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The Hart Island Project: NYC Cemetery of the Forgotten Dead

Updated on May 12, 2014

The Hart Island Project

The following poems were written in support of the Hart Island Project, whose mission is to make the largest cemetery in the United States visible and accessible so that no one is omitted from history. On September 27, 2012, The Hart Island Project testifed before the New York City Council concerning updating the adminstrative code for operations on Hart Island. The project includes research and a body of multimedia work about Hart Island by artist Melinda Hunt, who started visiting the island in November 1991.

A Hart Resurrection

Who will lift up the names of the people buried on Hart Island, located in the Long Island Sound?

People with no headstones, no markers, and bare records left unidentified in unhallowed ground?

Supervised by the NYC Department of Corrections, the prison labor buried over 850, 000 people in mass graves.

Who will honor the homeless, destitute and stillborns laid to rest in such a place?

Children, whose parent’s rights had been terminated, and who were taken by the State and placed in the City’s care?

Children, dead and buried young, in a potter’s field while their parents remained unaware?

Who will lift up the names of the people
in this city cemetery that dates from the Civil War?
Closed, except for a one-time visit by a relative with documented proof;
who will take on the responsibility, raise the issue, and force open the door?

Rosalind Maya Lama and Melinda Hunt
began the Hart Island Project to raise public consciousness,
pay homage to the deceased, and change the treatment
of young unwed mothers and their offspring who are victimized and helpless.

Who will lift up the names of the people
buried on Hart Island, located in the Long Island Sound?
We, the city’s poets will write poems and speak their names
to resurrect their memories and sanctify this ground.

Spirits of the Hart

Including the homeless, the substance abusers, the foster children, and the nursing homed elderly,
we are all interconnected human beings, born to die.

But by the unmerited grace of God and His mercy,
they were, they are, they could have been you or I.

Those of us on this side of eternity repeatedly rehearse our poor choices, actions, and consequences in our heads.
No matter what circumstances we experience, no matter what path in life we choose,

God’s LOVE is unconditional and everlasting, the one possession that we can never lose.

Healing and comfort are available through forgiveness -- forgiveness of ourselves and of our beloved.

And forgiveness of contributors to our sorrows will generate transcending peace and demonstrate Agape LOVE.

I give thanks for the gift of relationship that connects us
as new comers, acquaintances, bereaved relatives, artists, and friends.
For I believe that there are no random meetings
and our interactions have been divinely orchestrated.

So with focused positive energy of light and love, I honor
the eternal spirits of Hart Island and call forth every happy memory of their time.
I lift up the names of these dear souls who may have felt forgotten,
as I stand in the gap for ALL lost loved ones-- of others, and of yours and mine.

Be blessed,

Jo Anne Meekins


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