A Dyckman Dialogue
New series focuses on issues of race, equity and community
By Sherry Mazzocchi
Talking about race can be uncomfortable.
But informative conversations, without adversity or awkwardness, allow people to put down their guard and open up.
It is one of the ambitious goals of “Talking About Race Matters,” offered this month by the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum. The free four-part program explores wide-ranging topics, such as the role of the arts and museums in upholding social justice, how young people can participate in advocacy and the future of food equity.
“We’re trying to tell the most complete story that we can,” said Executive Director Meredith Horsford.
The Dyckman Farmhouse has curated programs and events on race since 2020, and this is the third iteration of that series. Just as Covid-19 forced people inside and social unrest over the deaths of unarmed people of color brought them to the streets, the Museum began incorporating the history of enslaved people into their exhibits. “DyckmanDISCOVERED” researched both free and enslaved people who originally worked and most likely built the 1784 farmhouse on Broadway. The Museum has expanded that programming, making a further commitment to both the Northern Manhattan community as well as to artists, intellectuals and social advocates to further the goals of social justice.
“We’re also thinking about the Lenape people,” said Meredith Horsford, the Museum’s Executive Director. “They were here long before any of the rest of us. We’re trying to tell the most complete story that we can.”
Horsford said stirring the interest of a community that has no obvious link to a historic house is a bit of a conundrum. “How do you engage people in a conversation about this old Dutch farmhouse that seemingly may have nothing to do with people’s present-day lives?” she said. “We’ve spent several years really thinking about how we can be a resource for people, and take the historic information that we have and talk about the present. Surprisingly, there are a lot of ways to do that.”
The first of the four programs, “Are We Creating a Sustainable Mash Up?,” takes a wide view of museums, democracy and social justice. The talk is presented by Deborah Schwartz, the former Chief Executive Officer of the Brooklyn Historical Society. Known for innovative programming, she will highlight examples of positive community engagement and consider issues museums must grapple with, such as censorship and the whims of funders.
Horsford said the evening will be a broader conversation about cultural institutions and social justice. “Really thinking, not just about nice-looking things you can hang on a wall, but thinking critically about what’s the museum’s role in the community,” she said. “Where do we fit in? Are we leading
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