75 Things To Do for LES History Month 2020
1. Add to The People’s LES
The People’s LES
Do you have a story, oral history project, piece of writing, lesson plan, or photo archive you’d like to share? Let’s add it to the website! While you’re here explore the articles that we have highlighting community stories of resiliency, healing, and mutual aid.
2. Nominate a Hero Next Door
The People’s LES
This May we are honoring LES folks that go above and beyond. A hero next door may be a neighbor, family, even a community group who is helping keep the LES safe, strong, and resilient.
3. Take a Peek Into the Bowery
Windows on the Bowery | Bowery Alliance
New York City’s oldest thoroughfare — first traversed on foot by Native Americans for unknown centuries — has an extraordinary history. The Bowery was a stomping ground for P.T. Barnum, birthplace of modern tattooing, HQ for the Bowery Boys and other gangs, and a link in the Underground Railroad.
4. Chalk, Schmalk! Tweet Some LES Trivia
This year we won’t be chalking the sidewalks. But we’ve started to chalk virtually and you can still tweet out historic trivia about our beloved ‘hood. Remember to use the hashtag so we can see your posts! #PeoplesLES
5. Take A Walk and Pay Homage to Lead Belly
East Village Cultural Sites Map | The Lower East Side Preservation Initiative
A Lower East Side Historic and Cultural Sites Map that includes sites like the homes of Lead Belly, Charlie Parker, Diane Arbus, and Madonna.
6. Attend a Virtual Street Fair
Saturday May 2 11am-6pm | Hester Street Fair
Hosting special live programing and profiles on their favorite businesses in the LES. Featuring DJ Uma Bullok at 4pm via their website.
7. Weave Art & Remember Chinese Workers
Saturday May 2 2-5pm | Museum of Chinese in America
Garment workers have always been a large part of Chinatown’s identity and community. Learn about their experiences as you create an individual weaving that reflects on your contributions to the rich fabric of MOCA and the Chinatown community.
8. Learn about LES Activist Women
Ambition, Activism, and Adaptation: Jewish Women of the LES Virtual Class
Wednesdays, May 6th, 13th, 20th
11am-12:30pm | $5 | Museum at Eldridge Street
Young immigrant women at the turn-of-the-20th century were often pulled between old and new worlds, gender expectations and evolving ways of life. May 20th’s session will include a special guided tour of Henry Street Settlement, to learn about women who led the downtown movement toward social justice and public health.
9. Look Back to Look Forward
Things We’re Looking Forward To Doing Again | Village Preservation
Village Preservation has compiled a list of things that they are looking forward once we return back to “normal” using their historic image archive.
10. Fill out the Census… and Know Why
The Census: Reading between the Lines | The Tenement Museum
In this digital exhibit, The Tenement Museum explores the ways in which the US Census Bureau expressed government concerns through these counts of the population, and examines
11. Do the Ecological City PARADE-in-PLACE
Ecological City – Art & Climate Solution Virtual Pageant
Saturday, May 9th | 11am- 4pm | Free
Live stream and video performances of over 100 remote participants sharing dance, music, theater and poetry along with featured contributions from gardens and partner organizations.
12. Brush up on the History of Health in the LES
The People’s LES
Writer and FABnyc Director of Programs Patrick Jaojoco briefly reflects on the overlap of public health and cultural health looking to Lower East Side histories of public nursing and Henry Street Settlement, ACT UP, and the NAACP.
13. Track down all the murals on an East Village treasure hunt with this People’s LES map!
14. Take a tour of the Squats of the East Village through documentation by Village Preservation.
15. Read Contested City: Art and Public Mediation at New York’s Seward Park Urban Renewal Area by Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani
16. Listen to music from The Waistmaker’s Opera about the ‘Uprising of the 20,000’ from Downtown Art
17. Enjoy an oral history interview with Jonas Mekas, founder of Anthology Film Archive
18. Explore stories from Mapping our Heritage at the Museum of Chinese in America
19. Cook to a Bowery Boys podcast #202 The Lower East Side: A Culinary History
20. Walk the Walk!
Civil Rights and Social Justice Map | Village Preservation
Inspire yourself to action by walking the sites of the Civil Rights and Social Justice Map.
