February 27 marks the 101st anniversary of longtime Hopewell resident Evelyn Brooks.
Known to friends and neighbors as “Nana Brooks,” Brooks is a well-known member of his church and local black community that has lived in the area for 80 years, according to information provided by the Stoutsburg African American Museum (SSAAM).
SSAAM celebrates its birthday with the premiere of a special video interview that will be published on the museum’s website and on its YouTube channel.
“My grandmother is a living story, and we have a duty to be the mastermind of powerful stories of people like her,” said Brooks’ granddaughter Catherine Fulmer-Hogan, a board member of SSAAM. “It gives me great joy to be a part of honoring and preserving the stories of the woman who taught me to look for them.”
Born in 1921, Evelyn (Dan) Brooks grew up in the Bronxville, New York. She recalls enjoying musical performances at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, where she saw jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald perform when she first started singing, the statement said. At age 19, Evelyn married Ira Brooks, whose family lived in Hopewell.
In 1948, the couple bought a 10-room house on a 28-acre plot of land on Mount Sourland, one of three families who then lived on Mountain Church Road, the statement said.
Evelyn and Ira Brooks raised 10 children on the mountain, cultivating “acidic” rocky soil to support their growing family. Brooks was known for her ingenuity and ingenuity, and she and her husband were known in the neighborhood for their selflessness and generosity. Sometimes local farmers left surplus produce on the Brooks family’s porch, the statement said.
“In those days,” she said in a statement, “people always helped each other.”
However, Brooks also remembers the bias that African Americans faced in New Jersey when she was a young wife and mother, the statement said. One day in 1943, Brooks drove her two-year-old son Calvin to Ashton’s restaurant in Hopewell to buy ice cream; she was turned away from the counter and told she would have to wait on the porch, the statement said.
“After that, I didn’t care to never come back and made sure I told all my black friends,” she said in a 2015 interview.
In another case, a barber who served white women said she would do Brooks ’haircut, but only if she came to the salon at night and entered through a back door, the statement said.
Over the past century, Brooks has experienced the Great Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, and all the changes and upheavals of modern politics. As part of the 2022 Black History Month as part of the SSAAM program, she was interviewed and fired by executive director Donnett Johnson and her granddaughter Catherine-Fulmer Hogan.
“I was brought up in a church, and for me what should be, should be. It is God’s will. “Just like I’m here now,” Brooks said in a statement. “I don’t know why He keeps me here, but there’s something I have to do that I do.”
The SSAAM Board and staff are proud to help Brooks share their story, an important part of African American history in downtown New Jersey.
“For hundreds of years, all we had were stories that were passed on by word of mouth and carried in our hearts,” Fulmer-Hogan said in a statement. “It was hard for us to find evidence that our ancestors were here outside of their DNA in our veins. More than anyone else, my nanny taught me not only to appreciate these stories, but also why we could learn from them. Without her influence in my life, I am not in any council of any museum. “
Brooks’ new video interview will be released in three episodes on SSAAM’s YouTube channel on her birthday, February 27, in www.youtube.com/channel/UCGNN62QtWapz0K4duaZ6HtA
Episode 1: That they were “colored” and raised black children in a predominantly white community in the 1940s and 1950s.
Episode 2: About marriage and true partnership.
Episode 3: About the good life and longevity.
More information on SSAAM Black History Month programming can be found at www.ssaamuseum.org/upcoming-events