Monday, November 13, 2017

Civil rights leaders join fight to save Bethesda African-American cemetery at rally (Video + Photos)

About 200 people turned out for a rally at Macedonia Baptist Church yesterday, to protest the desecration of the historic African-American cemetery on the site of Westwood Tower in Bethesda. The fight against Montgomery County elected officials, developer Regency Centers and the County Housing Opportunities Commission was joined by several prominent civil rights leaders, representing several generations of activism.

WATCH: Click here for a full video report on the rally
The Rev. Walter Fauntroy was the headliner, and his presence underlined how unprecedented the uprising against the Montgomery County Executive, County Council, Planning Department and HOC by residents and faith leaders is. Who would have imagined even five years ago that the Rev. Fauntroy, who marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., would one day march through the "Westbard" area in a protest against supposedly-progressive Montgomery County government? Nobody!
On a very cold afternoon, Fauntroy exhibited the energy of a man one-quarter of his age. He was the rare speaker who could speak authoritatively of past struggles and victories, but in another moment, sound like futurist Elon Musk, as he predicted his clean water and energy technology will change the world in as little as ten years. Fauntroy preached, prayed and marched throughout the three-and-half-hour event, at times shadowboxing or pumping his fist in response to another inspiring orator.
Another celebrity guest on hand was the Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., President and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus. The Rev. Yearwood has just moved to Bethesda himself, after fighting against the system in post-Katrina New Orleans and Standing Rock. Yearwood suggested a boycott against businesses located in Regency Centers properties may be needed to move the needle in the development giant's boardroom, referring to past boycotts that had great success.
Montgomery County Councilmember
Marc Elrich was the only elected official
to accept an invitation to speak
Marc Elrich (D) was the only Montgomery County Councilmember and current elected official to accept an invitation to speak. Elrich, who is running for County Executive, tied the cemetery battle to other current instances of institutional racism in the County, including Farm Road and Lyttonsville. While Elrich has been the only councilmember to show any real solidarity with the church, he did vote for the Westbard sector plan that created the current threat to the cemetery in 2016. Robin Ficker, the Republican who will face the winner of the Democratic primary in the general election executive race, warmly greeted his old friend Fauntroy before delivering his own speech. Ficker promised that, if elected or otherwise given the opportunity, he would meet with Regency Centers. He would then have the doors to the room locked, he said, and tell Regency representatives they couldn't leave until they work out a deal to sell the cemetery land to the County.
The Rev. Graylan Hagler was an echo of a past preacher at Macedonia Baptist Church, whose sermons could be heard from the church's hill all the way down at the Milton-Loughborough House a century ago. In a booming voice, the Rev. Hagler got to the central issue of how identity and history can be used to control groups. Once you remove a people's historical narrative, "then you can justify doing anything you want to them," Hagler said. "There is, has been, and will be a place for the black community here in Bethesda, here in Montgomery County. We're not going anywhere," Hagler shouted to enthusiastic applause.
Music was provided by cultural activist Luci Murphy, the Youth of Macedonia choir, the Alphonso Coles Capitol Drum Collective and Eric Lewis Multicultural Drummers, and Congregation Beth El cantor Asa Fradkin. South African poet Siki Dlanga read a poem she was inspired to write by the Macedonia fight to save this cemetery, also referred to as the Moses Cemetery, called "Black Lives Matter, Dead or Alive."
Police did not provide traffic control for this march, which resulted in marchers having to shut down River Road themselves to get across to the cemetery site. Once there, the ritual pouring of libations was performed, as the names of some of those buried there were read aloud. A final and dramatic surprise guest was Nanette Hunter (maiden name Parker), the great niece of Cora Botts, who is buried in the cemetery. She said she was "overwhelmed" by the event and show of support from the community and faith leaders.
Rev. Graylan Hagler prepares
to address the rally
While HOC has relied on fake news suggesting they never planned to build a garage to change the narrative, they apparently don't realize we have multiple documents in which HOC demanded alterations in the Regency Centers site and sketch plans expressly to accommodate the parking garage on the graves. In fact, HOC's garage plan was one of the key controversies in Planning Board reviews of the sketch plan this year. So no one actually believes HOC can be trusted. And they also don't believe the cemetery should be left under asphalt, already being in a desecrated state after some of the graves were disturbed by workers excavating for Westwood Towers in the late 1960s. Macedonia and their supporters in the community want a memorial park and museum to preserve this direct link to the good, bad, and horrifying history of racism, slavery and the original black settlement of River Road.
Macedonia Baptist Church Social Justice
Director Marsha Coleman-Adebayo introduces
the Rev. Walter Fauntroy
One of the most intriguing aspects of the controversy, is that the Africans and African-Americans who are buried in the cemetery are, in a way, exercising power against the same forces who oppressed them in more overt ways over a century ago. It is their presence that is creating the power to fight a $14 billion corporation. And which may lead to reparations for the black families whose properties - which might be worth up to $1 million apiece today - were stolen by developers in the 1950s and early 1960s.
In this way, the act of dishonor in desecrating the cemetery has backfired, creating a rare scenario in which wrongs could be made right. As Dlanga's poem so correctly categorizes those below that parking lot, "We have been waiting to be woken up from a sleep. Our business on Earth is not yet done. We have been longing for an opportunity to state our case." That opportunity may now be here.

