Truth Be Told

Truth Be Told

Newburgh Community Photo Project, 2021 Finalist

Truth Be Told: Uncovering Newburgh’s Muted Legacy

A memorial for Sammy Stubbs, Courtney Avenue, Newburgh, NY, 2017. Sammy Stubbs was shot and killed while playing a card game on the corner of Courtney and South Lander Street in August 2015. Two other men were also shot, the victims of an apparent robbery. Photo by Lord Ward from the NCPP project “Last Seen/Scene: Stories of Loss and Remembrance” (Gun Violence Project).

World’s Best Dad, Bush Avenue, Newburgh, NY, 2017. A memorial for James Stevens who was shot to death in May 2017. Photo by Lauren Berg from the NCPP project “Last Seen/Scene: Stories of Loss and Remembrance” (Gun Violence Project).

An empty lot on the corner of Broadway and Johnston Street has been transformed into comfortable spot to hang out by a group of homeless people, Newburgh, NY 2018. Photo by Crystal Ruiz from the 2018 NCPP workshop “#EverydayNewburgh.”

Residents sit in front of Panchito Grocery on Liberty Street and South William Street in Newburgh, NY. Recent gentrification efforts in the City of Newburgh create concerns about Newburgh’s future. Newburgh faces continued problems for decades because of poverty, unaffordable rents and substandard housing, unemployment, crime and drugs, Newburgh, NY 2018. Photo by David Cordero from the 2018 NCPP workshop “#EverydayNewburgh.”

Children enjoying the swing carousel at Delano Hitch Park in Newburgh NY 2018. Photo by Stephanie Quispe from the 2018 NCPP workshop “#EverydayNewburgh.”

Inside of the home on City Terrace, the Flores’ bathroom is in very bad condition. The family of six has to share a bathroom with upstairs neighbors. Ana pays around $1,200 a month for an apartment that doesn’t even have proper plumbing. City Terrace, Newburgh, NY 2018. Photo by Stephen Flores from the 2018 NCPP workshop “#EverydayNewburgh.”

Melanie reflects on life in Newburgh as she prepares for the day at her salon on lower Broadway. She talks about how much opportunity there is in Newburgh, especially at Newburgh Free Academy, where her son attends. Newburgh, NY 2018. Photo by Therese Fischer from the 2018 NCPP workshop “#EverydayNewburgh.”

Window at Faded barbershop looking out to Safe Harbors on the Hudson, Liberty Street, Newburgh, NY 2019. Photo by David Cordero from the 2019 NCPP project, “Newburgh Barbershops: Shaping Community.” Almost 150 years ago, Frederick Douglass's visit to Newburgh centered around a speech he gave on exercising the right to vote. Social justice, equality, and freedom were central in his writing to expand the rights of African-Americans and women's rights. In the evolution of black identity, which is directly aligned to expanded civil rights, barbershops were "not just a response to Jim Crow." They were safe places where trust and community were built. These barbershops, "though initially blocked from serving black patrons...evolved into spaces where African Americans could freely socialize and discuss contemporary issues....For many African Americans, getting a haircut is...an experience that builds community and shapes political action." (Quotes from Hunter Oatman-Stanford, “Straight Razors and Social Justice: The Empowering Evolution of Black Barbershops,” Collectors Weekly, May 30th, 2014)

Luis Sandoval preparing to cut Luis Vazquez’s hair, Real G Kutz barbershop, Newburgh, NY 2019. Photo by Therese Fischer from the 2019 NCPP project, “Newburgh Barbershops: Shaping Community.” Almost 150 years ago, Frederick Douglass's visit to Newburgh centered around a speech he gave on exercising the right to vote. Social justice, equality, and freedom were central in his writing to expand the rights of African-Americans and women's rights. In the evolution of black identity, which is directly aligned to expanded civil rights, barbershops were "not just a response to Jim Crow." They were safe places where trust and community were built. These barbershops, "though initially blocked from serving black patrons...evolved into spaces where African Americans could freely socialize and discuss contemporary issues....For many African Americans, getting a haircut is...an experience that builds community and shapes political action." (Quotes from Hunter Oatman-Stanford, “Straight Razors and Social Justice: The Empowering Evolution of Black Barbershops,” Collectors Weekly, May 30th, 2014)

