Friday, May 21, 2010

The Wright Bench in Brooklyn

Months ago, I came across an article in the New York Times noting a park in Brooklyn, NY, that had a bench dedicated to novelist Richard Wright. Further reading led me to more information about the Wright bench, which was established October 18, 2001, in Fort Greene Park.

So during my time with my black studies crew in New York, I decided to make a visit to the Wright bench. One morning while in Harlem with three of our travelers—Jon, David, and Justin—I asked if they’d like to join me on a trip to Brooklyn. They agreed, and we began our journey.

We took the subway and ended up getting off on Flatbush Avenue, which meant we had to walk several blocks to the park. When we arrived, we looked around and realized that the bench would likely be at the top of the park’s hill.

One side of the bench contains Wright's words from Native Son: "But hope was always waiting somewhere deep down in him."

The other side contains a line from Wright's explanation of composing the novel: "in the writing of scene after scene I was guided by but one criterion: to tell the truth as I saw it."

When we came upon the single bench sitting in an open area, I knew it was the Wright bench. Try to imagine the scene: a group of four black men circling a single bench and taking photographs from various angles. At one point, we drew a small crowd as passersby wondered what our group found so fascinating about a park bench.

Given our interests in photography, Justin and I were especially involved in getting all kinds of shots of the bench. We collectively took more than 100 hundred shots of the bench and the surrounding area at the park. Jon and David joined in the documenting process as well.

At one point, the fellas reminded me that their interest in Wright had come from their participation in one of our black studies reading projects, The Wright 100, from a couple of years ago where a group of us read Wright’s autobiography Black Boy using a blog.

Making my way to the Wright bench in Brooklyn was a really exciting and fulfilling experience for me. What was especially important for me was how engaged my three fellow travelers were in documenting this landmark to Wright.

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