Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Westbard cemetery protest at Planning HQ Thursday 10:00 AM

Macedonia Baptist Church is holding a press conference and protest regarding Montgomery County's failure to respect an African-American cemetery in the Westbard area of Bethesda - upon which developer Equity One and the county's Housing Opportunities Commission wish to build a parking garage - tomorrow, Thursday, April 6, at 10:00 AM, at the Montgomery County Planning Department headquarters at 8787 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring.

After the Planning Department stalled in reaching an agreement with two anthropologists the church sought to have oversee an investigation of the cemetery, which was already desecrated by construction workers building Westwood Tower in the late 1960s, County Executive Ike Leggett asked the Planning Board to appoint a mediator to resolve the dispute.

Evidence that has come to light, regarding attempts by the department to withhold information on the cemetery and its desecration from the Planning Board and the public, has outraged church officials. "Recently released documents exposed a vast Planning Department 'cover-up' of information led by Montgomery County Planning Director Gwen Wright regarding the African Burial Ground," the church said in a press release yesterday. "Ms. Wright took pains to conceal documents showing the location of the Bethesda African Cemetery from the Planning Commissioners, County Council, the public and indeed the County Executive, Ike Leggett. Further, freedom of Information documents and previously marked confidential records show that the county's Housing Opportunity Commission (HOC) and Equity One (EO) have been collaborating since 2015 on development plans to facilitate HOC's and EO's mutual illicit goals."

"It is the mother of all ironies that HOC—whose ostensible mission is to assist low income families, including African Americans—would collude to build a parking garage and housing on top of a cemetery that is the final resting place for many 1st generation freed Africans," said Macedonia Baptist Church Pastor-elect Rev. Segun Adebayo. "Some 60 years ago, it was collusion between the county and developers that systematically dispossessed our ancestors of very valuable land," Adebayo said. "And it is Montgomery County and Equity One who are doing the same things today. Because of Ms. Wright's role in the 'cover-up' we will not accept her participation in the planning process or the mediation."

At the last protest over the cemetery at Planning HQ, the department or Planning Board called in 7 police officers to confront protesters, and Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson surrounded himself with 3 officers when approached by representatives of the church who wanted to hand him a petition. On Thursday, the Board will have a completely-unspecified discussion related to the stalled cemetery investigation, and the public has been denied the right to speak at the meeting. Strangely, there is no staff report for this agenda item less than 24 hours before the meeting, raising further questions of transparency.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

another temper tantrum to delay the inevitable. develop the dump known as westbard please. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

"A completely-unspecified discussion"

Wut???

Anonymous said...

It is the mother of all ironies that the white residents of Westbard are using dead African-Americans as a pretext to keep live African-Americans (and other minorities) from living in their community.

Anonymous said...

7:58 AM The real mother of all ironies is the developer thinking they own the bodies of freed slaves.

Anonymous said...

Why was the cemetery abandoned?

Anonymous said...

The developer doesn't own the bodies of freed slaves. They bought land and that's that. Robert Dyer should invent a time machine and take his "evidence" with him to stop the original desecration. The developer should not be responsible for the mistakes of another. These folks are dead and the entire burial and history is the problem, not the developer.

Anonymous said...

They need to do an archeological dig on the Dyer estate.

Robert Dyer said...

7:58: So you believe the 3 billion dollar out-of-state corporation owns the bodies of the former slaves buried there? I realize you are not familiar with the area, but Macedonia Baptist Church is a black church. You also are clearly not aware that African-Americans already live in the Westbard area. I see them every day.

7:53: Is English your first language? The statement was quite clear. There isn't even an outline of the discussion, nor a staff report. One has to assume that is so they can try to catch everyone off guard with some new too-clever-by-half "solution" they've spent 6 weeks coming up with.

Anonymous said...

Time machine jokes aside, the original desecration happened.
We can't stop that, but why compound the problem and repeat history with a second desecration?

Anonymous said...

@ 8:53 - Agreed. Find and respectfully remove any remains, and use this land as is needed for current and future residents.

Anonymous said...

Davis Library is reopening this weekend!

