Grey Jones is a self-described sight-seeing guy. However, he is hoping to do more than take pictures of New York’s most famous landmarks.
Jones moved to Brooklyn nine years ago after growing up in Louisiana and Texas. Back in the Lone Star State, he became involved with organizing an annual Juneteenth festival, long before it was a recognized federal holiday.
Now in Brooklyn, Jones aims to continue finding ways to celebrate and recognize the African-American experience.
“I started walking around in the neighborhood and wanted to do some research,” Jones explained of his many walks around Flatbush, Prospect Heights, and Lefferts Garden.
In his travels Jones encountered the Flatbush African Burial Ground, the last remaining burial site for enslaved African Americans in the city. Many of the people buried at the site are unidentified, so he set out trying to uncover their names and what he could about their lives.
“It was really hard to do that research and find those people,” Jones explained. “Some of the names are redundant and you are not sure if they are a unique person or the same person. It’s a challenge to get records and access information that might be useful.”
Jones not only wanted to recognize these people, but to also celebrate them. He hopes to eventually organize a 17 day freedom festival, which would mark the 17 days between Juneteenth and July 5, the day many African Americans in New York celebrated independence in 1776 when they heard the news.
“I tried to discover 17 insulated people who may have been buried at the Flatbush burial site,” Jones said. “I just found so much history around the life and culture of these people, and it was completely different from what I presumed. Our culture has such a great tradition of celebration, so we should celebrate these people.”