New York City neighbors and Epicenter NYC members together with Weeksville’s vice president Erica Harper (checkered coat, green pants), educator Ian MacPherson (red checkered scarf) and tour educator Regina Robbins (orange coat); URCNYS’ president Ally Spongr DeGon (burgundy coat) and vice president Peter Bunten (cream coat, burgundy collar); and Epicenter NYC’s community manager Daniel Laplaza (black coat, center) following the special discussion and tour. Photo by Epicenter NYC

Epicenter NYC members and New York City neighbors came together for a special discussion and tour of the Weeksville Heritage Center, once home to one of the largest free Black communities in pre-Civil War America. The event, which took place Friday, Feb. 23, featured an informative session with two distinguished speakers: Erica Harper, the vice president of learning and engagement at Weeksville, and Peter Bunten, executive director of the Mid-Hudson Antislavery History Project and vice president of the Underground Railroad Consortium of New York State (URCNYS), followed by a captivating tour of the site’s beautifully restored historic houses, exhibitions, and gardens.

“It was an absolute pleasure to partner with Epicenter NYC and the URCNYS to host New Yorkers from around the boroughs at Weeksville. You simply cannot tell the story of slavery in New York without Weeksville, and other free Black communities that rose up in direct response. We share with URCNYS the mission of preserving and telling the full, rich history of people too often relegated to the margins. I hope this visit is only the beginning of a deep and fruitful partnership,” shared Erica Harper, Vice President of Learning & Engagement at Weeksville.

“The Historic Community of Weeksville represents the self-determination that free Black Communities have exercised throughout American History. The Underground Railroad Consortium of New York State is thrilled to include the Weeksville Heritage Center among its partner locations as a contemporary institution that preserves the history of Abolition in New York State. It was wonderful working with the team at Epicenter NYC to facilitate a discussion at Weeksville between our partner sites and New Yorkers who share a common interest in the history of racial justice. URCNYS thanks Erica Harper at the Weeksville Heritage Center, Peter Bunten of the Mid Hudson Antislavery History Project and Ally Spongr Degon of the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center for presenting about their work and research,” said Sage Hamilton-Hazarika, Corridor Coordinator, Underground Railroad Consortium of New York State.

“To understand New York City and its history, you have to understand the significance of Black history and sites like Weeksville. This is at the core of Epicenter’s deep commitment with centering communities of color. We are grateful to once again partner with the Underground Railroad Consortium of New York State and collaborate with the amazing Weeksville Heritage Center to bring a one-of-a-kind experience to neighbors from all around the world on this historic month and year round,” added S. Mitra Kalita, publisher and co-founder of Epicenter NYC.

Located in Central Brooklyn, the Weeksville Heritage Center is a historic site and cultural center that uses education, arts and a social justice lens to preserve, document and inspire engagement with the history of Weeksville, one of the largest free Black communities in pre-Civil War America, and the Historic Hunterfly Road Houses.

Anyone interested in visiting the Weeksville Heritage Center can learn more at and to get involved with URCNYS, you can visit for more details.

Epicenter NYC, a community media organization, offers first-look and one-of-a-kind events to its members and neighbors all across New York City. To become a member, click here.

Weeksville Heritage Center’s tour educator Regina Robbins with attendees during the tour of the site’s historic houses. Photo by Daniel Laplaza / Epicenter NYC.
Lobby entrance to the Weeksville Heritage Center. Photo by Daniel Laplaza / Epicenter NYC.
Garden stands on the historic grounds of Weeksville. 
Photo by Daniel Laplaza / Epicenter NYC.
Hosts of the Weeksville Heritage Center Special Event (left to right): Epicenter NYC’s editorial director Femi Redwood, URCNYS’ president Ally Spongr DeGon, corridor coordinator Sage Hamilton-Hazarika and vice president Peter Bunten, Epicenter NYC’s community manager Daniel Laplaza, Weeksville Heritage Center’s vice president of learning & engagement Erica Harper, and Epicenter NYC’s community coordinator Adriana Proaño. Photo by Epicenter NYC.

CONTACT: Carolina Valencia –, (917) 902-0185

Carolina Valencia is longtime media and digital executive who has worked at The New York Times, Univision and The Recount. A native of Guayaquil, Ecuador who grew up in Queens, Carolina also worked for...

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