21. Eat Pierogi
Veselka and Village Preservation
The Ukrainian community has been present for generations. Get some takeout from Veselka and listen to owner Tom Birchard’s oral history of life in the neighborhood.
22. Consider the “Real Great Society”
The People’s LES & Google Books
Flip through a vintage LIFE magazine to read the story of ‘The Real Great Society’, activists and artists of Loisaida.
23. Make Dumplings with MOCA
[LIVE STREAM] MOCA COOKS: Dumpling-Making Party with Chef Kian Lam Kho
Wednesday, May 13th 4-5:30pm | Museum of Chinese in America
This virtual class covers all the steps you need to make dumplings at home including hand-folding techniques and how to achieve that perfect pan-sear. This dumpling-making party is facilitated by Nancy Yao Maasbach, MOCA President.
24. Boost your Knowledge of Muslim Life
Muslim Life on the Lower East Side | The Tenement Museum
The Lower East Side is an iconic neighborhood associated with many immigrant and migrant communities, as well as cultural movements. It is, however, rarely thought of in the context of the Muslim community who have called the neighborhood home over time. May is Lower East Side History Month, and this Tenement Talk in partnership with the Muslims for American Progress, will explore the diversity of the Muslim communities on the LES.
25. Learn New York’s original language: Lenape
Lenape Talking Dictionary
Dive into the Lenape Talking Dictionary – the official dictionary of Lenape – the language of the Delaware Tribe and the original residents of the Lower East Side and, of course, all Mannahatta.
26. Recite the poem that named Loisaida
“Loisaida” by Bimbo Rivas
Poet Bimbo Rivas coined the term in his 1974 love poem to the neighborhood.
27. Work from home like it’s 1905
Working from Home in 1905: Making Paper Flowers | The Tenement Museum
Enjoy a lesson on working from home in 1905. What were New York immigrant parents and kids doing to earn money in their apartments? How did they balance work and family? We’ll also teach you how to make a paper flower bouquet, a common item made in tenement apartments.
28. Zoom into the Past
The Tenement Museum
As a way to bring elements of the Tenement experience to you, the Tenement Museum have made available images from their historic apartments for you to use as a background on your video calls! Impress your friends and family on your next call by placing yourself in the middle of the Italian Baldizzi family kitchen in the 1920s or the Irish Moore family living room in the 1860s! #zoomintothepast
29. Check out the Cabezudos
Daily Beast and Loisaida Center
Watch artists commissioned by the Loisaida Center on the creation of a series of “cabezudos”, or big head puppets, paying homage to many of the departed poets, activists and community leaders who played key roles in shaping and preserving the vibrant culture of the Lower East Side.
30. Enter the Garment Industry with Mrs. Wong
The Surprising Role of Fashion in the Life of Mrs. Wong | Tenement Museum
Follow Mrs. Wong’s journey into the Chinatown garment industry and get a inside look at where fashion came from.
31. Read accounts of the Squatter Movement
Ours to Lose: When Squatters Became Homeowners in New York City by Amy Starecheski
Ours to Lose tells the oral history of squatter’s movement through a close look at a diverse group of Lower East Side squatters who occupied abandoned city-owned buildings in the 1980s, fought to keep them for decades, and eventually began a long, complicated process to turn their illegal occupancy into legal cooperative ownership.
32. Remember the STARs of transactivism
Remembering Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson | Museum of the City of New York
Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson sought to create family support structures for other trans youth of color through STAR House on East 2nd Street, the first shelter of its kind in the nation.
33. Stroll the “Yiddish Rialto”
The Jewish Lower East Side and Yiddish Rialto
Monday, May 18th | 6pm | Village Preservation
Join urban geographer and professor Dr. Elissa Sampson for a virtual stroll down the famed historic thoroughfare of the erstwhile “Yiddish Rialto” with its myriad theaters, music halls, and musical venues. We will see and learn about the names of many famous performers of the Yiddish theater on the Second Avenue “Starwalk,” the Fillmore East and its past life as a Yiddish theater, the former Yiddish Arts Theater, and more.
