Marie Pearl Conner (1919-2012) was a mother—nurturing, perceptive, kind, and rigorous. On school days, she woke up before dawn to iron and starch her daughters’ dresses. She would do this for her seven children and for the children of a neighborhood mom who had worked the late shift the previous night, no questions asked. In the evening, when the kids returned from school, something was always cooking at her house on Ashland Place. For kids up and down the block, her home became the center of their world.
When her daughters Fannie, Natelege, and Amaka, as well as her granddaughter, Kidada, recount Mrs. Conner’s decades spent in Fort Greene, her contributions to the neighborhood and its history are clear. At a time before black women were even allowed to be nurses, Mrs. Conner worked as a cook at the Brooklyn Hospital. She went on to establish the Robert Conner Memorial Family School, a place where black children could receive a well-rounded cultural education. And she was a voice for the neighborhood, advocating for the repurposing of vacant lots as community spaces, gardens, and more.
Mrs. Conner had a vision for Fort Greene, long before our city orchestrated envisioning workshops. She was a pillar of nourishment for the neighborhood.