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Church of the Generals takes down plaque honoring Confederate leader

So long: Bishop Rev. Lawrence C. Provenzano, of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, and Bay Ridge City Council Candidate Rev. Khader El-Yateem speak at a press conference commending the removal of the plaque.
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A plaque commemorating the Confederate leader General Robert E. Lee was hauled off the grounds of the so-called Church of the Generals in Bay Ridge on Aug. 16, in the wake of white supremacist protests and violence in Charlottesville over the weekend.

The move sends a message that racism has no place in Brooklyn, said Rev. Khader El-Yateem.

“Removing this plaque makes it very clear that while we will never forget the history of slavery in America,” said El-Yateem, a Democrat running for the Bay Ridge City Council seat. “We are ready to move forward and address racism at its root.”

Following the murder of activist Heather Heyer on Aug. 12 by a neo-Nazi who allegedly rammed his car into a crowd of liberal demonstrators during a protest about the removal of a stature of Lee from a public park, local advocates and religious leaders sought the removal of the more-than-100-year-old plaque marking a tree the Confederate leader planted outside the now-shuttered St. John’s Episcopal Church, known as the Church of Generals because of all of the army men stationed at nearby Fort Hamilton who worshipped there.

“This was an easy decision. No one should walk by a church and see a monument honoring someone who fought to preserve slavery. It doesn’t mean that we forget the history, but it means that we need to remember it differently,” said Bishop Lawrence Provenzano of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. “In the sense that the church can stand for all of God’s people and stand for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we removed these plaques as one of the many outward invisible expressions of our solidarity with God’s people, particularly those who are feeling oppressed by the actions of white supremacists and the Neo-Nazi movement and its support across this nation.”

Lee was stationed at the Bay Ridge Army base several years in the 1840s — years before the Civil War — when he planted the maple tree at the Fort Hamilton Parkway church. The iron sign was posted there to honor the Confederate general in 1912.

But following the wave of calls nationwide to remove similar monuments that celebrate the country’s history of slavery, El-Yateem and others jumped on board to demand the removal of Lee’s plaque outside the church. The Episcopal Diocese of Long Island’s decision to remove something that memorializes a defender of slavery is a step in the right direction, said El-Yateem.

“I am grateful that our advocacy worked,” he said. “The Episcopal Diocese of Long Island is on the right side of history by removing this symbol that venerates our history of slavery.”

But there’s still more to be done, according to a handful of Brooklyn pols, including Rep. Yvette Clarke (D–Flatbush) and Borough President Adams, who are calling on the U.S. Army to change street names inside the Fort Hamilton Army Base that honor Confederate leaders, such as General Lee Avenue and Stonewall Jackson Drive. The push to change the names gained steam in 2015 after a racially motivated mass shooting in a church in Charleston, S.C., sparked a nationwide movement to remove Confederate flags and other memorials from public spaces.

Back in June, members of Brooklyn’s congressional delegation, including Rep. Yvette Clarke, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Rep. Nydia Velázquez, and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, petitioned the Department of the Army to change the names, but the Pentagon rebuffed the request.

In a July 20 letter to the delegation, Army spokeswoman Diane Randon wrote that “After over a century any effort to rename memorializations on Fort Hamilton would be controversial and divisive.”

Now, less than a week after one of the most controversial and divisive incidents in the movement to remove Confederate memorializations, pressure is building anew on the Army over the street names.

Gov. Cuomo wrote a letter to the acting secretary of the Army on Aug. 16 demanding the removal the street signs he called deeply rooted in racism.

“Symbols of slavery and racism have no place in New York,” Cuomo wrote.

On the same day, even Republican mayoral candidate Assembylwoman Nicole Malliotakis (R–Bay Ridge) added her voice, to make a bipartisan call to change the street names.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Posted 12:00 am, August 17, 2017
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Reader feedback

Jeff says:
Horay for the Army for not changing the names. Robert E. Lee & Stonewall Jackson were generals serving in the U.S. Army prior to the Civil War. That is what is being honored, not being Confederate leaders. Why not remove Thomas Jefferson from Mount Rushmore. He was one the biggest slave owners. Also, why not change the names of all the Confederate states or remove them like the flags and statues that was removed.
Isn't there more important issues that renaming streets, like all the gun violence.
What ever happen to separation of state and church as per the Constitution of the U.S.? Clergy should not run for public office.
Aug. 17, 12:50 am
MH from The United States of America says:
This is a complete disgrace. These people are part of our History. The good and the Bad part, but History. Removing these things WILL NOT change history. What is happening today is in some ways worse than the past because we are supposed to be more intelligent, to have learned from past mistakes. Ignoring our History will not suddenly make slavery, Civil War, and everything bad disappear. If only it was that easy.
Fort Hamilton should never allow those names to be removed from that Base. They most definitely belong there, as did the plaques in front of that Church. As far as I know they served Honorably while there and defended us in one way or another. It is time to Grow Up and move on to Things that CAN be changed, and or erased.
STOP THE NONSENSE!!!!!!!
Aug. 17, 8:40 am
Denny says:
Does anyone remember this?

