Street Co-Naming Falls Short as Recognition
by Mandingo Osceola Tshaka
Dec 22, 2015 | 17034 views | 0 0 comments | 821 821 recommendations | email to a friend | print
About two months ago, I attended a ceremony to honor the Matinecock people. A small sign reading “Matinecock Way” was placed on the corner of Northern Boulevard and Marathon Parkway in Little Neck commemorating the area where a Matinecock cemetery once existed. I have felt unease about this event ever since.

Being of Matinecock ancestry myself, I feel that the honorary street renaming by the city was inadequate at best. The sign is hardly visible and is placed in front of a McDonalds restaurant.

Why weren't larger signs installed at more appropriate spots along Marathon Parkway? In fact, there should be consideration for naming all of Marathon Parkway for the Matinecock people, who populated the area for years – and some still do today.

Consider the history of my Matinecock ancestors. Our land was stolen from us, we were persecuted and died of diseases brought to our shores by the Europeans. Many were placed on reservations, isolated from others, lived in conditions of extreme poverty and were ridiculed and disrespected.

Consider the site where the ceremony took place. In the 1930s, the city widened Norther Boulevard and disturbed graves of the Matinecock buried near the current intersection with Marathon Parkway. The remains were transferred to Zion Cemetery in Douglaston, where a marker declares the dead as the “Last of the Matinecocks.”

Actually, many people are alive today who are descendants of the Matinecocks, so we are hardly extinct. And I question whether all of the remains were moved properly or are still there beneath McDonalds?

All over this city burial grounds of minority people, including indigenous people and African Americans, have been disturbed and desecrated in the name of construction in racist acts perpetrated by the City of New York.

As just one example, look at the Olde Towne of Flushing burial Ground where approximately 1,000 souls rest. During the 1930s, that site was excavated to build a playground and wading pool. Bones were dug up and thrown away; headstones were destroyed. And who was buried there? Indigenous people and African Americans.

Today, the city tries to ignore the fact that an atrocity was committed at this burial ground and still refers to the site as a park rather than a cemetery. Shameful!

What should be done? I think that a scoping of the area near Northern Boulevard and Marathon Parkway would be in order. Any remains found must by properly and appropriately interred in a respectful manner. The site must be properly marked, not with a small sign that can hardly be read.

Lastly, the history of the indigenous people of America must be taught truthfully in our schools. To do less would be a travesty and a continuation of racial prejudice unchecked.

Mandingo Osceola Tshaka is a resident of Bayside.

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