Wall with portraits of Barack Obama and Sojourner Truth inside Krispy Fresh Cutz barbershop, Newburgh, NY 2019. Photo by Ronnie Farley from the 2019 NCPP project, “Newburgh Barbershops: Shaping Community.” Almost 150 years ago, Frederick Douglass's visit to Newburgh centered around a speech he gave on exercising the right to vote. Social justice, equality, and freedom were central in his writing to expand the rights of African-Americans and women's rights. In the evolution of black identity, which is directly aligned to expanded civil rights, barbershops were "not just a response to Jim Crow." They were safe places where trust and community were built. These barbershops, "though initially blocked from serving black patrons...evolved into spaces where African Americans could freely socialize and discuss contemporary issues....For many African Americans, getting a haircut is...an experience that builds community and shapes political action." (Quotes from Hunter Oatman-Stanford, “Straight Razors and Social Justice: The Empowering Evolution of Black Barbershops,” Collectors Weekly, May 30th, 2014)

Ignacio Acevedo, 41, is an activist for immigrant rights who came from Mexico to Newburgh for a better life when he was 10-years-old. As soon as he started school, he felt a loss of identity when his classmates and teacher couldn’t pronounce his name and nicknamed him “Iggy” instead. Ignacio eventually got citizenship, but he’s angry at realizing that even with legal status, after all the hard work to get it, he still experiences discrimination, and is abused, humiliated, and questioned by cops for no valid reason. His grandmother is a reminder for him to keep fighting for himself and others. “That is the kind of strength that tells me it is worth fighting, keep fighting, because if [strong women] don’t give up, you shouldn’t give up,” August 30, 2019. Photo by Angela Montiel from the 2019 NCPP workshop “#EverydayNewburgh.”

The Deacon Jack Seymour Parrish Food Pantry is one of many food pantries in the Newburgh area. Run almost exclusively by volunteers, it’s open between 9am-noon on Fridays and Saturdays, providing fresh fruit and produce to anyone who walks through their doors. The pantry operates in partnership with the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley, and the Newburgh School District providing hunger relief to homeless children through the Food Bank Backpack Program. Newburgh, NY 2019. Photo by Genie Polycarpe from the 2019 NCPP workshop “#EverydayNewburgh.”

The heart pendant around Karicia’s neck was a gift from her father. Inside the pendant is a photo of them together. The second necklace, a cat pendant was the last thing her father gave her for being strong through her leukemia treatments. “My first attempt was in school. I brought a knife to slit my wrists in the girls’ bathroom. I felt like my mom didn’t care about me anymore. She didn’t call me, she didn’t text me, she didn’t reach out to me to see if I was ok.” Newburgh, NY, 2019. Photo by Iyanna Moreno from the 2019 NCPP workshop “#EverydayNewburgh.”

Lorena applies her make-up in the living room of her house in Newburgh, NY. “I’m proud that I was able to come in this country with my daughter and separated myself from my first husband. I was traumatized and scared.” When she is not wearing make-up, she often feels sad. Newburgh, NY. August 13th, 2019. Photo by Ashley Simeon from the 2019 NCPP workshop “#EverydayNewburgh.”

Photographer's Statement: 

Truth Be Told: Uncovering Newburgh’s Muted Legacy

Truth Be Told: Uncovering Newburgh’s Muted Legacy,” is a collaborative project by the Newburgh Community Photo Project, which engages its own community to address issues of systemic racism that are common to many American cities. Combining historical research about Newburgh’s (and New York’s) role in slavery and institutional racism, the photo collective plans to rewrite the city’s fraught legacy through a combination of portraits, landscapes, interiors, still lives, historical and vernacular photographs, and residents’ personal mementoes of family histories.
 
Situated on the banks of the Hudson River 60 miles north of NYC, Newburgh, NY, exemplifies and encapsulates the aftermath of slavery and institutionalized racism that has become part of the fabric of our nation’s identity for nearly 400 years, a history with roots in New York and the Hudson Valley. David Levine’s African American History: A Past Rooted in the Hudson Valley notes: “In 1664, about 800 Africans and their children inhabited the Hudson Valley, only about 75 of them considered free…The two biggest slave markets in the country before the American Revolution were in New York City and Albany…New York was not a society with slaves, it was a slave society, dependent on enslaved Africans.”
 