Yay!!!

Robert Dyer said...

8:57: Would you take that same approach at Arlington National Cemetery? I would argue this land is already needed by those who are buried in it, and we ought to respect their final resting place, as well as the direct and unique connection to the heritage and legacy of the area.

Robert Dyer said...

9:00: I reported that several weeks ago, as well as the tax day specials at Wisconsin Place. Old news, my friend.

Anonymous said...

8:57 AM Leave the remains. Let these freed slaves rest in peace.
Remember them with a museum, which will be the cultural foundation for the new Westbard.

Anonymous said...

8:53, it's not compounding, it's exploitation. To act as if the developer is responsible is ridiculous. These temper tantrum and the folks having the tantrums are not proposing to do anything that will solve the issue. Too little, too late.

Anonymous said...

9:40 AM The church's requests are reasonable. Let's listen to them.

Anonymous said...

Why yes, Arlington is an excellent example. JFK's were buried in one part of the cemetery, then moved when a better resting place became available.

Anonymous said...
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Barwood Sucks said...

Roger Berliner loves historic African American cemeteries...except those that his developer friends covet.

Frienemies of Woodmont Triangle said...

If this cemetery had been at the Marriott or Apex Building sites in downtown Bethesda, instead of in Dyer's precious Heimat of Westbard, would he have cared in the slightest?

Friends of Woodmont Triangle said...

I love the idea of the museum. A way to remember the original sin of Westbard- desecrating the graves of freed slaves to make way for a development. Let's not repeat history with another disgrace. MoCo is better than this!

Roger Berliner said...

All your ancestor's graves belong to us

Robert Dyer said...

9:40: There's no need to "solve" anything - the cemetery is sacred ground, and also of tremendous historical importance. Should those oppressed by wealthy whites when they were alive now be displaced from their final resting place for the sake of wealthy whites profiting again in 2017?

Anonymous said...

Not true.

1. This protest is being led by a church whose pastor and congregation are black.

2. The problem with Westbard is excessive density/height for the location. Had densities and heights been scaled back across the originally proposed Westbard sector area, *more* affordable units could arguably have been developed. The Westbard area residents with whom I've spoken would be happy to see a higher set-aside for affordable housing units-- but reduced heights/densities. In other words, the issue is physical compatibility with the surrounding single-family neghborhoods, *not* distaste for affordable housing.

Anonymous said...

I hope that anyone with a shred of decency would want to see fair and respectful treatment of a cemetery site.

The point being: planners should not cover up any pertinent data about a site undergoing master planning and/or land use approvals. In addition, affected communities should be able to feel that investigations and determinations concerning a cemetery site are handled with transparency and respect. These conditions have not been met with regard to the presumed cemetery on the Westbard site.

Anonymous said...

Because the African-American community along River Road was displaced by development in the late 1950s and 1960s. Macedonia Baptist Church contends that these residents were pushed o

Anonymous said...

8.57: I think that Macedonia Baptist Church should have a say about how the gravesite is treated and memorialized.

10.35: No, Arlington is a very poor example. John F. Kennedy's burial and any movement of his gravesite took place with the full concurrence of the Kennedy family. The families and descendants of those buried at Westbard were not given this choice. That is why it is so important to respect the desires of the Macdonia Baptist Church in this matter-- to make amends for the first desecration.

Anonymous said...

9.40: The only exploitation occurring here is the planners'' failure to forthrightly reveal the probable existence of the cemetery before the Westbad sector plan was approved. The archaeological investigation and a potential plan for the delineated cemetery site should have been agreed to with the community and specified in the master plan.

I agree with you that the previous desecration of the cemetery is not the fault of the developers, but the developers must bear all risks of development, including the emergence of factors that make all or portions of the site undevelopable or difficult to develop.

Ironically, the planners' inept handling of the cemetery matter is creating substantial adverse publicity for the County and the developers. That doesn't facilitate the ultimate development program.

Anonymous said...
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Hokie said...

No evidence of that, but plenty of racist attitudes from the Planning Board, Council and developer to discuss.

The cemetery is an inconvenient truth for those entities.