The Bronx Chronicle has just reported that beloved Bronx activist and environmentalist, Morgan Powell was found dead in Brooklyn (the circumstances of which have yet to be provided). Powell, founder of the Bronx River Sankofa which “celebrates the 350+ years journey of African Americans with an emphasis on ecological culture & history along the Bronx River”, was a powerful force for change in The Bronx and how we viewed our own history through his walking tours. (Make sure to check out his last tour: A Hunts Point Walk)
The loss to our borough is incalculable. The knowledge that Powell not only possessed but made sure to SHARE with the community made him one of the most important historians of our beautiful borough.
I first met Morgan back in April 2011 when Landmarks Commission began the discussion to create the Grand Concourse Historic District. Since then we always remained in touch and our paths would cross many times through the course of our activism, including contributing to Welcome2TheBronx.
Mark Naison, PhD, Professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham University had this to say to Welcome2TheBronx on Powell’s passing:
“When we started the Bronx African American History Project in the Spring of 2003, one of its most enthusiastic supporters was a young man named Morgan Powell who was a professional gardener and had a passionate feeling about Bronx communities and the people who lived in them. Not only did he feel that the contributions of Black people in the Bronx had been neglected, he was committed to making the great network of waterways that ran through and surrounded the Bronx more accessible to its residents. Morgan not only helped us recruit interviews for our project, he began doing pioneering research on his own on the history of the Bronx River and its impact on adjoining communities, particularly residents of color. His research took him back into colonial times and before long, Morgan had actually developed a series of walking tours that had the twin purpose of teaching people about this history and turning them into advocates for conservation of waterways and green spaces. His tours and lectures became among the most sought after events publicizing Black History in the Bronx. But what was so amazing is how he did this incredible research without grants, and offered his tours free of charge. It is hard to think of another person who gave so much to our communities with such brilliance and generosity of spirit. Not only that, but Morgan donated all of his research materials to the Bronx African American History Project so future generations of scholars, as well as current researchers would have access to them. What he did for our project, and for the people of the Bronx is wonderful, awe-inspiring and quite frankly history making.
I cannot put in words how devastated I am by his death. Morgan was warm, funny, generous, ironic, entertaining. He lit up any room he was in. He set an example of passion for knowledge and generosity of spirit that, in my lifetime, I have rarely seen equaled and and rarely surpassed. RIP My Brother. I Love You. And will miss you terribly”
Many of us who knew him, for whatever length of time, know Dr. Naison’s words to be true.
On one of his last postings on Facebook, Morgan said, “For anyone wondering why I post so little on Facebook, know that I am committed to enjoying sunshine! If I’ve neglected our friendship or you need me somehow, just e-mail me and let’s get together in the real (opposed to the digital) world. Concourse.email@example.com is our portal to good times. “Sunshine almost always makes me high…”
IF YOU KNOW OF ANY LIVING RELATIVES OF MORGAN POWELL, PLEASE CONTACT IMMEDIATELY AT firstname.lastname@example.org
RIP, Morgan, know that you were a true, Bronx Hero and we lost a little bit of our light. This one’s for you:
Morgan in the media:
Environmentalist Digs Up Bronx History – Voices of NY, May 30, 2014
Environmentalist Reveals Little Known History – Hunts Point Express, May 30, 2014
Morgan Powell Discusses Upcoming Walking Tour – BronxNet TV
Tour will provide tales of African-American history along parts of the Bronx River Greenway – NY Daily News, February 20, 2011
Revealing The Buried Afro-American History Of The Bronx River – Norwood News, November 9, 2011
River of Hope in The Bronx – New York Times, July 19, 2012