Wednesday, November 08, 2017
Civil rights icon Walter Fauntroy joins fight, rally to save African-American cemetery in Bethesda
Also adding his name to the fight is the Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, Senior Minister at the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Northeast Washington, and the Immediate Past National President of Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice (MRSEJ). Hagler has made his mark as an activist in the District, Boston and Chicago, where he once staged a sit-in that convinced Sears to hire hundreds of minority employees. He has also been active in the Palestine solidarity movement.
Fauntroy and Hagler joined Macedonia Baptist Church Pastor Rev. Segun Adebayo in issuing a letter to other area congregations, calling on them to support the cause and attend the march. "As religious and secular leaders," the ministers wrote, "we believe that the ground in which our ancestors are buried is sacred and blessed ground. But, corporations and misdirected members of government have 'hardened their hearts' to the cries of the community calling out for justice. Dr. King faced such criticism and it only emboldened him to press forward with the work of justice. When Dr. King was asked why he had come to Birmingham, he simply answered: 'I’m in Birmingham because injustice is in Birmingham.'"
"We ask you to march with us on Sunday, November 12th, to assert the notion that the first generation of freed Africans in Montgomery County, do matter. Their lives mattered. Their contributions matter. They do not deserve to remain unnoticed and defiled."
Montgomery County, developer Regency Centers and the County Housing Opportunities Commission have proposed building a parking garage on top of the cemetery, which is located on Regency's Westwood Tower property. Construction workers building the apartment tower already desecrated the cemetery once during the late 1960s, and then covered most of the graveyard with a parking lot.
The HOC last week issued a statement declaring that it now had no immediate plans to build the garage, but said it could in the future, offering no actual promise or guarantee it would not. HOC also made the strange claim that the church did not need permission to conduct an archaeological study of the hidden cemetery, a ridiculous assertion given that HOC does not own the property - and because Regency Centers has so far declined to allow anthropologists chosen by the church to conduct such a study. In fact, Regency and HOC fought the church all summer, refusing to reach just such an agreement for a study during mediation sessions.
Sunday's protest will begin at Macedonia Baptist Church. Protesters will then march to the cemetery site. Be there!