34. Discover the finer points of an 1832 Rowhouse
The Architecture of the Merchant’s House: A Virtual Tour
Thursday, May 21st | 6pm | Village Preservation and Merchant’s House Museum
Join this virtual tour led by Merchant’s House board member and expert Anthony Bellov. Bellov will delve into little-known or rarely noticed fine points of the architecture of the 1832 brick-and-marble rowhouse, an exterior and interior NYC landmark, shedding light on building techniques and the social expectations of New York before the Civil War.
35. Tour a Proposed Historic District
Virtual Tour of Lower East Side
Tuesday, May 26th | 5pm | Lower East Side Preservation Initiative and Historic Districts Council
Accompany LESPI and the Historic Districts Council on a virtual tour of our proposed Lower East Side historic district. RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org
36. Check out Governor’s Al Smith’s old neighborhood
Virtual Tour of Oliver Street – Al Smith District
Thursday, May 28th | 6pm | Lower East Side Preservation Initiative
LESPI be exploring Governor Al Smith’s old neighborhood, which he would still very much recognize today. The area’s streetscapes include a wealth of intact historic rowhouse, institutional and religious buildings. RSVP: email@example.com
37. Model Yourself on Bob Humber
At the Crossroads: A Portrait of 8 New York City Blocks and One Man
The story of Bob Humber and the ways he made a difference to Sara D Roosevelt Park and the LES.
38. Get Rooted in the Lenape Landscape
Have you ever wondered what New York was like before it was a city? Find out at Welikia, by navigating through the map of the city in 1609. You can find your block, explore the native landscape of today’s famous landmarks, and research the flora and fauna block by block.
39. Read about the Chinatown Art Collectives
Brief History of the Art Collectives of NYC’s Chinatown by Brian Wong | Hyperallergic
Chinatown has long been a home to radical organizers and artists, collectives, and movements that have taken on questions of art production and displacement.
40. Learn 400 years of LES Black History
Black Placemaking: Reinterpreting Lower East Side History | Tenement Museum.
Author Carla Peterson, historian Lauren O’Brien, and preservation leader Brent Leggs discuss how preservation and interpretation can make Black histories more visible. This video features highlights from four hundred years of Black presence and placemaking on the Lower East Side.
42. Take Out / Order In / Taste History
EV Grieve is an amazing local blogger and is currently keeping tabs on what’s open in the East Village. For some great LES traditions, try Casa Adela, Katz’s, Odessa or Ray’s Candy Store.
43. Make Your Home a Mosh Pit
Play some Ramones or Patti Smith while enjoying Hilly Kristal’s history of CBGB, a legendary forum on the Bowery for American punk and new wave.
44. Harvest a Rooftop at Umbrella House
On a freezing cold night in November, 1988, five people in search of a home cracked open an abandoned City-owned building at 21 Avenue C on New York’s Lower East Side. That began Umbrella House. Since then, this former squat has become a model cooperative with an extraordinary roof garden.
45. Watch Eleanor Roosevelt launch Public Housing
Enjoy a brief newsreel that commemorates the opening of First Houses, the first public housing in the nation, opened in December 1935 as a block of tenements along the south side of E. 3rd Street. Want more? Check out this history of affordable housing in NYC.
46. Move like William Henry Lane, one of the world’s great dancers
Bedford & Bowery
Dance historians consider Lane (also known as Master Juba) to be the first — or one of the first — to ever perform the tap dance. He got his start at 67 Orange St., giving the dance hall the legendary distinction of being the birthplace of the art form. In the 1840s, in the midst of death, disease and gang violence — the usual descriptors of Five Points — Almack’s was a place of joy and delight. It was also a place where two black men found great success in a pre-Civil War society.
48. Brine a Cucumber / Make a Pickle
A Nickel for a Pickle: A Pickle Lesson | Tenement Museum
Learn how Lower East Siders pickled their veggies 100 years ago, why the tradition of pickling was important, and how kids got a good deal on their pickle purchases. Includes a demo of how to make your own cucumber pickles.