It is estimated that 20,000 slaves fought in the Revolutionary War and helped their masters win independence. “They often were sent to replace their owners in battle, under the assumption that they would be freed after the war. They were significant in winning the war.”i Washington’s Headquarters, where George Washington called the end of the Revolutionary War, is situated on Newburgh’s Liberty Street, named by General Washington after the war ended, giving its name complex, contradictory meanings. A statue of George Washington commemorates this significant event, housed in a bell tower that sits on a promontory overlooking the Hudson in the historic district.
 
In 1870, Frederick Douglass traveled the Hudson Valley to endorse the ratification of the 15th Amendment that provided African Americans with the right to vote. At the time, a significant Black middle class owned property and businesses, participated in city government, and attended local schools. George Alsdorf, a former slave whose home on Liberty Street was part of the Underground Railroad, was the patriarch of a wealthy, well-respected African American family. His son, Dubois Alsdorf, opened a dancing academy in 1850 where he taught affluent white students. He was instrumental in desegregating schools in Newburgh.
 
During the early 1960s, Newburgh City Manager Joseph Mitchell implemented racist anti-welfare policies in response to the migration of Blacks from the south seeking manufacturing jobs in the north. This began a system that disenfranchised primarily African Americans in a city that had been one of the wealthiest in New York State, a system of discrimination that continues to this day. Vince is this okay? Or, … continued for decades?
 
 
Disparities along racial lines were compounded by the first wave of Latinx residents, primarily Puerto Rican, coming to the Mid-Hudson Valley in the 1950s and later by the growing influx of immigrant populations from Mexico and Central and South America. The shared experience of systemic racism and discriminatory policies provided little opportunity for a majority of migrants, who, along with African Americans, now make up over 60% of the population.
 
The present day influx of white residents – artists, developers, entrepreneurs, etc. – to a city that is primarily Black and Hispanic has been amplified further by the Covid pandemic, and sheds light on the persistent racial and economic inequalities, disparities that are at the core of the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.
 
These conditions make Newburgh ripe for investigation: profound poverty, institutionalized racism/discriminatory practices, social unrest, much-needed policy change, and acknowledging a muted history that defines our identity as Americans. What is the role of Newburgh residents, their families, and ancestors in revisiting and rewriting a history that has been erased, obscured or ignored?

NCPP’s goal is to connect Newburgh to the history of our country. More importantly, this proposed project will return power to the people and celebrate their ancestors and origins by telling their own stories. What you see and what people think of Newburgh is only half the story. Newburgh Community Photo Project wants to tell the other half.

Newburgh Community Photo Project
Newburgh Community
Photo Project

Newburgh Community Photo Project is a grassroots community-based photographers’ collective whose mission is to engage local youth on topics of national interest that relate directly to their communities and ultimately empower them to utilize photography to advocate for change in their own lives and the lives of their communities. Over the past four years, NCPP has trained over 30 young photographers from Newburgh’s diverse community to tell their own stories through photography and community activism.

The core group of photographers for “Truth Be Told” include:

Angela Montiel was born in Mexico and immigrated to the United States with her mother in 2005. Her involvement in the community began in 2018 when she began volunteering for Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, a multiracial, intergenerational, grassroots organization that advocates for immigrant and housing rights of immigrant populations.

David Cordero is the son of Mexican immigrants. He was born and raised in Newburgh, and has been photographing Newburgh since 2018 as part of NCPP’s Everyday Newburgh workshop. He is a volunteer for Raiz Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, advocates for immigrant rights, and takes part in community cleanup events.

Roger Richardson was born in the Bronx of Dominican/Belizean immigrant parents and lives and works in the Hudson Valley, NY. Roger received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Photography from SUNY Purchase in 2017.

Steven Baltsas is an independent researcher currently studying History and English at SUNY New Paltz. He was raised in Newburgh and serves on the board of the Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands managing archival and museum collections.

Therese Fischer studied Digital Media Production at SUNY New Paltz and George Washington University's. Photojournalism Program. She participated in NCPP’s 2018 Everyday Newburgh workshop pursuing a project “Strong Women of Newburgh,” honoring women who provide stability for the Newburgh community. Therese identifies as mixed race and is of Asian/South Asian descent.

Vincent Cianni is the founder/director of Newburgh Community Photo Project. His first book, We Skate Hardcore, was published by NYU Press and the Center for Documentary Studies in 2004 and Gays in the Military, an investigation into the effects of the military’s ban on the lives and careers of LGBT service members was published by Daylight Books in May 2014.

Photographers