through her research.
The park's creation is so families have a spot to visit and learn more about the African-Americans in Haverstraw, she said.
"They are people who were never honored for their contribution, and for all these years were not even mentioned for their contributions to the brick yards, as well as the community. This park is to honor the 400 years of us being settled," she said.
Park visitors will be able to follow the 400-year journey from Africa to America, and be able to see the culture, the church, the history, the musical contribution and other contributions of African-Americans in Haverstraw, said Norfleet.
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