By Oona Milliken | [email protected]
King Manor Museum, located in the heart of Jamaica, held its annual Constitution and Cocktails event last Thursday, Sept. 7. The event is intended to raise funds for the organization and celebrate the inauguration of new American citizens when they sign the constitution at the manor on Constitution Day, Sept. 17.
Along with music, cocktails, and food, speakers at the event honored the local unions that came together to renovate the facade of the building as well as the museum’s impact on the Jamaica community. According to Brow, the manor got the entire facade painted, and the front porch was redone. The museum is the former residence of Rufus King, a Founding Father of the United States and a famous abolitionist. Today, the museum seeks to prioritize education and carry on King’s legacy of fighting for important social change, according to Brow.
The museum’s executive director, Kelsey Brow, said she was incredibly grateful for the two union’s work in maintaining the museum, and that she was emotional when renovation work was finished.
“[I] cried. When I think about it sometimes, I still get teary-eyed,” Brow said in an interview.
“Our mission is to teach critical thinking for a healthier democracy,” Brow said. “We want our visitors to leave feeling like empowered learners interested in thinking about why things are the way they are, and what they can do to make things better.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said in a speech that coming to the Rufus King Manor was important to him as it pointed to people who had fought for racial justice in the United States.
“What’s beautiful about being in Jamaica, and having this institution here that we can come here, and we can see some of that history,” Richards. “We can look at many of our allies who also have done a lot of this work, to make sure that even as we progress from the South to the North, that we can be afforded the opportunities that we have today.”
Each union representative was given an antique flag as a token of appreciation for their donation to the manor. According to Brow, the flags flew over the building in the late 19th and early 20th century. Joe Riley, a representative from the New York City Carpenters Union, said the work was a passion project, and he shouted out to his team while acknowledging the legacy of Rufus King.
“This was like a labor of love,” Riley said. “I’m extremely honored to be here, very proud of the work that we did. Very proud of you guys. And just the idea that Rufus King 200 years later is still alive in this place — it was humbling and amazing to me that his life continues through us.”
Devon Lomax, a representative from District Council 9, said that he was both born and adopted in Jamaica, and has a strong connection to the Queens community.
“DC 9 represents over 10,000 men and women in the construction industry doing painting, painting bridges, doing glass, you know, wallpaper, hanging, drywall taping,” Lomax said. “One thing that we always pride ourselves in is giving back to the communities where we come from, teaching our members to give back to their communities.”
Other speakers at the event included Hope Knight, President, CEO and Commissioner of Empire State Development Board; Tom Grech, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Queen’s Chamber of Commerce; various members of the Rufus King Museum board, as well as Walter Sanchez, the president of the board. In a speech, Knight said that the manor was a representative of the Jamaica Downtown Revitalization Initiative, and mentioned Queens as a laboratory for growth.
“Good things are happening here in Jamaica, especially under Governor Hochul’s leadership,” Knight said. “Landmarks like King Manor, Rufus King Park, support our efforts to create a sense of space, and offer a foothold upon which we can grow, invest and thrive.”
Editor’s Note: Walter Sanchez is the publisher of BQE Media.