continued The earliest Rapp Road settlers found their way to Albany by following their pastor, so the community was very church-centric.
“Our church was a very integral part of our community because that’s how we came to be here,” said Bardequez. “Like some people go to work and have activities, church was our activity outside the home.”
Relatives or not, Rapp Road families shared intimate relationships.
“There were cousins, uncles, aunts and church members that helped each other build modest little homes,” said Bardequez.
Some homes have since been torn down and most elders (who Bardequez refers to original settlers) have passed away, but there are a handful homes still stagnant, occupants and all.
“We still have some of the original settlers that reside here, the oldest being Labor Johnson who is in his 90s and still lives in the original home he built with the help of other neighbors,” said Bardequez.
Bardequez can see her grandparents’ house across the field and her aunt lives down the street. There are five generations of her family living on Rapp Road and Bardequez said exposing them to how their neighborhood started out (landscape-wise and socially) is important.
“Every year we have a family reunion in august and we try to maintain that this is our 54th year we just had and the whole purpose for that … is to give them a sense of our roots,” said Bardequez.
Her own roots and that of the Rapp Road community are so important that Bardequez has made it her mission to preserve history on a larger level.
She worked with Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center staff and Dr. Jennifer Lemak, senior historian and curator of African American History at the New York State Museum, to produce video interviews with original residents. Those interviews can be seen at the Discovery Center as part of a project sponsored by Friends of the Pine Bush Community and with grant money from the Bender Family Foundation.