A group of seven high school kids in Brooklyn spent several weeks restoring dozens of burial plots belonging to 19th century African-Americans.
The teenagers refurbished a total of 71 gravestones over a period of six weeks in a section of Green-Wood Cemetery devoted to free Black people.
“It looked like your stereotypical Halloween scene, if you will,” said Darryl Jones, 16, who is entering his junior year at Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design.
“It was in shambles.”
About a dozen of the gravestones in the sections originally known as “The Colored Lots” had sunken below the earth over the past 170 years.
Among the plots was one bought by the Associate for the Benefit of Colored Orphans and holding an unknown number of children.
It’s marked by a single stone.
Others buried there include Andrew Schofield, a Civil War veteran who fought with the 125th New York infantry and died in 1885 at 58.
To hoist the sunken gravestones, the students used a tripod, two straps, a hook — and a whole lot of teamwork.
“We all had to hold from one side because it could just slip,” said Germania Merino, 17, who is entering her senior year at Stephen T. Mather Building Arts and Craftsmanship High School in Hell’s Kitchen.
The work didn’t end there.
“We had cleaned it with pressurized water, and it scrapes all the stain off, said Arnell Skinner, 16, an incoming senior at Stephen T. Mather. “But you have to be careful because you can damage the stone.”
“This is not one day of work,” Skinner added. “The cleaning process would take about three days.”
White, pink, and red impatiens were planted at every grave when the restorations were complete.
Some of the students said the exploding debate over Confederate monuments — as well as the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville — made the work they were doing feel even more vital.
“When we were getting ready for the presentation, we talked about how it was especially important now because of what happened,” said Antonio Rojas, 16, an incoming junior at Williamsburg High.
Good job, guys!