Neela Wickremesinghe was born and raised in Staten Island, New York. Her father immigrated to New York City from Sri Lanka and her mother grew up in Brooklyn. Wickremesinghe received a B.A. in architecture and urbanism from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts and an M.S. in historic preservation from Columbia University in New York City. She worked as an architecture conservator in New York City and Minneapolis, Minnesota.
“I like being able to identify as a New Yorker, because I feel like it covers more bases than saying “Well, you know, I’m Sri Lankan, but I’m Italian, but I’m Italian-American, and my grandmother’s Dutch, and colonialization has a lot to do with that,” but a New Yorker, I feel like it’s easier. Explaining my background is hard, but I don’t feel like saying “I’m Sri Lankan” describes all of me, and I don’t feel like saying “I’m Italian” describes all of me, but I feel like you can say “I’m a New Yorker” and that sort of describes all of me."
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Date: October 22, 2013
Citation: Oral history interview with Neela Wickremesinghe, 2013, 2010.019.068; Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations Oral History Collection, 2011.019; Brooklyn Historical Society.
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