crooked neighbors

Onward we went, asking people everywhere we stopped about the Flushing Remonstrance. None of them knew anything about it. We ended up at the Macedonia AME Church, the third-oldest religious organization in Flushing, a block west of Bowne House, on Union Street, another ‘God’s Row.’ Partway through the service, we managed to wrest ourselves from the centripetal pull of the funky organ. On our way out we encountered a deacon who not only knew about the Remonstrance, but regaled us with reminiscences about growing up in Flushing with close friends whose surnames included Lum, Vargas, O’Neal, and DiVecchio. He saw in himself—part African American, part Native American—the story of the place. He told us that John Bowne had been an abolitionist, as were many of his descendants. For the deacon, the significance of the Remonstrance wasn’t whether it had bequeathed the diversity he celebrated. It was in providing a model for how that diversity could be preserved: A group of men stood up to defend the religious freedom of people with whom they disagreed, refusing to demonize them. They stood up for unity as well as diversity, just like the Chinese and Italian friends who’d come to his defense as a kid, when they would travel together to parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island where his skin color wasn’t welcome.

Catapult | Love Your Crooked Neighbour / With Your Crooked Heart | Garnette Cadogan. Another wonderful essay by Garnette, and more fruit of his ceaseless walking of New York City — despite the dangers of walking while black. The essay is, among other things, a reminder of just how prodigiously religious a city New York is: that’s the great hidden truth of the metropolis.

Garnette elegantly links the story of the Flushing Remonstrance to recent controversies in the city, for instance the whoile “Ground Zero mosque” kerfuffle of a few years back. When that was fresh I wrote a post about tolerance — and why George Washington didn’t like that word. I think it’s still relevant.