Art Curator Derrick Harden, planted a tree in Brooklyn in memory of his sister who was murdered there 20 years ago. The tree is said to symbolize healing and forgiveness. Click below to read the story.

Melissa Nash

Derrick Harden was walking in Manhattan on the day before his late sister’s birthday, when he spotted the man who killed her.
That was in January. Harden, a hip-hop artist and art curator, was walking on West 24th St. with Michael Lyons Wier, a friend and mentor and owner of Lyons Wier Gallery, at 542 w. 24th St.
“We were standing on the corner, and I looked up and saw this man, Brian, who I have not seen since 1992,” Harden recalled. “I said, ‘Oh my God!”
On Oct. 19, 1992, Derrick’s mother opened the door of their apartment in the Howard Houses projects in Brownsville, Brooklyn, to find the 14-year-old Brian standing there.
“He said ‘I hurt your daughter, Mrs. Harden,’ and ran off,” Harden remembers. “They lived on the floor below our apartment.”
The then-12-year-old Harden ran down the stairs and found the door to Brian’s family’s apartment open and his 14-year-old sister, Cha-ron, dead from a single shot from the gun the teens had been playing with.
Until he saw Brian — to this day Harden does not know his last name — Harden thought he was still in prison.
“Now the slogan for my neighborhood, a slogan they came up with long before I was born, is “Brownsville: never ran, never will. Anybody from Brownsville, whether they’re a house kid or a kid who is out and about, they know that slogan.
“I still live by that slogan.”
Harden, 32, through pluck, luck — he never finished high school — and hard work, has managed to make a name for himself both as a hip-hop performer — he once had a popular single on Internet radio — and an art curator — his March, 2010 “Art That I found” show at the Chelsea Hotel drew rave reviews.
He also curated a show, “Valley of the Dolls,” by Elana Baziz, and “Observatory” by Guno Park, now on display until August 20 at the The Cupping Room restaurant, 359 W. Broadway.
Ariel Hzani, 30, whose family has run the Cupping Room since 1986, said putting local artists’ work on the walls is a return to the time when Soho “was the heart of the local art scene.
“We’ve always displayed local artist and NYU students,” Hzani said. “I met Derrick through a mutual friend, and he and I sat down and talked about how we can rejuvenate the idea of this restaurant becoming a part of the local art scene again.”
Harden knows about growth and the healing power of forgiveness.
“That slogan, and those same tactics that I have seen used to probably destroy my neighborhood, I use them to empower myself and change my community,” Harden said. “If I change first, everything changes around me.”
Changing things for the better is why Harden earlier this year joined the “Buds” committee of the New York Restoration Project, to plant an Upright Hornbeam tree in front of the McCleods Community Garden in the Howard projects in his sister’s honor. Last week he returned with his family members to place a plaque on the tree.
“I just believe that being positive you can do anything,” Harden said. “I don’t believe in mistakes, I believe in forgiveness. I believe people grow, and these beliefs probably bring good things to me.
“Everyone is searching. Everyone wants to be like I want to be.”
Harden said he had introduced Brian to Cha-ron. The two had cut school the day of the shooting and were hanging out in Brian’s family apartment.
All of that came flooding back that January day.
“I ran up to him, and I tapped him on the shoulder and said hey, what’s up?” Harden said.
And just like that the two became friends.
“One thing he said that moved me was that all this time, one thing that helped him survive in prison is that he knew I knew it was an accident,” Harden said. “He said he didn’t care about what the world thought, he just knew I knew he didn’t mean to do it, and that was what kept him going.”
The two remain friends, Harden said.