49. Inspire Your Radical Artist Self
Protest & Celebration | Loisaida Center and Art Makers Inc
Friday May 15 | 7pm | Facebook Live
An illustrated talk by Jane Weissman on the murals of the 1970’s and 1980’s in Loisaida and the historic Lower East Side
50. Listen to The Voices of Essex Market with Feed Me a Story
A Conversation About Recipes and Cultural Identity | Feed Me A Story and Turnstile Tours
Saturday May 23rd | 4pm
Join for a conversation with Theresa Loong, Laura Nova, and Sarah Kramer about Feed Me a Story’s video and audio documentation of Essex Market that explores what it means to be an American through questions like, “What is your favorite childhood food?” or “What was the first recipe you learned to cook?” We’ll be listening together to clips from their recently launched audio walk of the market, watching videos that feature stories and family recipes from vendors and customers alike, and inviting viewers to share the ingredients and dishes that spark their own stories and memories of family and community.
51. Dance at the Loisaida Festival!
Sunday, May 24th & Sunday, May 31st, 2-4pm
Joy, music, performance, and arts! The [Virtual] Loisaida Festival’s theme Cuenta Con Nosotros – Count On Us! highlights the unwavering dedication of Latinx essential workers, who have been in the frontlines adressing the ongoing health crisis.
52. Tune in to the Lower East Side Fesitval of the Arts
Friday, May 22nd – Sunday, May 24th, 6pm | Theater for the New City
Over 150 performing arts organizations, independent artists, poets, puppeteers and film makers for Theater for the New City’s 25th annual Lower East Side Festival of the Arts, which will be mounted virtually for the first time starting at 6pm. All events and performances will be seen on the theater’s website, www.theaterforthenewcity.net.
53. Meet the ‘Godfather of LES Documentary’
Wednesday, May 27th, 6pm | Magnum Foundation
Documentary photographer Clayton Patterson and author Julian Voloj in dialogue on the forthcoming graphic novel anthology about Clayton’s contributions to the neighborhood, “Clayton: Godfather of Lower East Side Documentary.”
54. Nominate a Place that Matters
Share the places in the LES that tell our history, and anchor our traditions and communities. Nominations are collected from the public and used to make these places and their stories better known, and to encourage action on their behalf.
55. Cherish a LES Original
Remembrance of Steve Cannon
A remembrance by Chavisa Woods
A close-up funny and loving remembrance of the artist/mentor/iconoclast Steve Cannon, longtime director of Tribes, written by Chavisa Woods. Steve Cannon was also a Lower East Side Community Hero.
56. Walk Little Ukraine & Get a Kielbasa
Get your daily exercise while learning about Little Ukraine via Village Preservation’s Building Blocks, then reward yourself with a kielbasa from J. Baczsky’s East Village Meat Market for supper.
57. Remember the Enslaved
“Slave Galleries at St. Augustine’s” | A video by the New York Times
Visit the “Slave Galleries” of St. Augustine’s Church through this 2006 NY Times video which helps tell the early story of segregation in New York City.
58. Know your Radical Roots: Mobilization for Youth
“To Help People Learn To Fight”: New York City’s Mobilization For Youth And The Origins Of The Community Action Programs Of The War On Poverty
An article by Tamar W. Carroll
In 1962, Mobilization for Youth (MFY) began its anti-juvenile delinquency program in the LES. Energized by the civil rights movement, African American and Puerto Rican residents together with MFY organizers staffers transformed MFY into a hotbed of direct action organizing, generating social movements that forever changed NYC and shaped the national ‘War on Poverty.’
59. Take a Trip into Bullet Space
“Amy Starecheski on Bullet Space”
Enjoy a podcast on Bullet Space, a community access center for images, words, and sounds of the inner city which calls itself “an act of resistance.” Founded in the winter of 1985, it was part of the squatter movement in Loisaida.
60. Share Your Comforts
“Objects of Comfort” | Tenement Museum
Become a part of a new Tenement Museum collection – So many of us have stories, passed down through the generations, illustrating our ancestors’ resilience through hardship and often these stories are attached to objects that bring us comfort. As the current crisis becomes a part of our history, will the objects that bring you comfort today become a part of your family’s history?
