It is eleven years since Dr Margaret Wade-Lewis passed away after a long and courageous battle with multiple episodes of cancer. During these many years, her daughter, Esi Lewis, always called me “my mother’s best”, a title that I adore.
His legacy of teaching in the Black Studies Department at SUNY New Paltz is still legendary. She never missed a good time to learn. With dignity, civility and charm, she taught me all of the black history issues for which I am very grateful.
Now her daughter is carrying on her mother’s legacy, albeit in her own way, as the newly elected member of the New Paltz City Board of Directors. (Her father, David Lewis, also served on city council.)
Esi, who was born here, left New Paltz after high school, became a lawyer, worked in the criminal justice field in New York, and came back because “Living in New York made me appreciate New Paltz so much, the history and beauty of this city. “
Like many children whose parents were very “popular” in small towns (Esi’s word to describe her mother), she wanted to forge her own path in a larger arena. Nonetheless, after her tenure in New York and the birth of her daughter, she returned to give her daughter the happy childhood she had lived in her family home on Huguenot Street (which was coincidentally built on the cemetery of African slaves brought here in the 1600s).
Recently, former Governor Cuomo signed an executive order directing NYS communities to form Police Reform and Reinvention Committees.
Esi was appointed by the city council to sit on the citizens’ council. The experience was formative for Esi who was interested in local political issues. Because of her respect for Police Chief Robert Lucchesi, who she says is “open-minded and willing to increase recommendations,” she said “yes” when David Brownstein asked her to run for the board. municipal.
Yesterday Esi and I visited for several hours. She reminds me enough of her mother to fill me with nostalgia, however, she is different, charming and funny in a very unique way.
We both agree that in life you don’t choose your path or your destiny. The path appears in front of us by chance and circumstance. When the clearing materializes, the path is revealed and you just have to follow its direction.
So Esi has a new direction as a result of his presence here and his community activism.
âI’m working on a project to open an African-American cultural center in the Ann Oliver house at 5 Broadhead Avenue, just behind Stewarts. This historic house was built in the First Free Black Neighborhood by Jacob Wynkoop, a free black man. Her mother Jane Wynkoop was the first black landowner to purchase property from Ms. Hasbrouck. Jane bought the property because the vote was only given to the landowners. She wanted her two sons to be able to vote. The village has worked hard to preserve the house and I am passionate about building the cultural center.
I often tell Esi how her mother and I counted black people at New Paltz, at the high school spring concert, at ShopRite or wherever. There were so few at the time. After Margaret died, I kept the tradition going until there were so many people of color here that it was no longer needed.
It wasn’t until yesterday that I found out that there was a whole neighborhood of liberated blacks, even a black church in New Paltz so long ago. Esi recently learned that Jacob Wynkoop built these houses, so I guess Margaret didn’t know that either.
Thanks to our new member of the city council, this story can come to life. I am so proud of Esi. Her mother would be too. Thanks Esi for coming home.