French tourists are coming to Brooklyn to clean Basquiat’s grave

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Basquiat's modest grave in Green-Wood. Photo via Wikipedia

It is always surprising, learning the reasons tourists are attracted to Brooklyn. What locals find normal sometimes constitutes a massive attraction to out-of-towners who see our daily goings ons as foreign fascinations. That Jean-Michel Basquiat, the late great Brooklyn-born street artist and creator of the iconic crown doodle and SAMO tag, who died of a heroin overdose in 1988, is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery is news to plenty of longtime Brooklynites. Yet, the New York Times reports, French volunteers are paying homage to him by cleaning the granite headstone at his final resting place in a corner of Green-Wood.

“I went to an exhibition of Basquiat in Switzerland many years ago and it is very emotional to me to be in front of his tomb,” volunteer Fada Mouszaouy told News 12.

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Gerard Basquiat and family (Jean-Michel is not present but his two sisters are) at 553 Pacific Street, Park Slope, Brooklyn. March 5, 1978. Photo by Dinanda Nooney
Gerard Basquiat and family (Jean-Michel is not present but his two sisters are) at 553 Pacific Street, Park Slope, Brooklyn. March 5, 1978. Photo by Dinanda Nooney

The four volunteers, the Times reports, consisted of three college students and a teacher on an exchange program sponsored by 15-year-old not-for-profit Preservation Volunteers. The organization has been sending volunteers to Green-Wood for years.

According to cousins Marianne and Léa Perret, the founders of NYC-based French language school Coucou, Williamsburg, the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and the Brooklyn Bridge often top the list of French tourists’ Brooklyn to-do lists. “French tourists also generally love local coffee shops,” Marianne added, noting it’s not common in France for people to “just grab a coffee to go and a bagel.”

Clearly we have something to learn from the French – Green-Wood is certainly one of the borough’s better gems hidden in plain sight.

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Past year's volunteers at Preservation Volunteers cleaning graves. Photo via Preservation Volunteers
Past year’s volunteers at Preservation Volunteers cleaning graves. Photo via Preservation Volunteers

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