REV. COLLARED IN DRUG BUST 'HERO' CLERIC WHO FOILED ROBBERY NOW FACES CHARGES

http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/rev-collared-drug-bust-hero-cleric-foiled-robbery-faces-charges-article-1.766375
Aug. 17, 9:07 am
CH from USA says:
We were taught growing up to learn from our mistakes and try to figure out ways to make our futures better. By destroying monuments, statues and Plaques does not make any of this right. The past will always be there. It should stay in the Past never to be forgotten. Giving in to these individuals calling for the name changes and taking down memorials makes a person just as wrong. I am Extremely disappointed in what this country has become of late.
Aug. 17, 9:44 am
Lisa says:
"When officers burst into the Reverend's second-floor bedroom at St. John's Church, they said, the Reverend was typing his Sunday sermon on his computer and smoking crack from a pipe. " WOW!
Aug. 17, 9:53 am
Me from Right Here says:
Thank God that "Rev" is not there anymore, but that has nothing to do with Removing Memorials , statues etc. which
do positively or negatively have to do with our past History as the Nation that we are today. Good, Bad, Right, Wrong. It is all part of our History and that will never, ever change and cannot and should not be forgotten
Aug. 17, 9:59 am
Jack from Marine Park says:
When will people learn history?

Prior to the Civil War, Robert E. Lee defended America in the Mexican War and made great improvements to the military during his time in West point.

Lee made the mistake of honoring his home state, rather than his moral state, in joining the confederacy. He did not approve of slavery and recognized it needed to end.

In his post-war life, he did work to set up schools for former slaves.

Lee should not be honored for his contributions to the United States before and after to the Civil War, but NOT as a confederate war general.

In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country.
— Robert E. Lee, 1856

So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished.
— Robert E. Lee, 1865
Aug. 17, 10:03 am
Jim says:
NYS and NYC had legalized slavery in the 18 century. Remind people of that.
Aug. 17, 11:53 am
Ms. Me from Bay Ridge says:
Isn't this the church that has no parishoners, is closed and will probably be torn down?
Aug. 17, 12:31 pm
Ganchy says:
Reverend El-Yateem is Linda Sarsour's puppet. We will remember this political stunt come Election Day
Aug. 17, 12:40 pm
frank from orlando fl says:
unfortunately these so call rev, bishop, clergy's or what ever there name should be more concern about all the kids they sexually abuse everyday which just like the killings in Chicago it never ends. slavery will never end no matter what color you are if your poor or middle class then your a slave cause that's how the government and politicans wants to keep you we don't own anything in this country not even the kids you give birth to cause the government tells you how to raise them. THAT IS NOT FREEDOM THAT IS SLAVERY
Aug. 17, 12:54 pm
Mike from Bay Ridge says:
No matter what the issue, this is just terrible writing:

Following the murder of activist Heather Heyer on Aug. 12 by a neo-Nazi who allegedly rammed his car into a crowd of liberal demonstrators during a protest about the removal of a stature of Lee from a public park, local advocates and religious leaders sought the removal of the more-than-100-year-old plaque marking a tree the Confederate leader planted outside the now-shuttered St. John’s Episcopal Church, known as the Church of Generals because of all of the army men stationed at nearby Fort Hamilton who worshipped there.
Aug. 17, 1:09 pm
Donna says:
Can we start Go Fund Me page so we can send Julianne Cuba to writing school?
Aug. 17, 3 pm
Aunt Teefa from red square says:
A socialist who doesn't understand American history, el yatem influencing our culture and heritage. What a disgrace. Bob Grant was right many years ago when he said America is slipping and sliding into third world ism.
Aug. 17, 6:11 pm
JDH from Prospect Heights says:
For all the people defending the statues as history, why are there no statues of Benedict Arnold? Of British soldiers? Why were the majority of statues put up while Jim Crow was being instituted or the Civil Rights era? Can't you see what's right in front of you?
Aug. 18, 1:59 pm
Saul says:
“The Reverend” El Yateem should be criticized for his radical left, anti-American, pro-Arabist and anti-Israel positions. He thinks Bayridge is "ready" for socialism!
Aug. 18, 2 pm
liberal hypocrites says:
All the liberals in trendy neighborhoods want to give us a history lesson. Lesson number 1 - NYC had legalized slavery till the early 19 century. Lesson number 2 - Stop gentrifying minority neighborhoods while pretending to care about minorities. You guys drive them out and the rents up. You cause more damage to minorities than any of these right wing jerks.
Aug. 18, 6:14 pm
Ms. Me from Bay Ridge says:
I love going to church so i can blow all the kinky johns looking for some stinky cunny.
Aug. 22, 2:42 pm
Thomas Hilton from Bay Ridge says:
It was bad enough when I thought this was craven political pandering, but this activist bishop politicized it cynically turning it into a cheap MEDIA CIRCUS and photo op for one political candidate whom he stood next. It was detestable. He could have announced that after 105 years the plaques were coming down in the next few weeks, and then they'd just disappear. But then there'd have been no circus.
Aug. 23, 10:01 am
Mike from Bay Ridge says:
Look at all the comments. Most people are against this stupidity of removed names to try and change history. Democrats fought harder than anyone to KEEP slavery. THAT is what they want to erase, the fact that THEY were the ones who kept slavery going long after it should have be stopped. Fought tooth and nail for it. That won't EVER be forgotten.
Aug. 25, 7:28 am

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