61. Meet your New Crush: Marian Thom
“Activist New York” | Museum of the City of New York
Marian Thom, a Chinatown resident, is a union activist and retired bilingual paraprofessional. Thom helped organize paraprofessionals, or teaching assistants, for membership in the United Federation of Teachers, the New York City public school teacher’s union. She also advocated for local housing rights as a member of the board of directors for Confucius Plaza housing for 15 years. Today, Thom continues her activism and encapsulates a community spirit that motivates many New Yorkers to give back to the neighborhoods that shaped them.
62. Revive the Black History of Five Points
How to Be an America Podcast: Burial Grounds | Tenement Museum
The Tenement Museum reconstructs the forgotten histories of Black migrants in Lower Manhattan with the help of Lauren O’Brien, a Lead Project Scholar at the Tenement Museum
63. Celebrate 53 Years of the Cube
Curbed New York
The Cube at Astor Place – One of New York City’s most iconic pieces of public art—and heck, one of its most iconic landmarks, period—just turned 53. Since 1967 it’s been the focal point of Astor Place, and a gathering spot for the young and the curious.
64. Admire The Building of the Poets
Before the Puerto Rican Poets, There Was the Polish Violinist
An article written by Rachel Leah | Bedford and Bowery
From its earliest days, the building at 236 East 3rd Street, home of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe for the past 35 years, has been a bastion of culture, attracting artists and the immigrant communities who crammed the area
65. See the LES of the 1940’s
“Life on the Lower East Side: A Profile of Photographer Rebecca Lepkoff ” | Channel 13
Channel 13 produced this lovely video of photographer Rebecca Lepkoff best known for her images depicting daily life in the Lower East Side in the 1940s.
66. Buy a little East Village from home
What’s Open? | East Village Community Coalition
Roam through this map of East Village businesses that are up and running! Your support makes a difference.
68. Prep for Pride at Webster Hall
The Secret Gay History of Webster Hall, America’s First LGBTQ Club
An article written by Chris Thomas
Get your pride in motion with a little history! In the 1910s and 1920s, the iconic Webster Hall played host to a number of masquerade balls that were “less Romeo + Juliet and more Paris is Burning.”
69. Take a Lesson in Poverty
Five Points: The Nineteenth-Century New York City Neighborhood
A book by Tyler Anbinder
Five Points was once renowned the world over. Its handful of streets in lower Manhattan featured America’s most reputedly wretched poverty, shared by Irish, Jewish, German, Italian, Chinese, and African Americans. Tyler Anbinder leads a great lesson based on his book.
70. Learn your Bowery Tattoo Wizards
The Bowery Wizards: A History of Tattooed New York
Bowery Boys’ Podcast
Here’s the Bowery Boys’ podcast about the 1880’s ink parlors of the Bowery – as well as the tattoo history of the city.
71. Tour what used to be Gay!
Monday, June 8th, 8pm | Queer | Art
On the heels of Lower East Side History Month, theater artist, charismatic raconteur, and Multi-year Queer|Art Mentor Moe Angelos (of The Five Lesbian Brothers and The Builders Association) is leading a virtual tour of the places that “used to be gay” in the East Village and the historic Lower East Side.
72. Travel ‘Los Caminos de la Vida’
Los Caminos de la Vida| People’s LES
The People’s LES worked with artist Ro Garrido on a series of multi-lingual interviews with Lower East Side seniors; hear their stories and see their portraits from Cristobal Guerra.
73. Honor CHARAS, a center of Loisaida culture
Chino Garcia Oral History | Village Preservation
Hear an oral history from organizer Chino Garcia and the story behind the loss of CHARAS to the auction block and how the community continues to fight for its return.
74. Understand the LES of past pandemics
Beyond Statistics: Living In A Pandemic | Tenement Museum
The Tenement Museum helps bring forward the stories of past LES residents who struggled with illnesses. What can their stories tell us about the understanding of sickness, and government response to public health crises, in their time?
75. Live like Frances Goldin
This May we lost Frances Goldin in her 95th year. She changed our community profoundly and for the better. Read about her here and here and here and here and feel forever thankful.