By Mary Ann Chacko
I live in Bedford Stuyvesant in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. It is a predominantly black neighborhood and one that is becoming increasingly gentrified. My closest subway station is Utica Avenue on the A and C train lines. Getting home from the station involves a short walk through Fulton Park. Last night it was dark by the time I got home from my University. For the past couple of days, I, like many others, had been greatly agitated by the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by the American police. That night I stepped out of the subway station and started to walk home through the park. Suddenly I stopped dead in my tracks. In front of me was a sight that immediately reminded me of “Strange Fruit,” that haunting song, sung by the Black artist, Billy Holiday, and written by a teacher, Abel Meeropol:
Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swingin’ in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hangin’ from the poplar trees
There was an installation in front of me: bunches of flowers hanging from a tree. It was clear that it had been created as a direct response to the mindless and unabated murders of African Americans in the US. Sensing, rather fearing, that the installation might be taken down soon I went home and returned to the park with my camera that same night to take pictures and, thus, archive this powerful piece of political art. Later while scanning the artist’s twitter page @KeepTheVibes, I found that “Strange Fruit” was indeed the title she had given this installation. The next day when I passed through the park the installation was gone. From twitter, I learnt that the cops had pulled down the installation. Here I bring you the pictures of that installation.
Photos: Mary Ann Chacko
Mary Ann Chacko is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her dissertation examines the Student Police Cadet program implemented in government schools across Kerala, India with a focus on adolescent citizenship and school-community relations. She is an Editor of Cafe Dissensus. Read more of her work on her blog, Chintavishta.
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine on ‘The Beat and the Hungry generation: When losing became hip’, edited by Goirick Brahmachari, poet & Abhimanyu Kumar, poet/journalist, New Delhi, India.