Fauntroy reacts to a powerful
statement by Rev. Hagler

The Youth of Macedonia choir 
performs on the church steps

MBC trustee and former River Road
resident Harvey Matthews, County Executive
candidate and attorney Robin Ficker, Coleman-Adebayo
and SURJ-MoCo's Laurel Hoa listen to
Fauntroy's speech

Matthews tells the crowd how his
family and others were forced off their
properties on River Road in the 1950s,
as Fauntroy embraces another former
resident of the lost black community

Congregation Beth El cantor Asa Fradkin
leads a song in Hebrew

Local historian David Rotenstein

Ficker promises, if elected, to lock Regency Centers
executives in a room and not let them out
until they agree to sell the cemetery plot
to Montgomery County, while embracing
old friend Fauntroy

The Rev. Lennox Yearwood warned
of a boycott of Westbard businesses
if Regency Centers doesn't do the right
thing regarding the cemetery
Marchers descend from the church
hill to River Road to walk to the
The march begins, with MBC Pastor
SegĂșn Adebayo, former River Road resident

Frank Lancaster,
Fauntroy and Ficker leading the way

Marchers arrive at the cemetery in the
shadow of Westwood Tower

Yearwood leads an African
ritual pouring of libations, advising
those gathered to touch the earth to
connect with the ancestors below

South African poet Siki Dlanga
recited a powerful poem inspired
by the Moses Cemetery desecration
and fight

Mardokai Russom (center) of
the Multicultural Workers Forum

Carolyn Lowery represented
Impact Silver Spring at the

River Road resident and
activist Ralph Wooden said
white privilege protects the
graves of his ancestors from
the kind of desecration that
has taken place at the
Moses cemetery

Former River Road resident
Frank Lancaster

recalls the close relationship
between his and Matthews' families

A last surprise guest was 
Nanette Hunter, the
great niece of Cora Botts, who
is buried in the cemetery

Marchers depart the cemetery
and make the climb up to
Westbard Avenue

With no police escort for this
protest, marchers detour down the
ramp at Westwood Center II for
safety reasons

In perhaps a symbolic moment, Matthews
halts Bethesda drivers on River
Road in front of the property that
once belonged to his family, so marchers can
safely cross; after the Matthews
were forced off the land, it eventually became
home to a Whole Foods Market

Matthews speaks at the site of his
former home, now home to Whole Foods

Rev. Adebayo thanks participants
as the rally concludes after 3 1/2 hours
of speeches, marching and honoring ancestors


Anonymous said...

Has-beens, attention-ho's and NIMBYs. More photos than there were people in attendance.

No one cares about this outside of a 1/2-mile radius from the moribund 1960's shopping center.

Anonymous said...

"Fauntroy exhibited the energy of a man one-quarter of his age. He was the rare speaker who could speak authoritatively of past struggles and victories, but in another moment, sound like futurist Elon Musk, as he predicted his clean water and energy technology will change the world in as little as ten years."

LOL you are insane Dyer.

Anonymous said...

What's going on in Photo #26? Did someone lose a contact lens?

Anonymous said...

Robert, are your days of the week messed up? I thought Justice Tuesdays were the only days we brought justice to Westbard. It is Monday. What is going on?

Robert Dyer said...

6:43: Always good to hear Regency Centers' take on the news. I bet it's warmer where you are in Florida right now.

6:48: Watch the video.

6:53: Nope, they are pouring libation for ancestors.

7:05: I bring justice every day in Westbard.

Anonymous said...

"Nope, they are pouring libation for ancestors."


Anonymous said...

How many of these "civil rights leaders" realize that Dyer is an ardent Trump supporter?

Anonymous said...

"I bring injustice every day in Wheaton."

Anonymous said...

Waiting for Dyer to start a GoFundme page to raise money to buy the land from Regency. Based on "old sport's" knowledge of real estate values, I am expecting millions from the entitled Bethesda activists.

Robert Dyer said...

7:27: You're calling the one guy who is calling for justice for the woman killed in Wheaton (and not letting the killer off the hook, like it sounds will happen right now) as "bringing injustice?" What a nutjob.

Anonymous said...

Love your Veterans' Day coverage.

1) 3 days late

2) Photos taken at 3 AM, approximately 15 hours after the ceremony

3) No comments allowed.

Anonymous said...

"About 200 people turned out for a rally at Macedonia Baptist Church yesterday, to protest..."

Your video shows about 40 people attended.

Were you the one providing crowd size estimates for Trump's Inaugural to Sean Spicer?

Anonymous said...

quesa dilllllllllllllllllllllllaaaaaaaaaaa

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Daily reminder: The supposed cemetery land was owned by a black benevolent society. They sold it to a developer.

Blame the seller, not the buyer.

Anonymous said...

Bethesda Beat is beating Dyer on his home turf! A much better article, just 71 minutes later.

Anonymous said...

Saith Dyer: "You're calling the one guy who is calling for justice for the woman killed in Wheaton (and not letting the killer off the hook, like it sounds will happen right now) as "bringing injustice?" What a nutjob."

No, you're not - you're a lone fruitcake who is claiming that a fatal lovers' quarrel is actually "the coming turf war between MS-13 and a new spin-off rival".

Also, you don't understand the difference between first- and second-degree murder.

Anonymous said...

@ &:26 AM - As well as an ardent supporter of the Confederacy and apologist for the KKK in Charlottesville.

Anna said...

So we're still talking about something that was wrongly done in the 1960's?

1) The land was sold
2) A parking lot was built on the land. (possibly desecrating graves)
3) Land was sold.

Why blame the current owners and council? It's currently a parking lot, not a lush green cemetery as suggested.

Remember when Dyer disagreed with my assertion that white-supremacist movement was growing? He pointedly asked me: "Have you seen a KKK rally recently? They're lucky to have 10 people waving signs on the side of a road." To which I replied: ", I haven't been to a KKK rally. Ever. Never would." But he has. Good times.

So before he calls me a liar and says I'm defaming him, read for yourselves:

Anonymous said...

While Dyer is hanging with has-beens and trying to raise the dead, Bethesda Beat him to some very big news on Bethesda Row.

Anonymous said...

Just listened to the video. Yikes, that "music"! It sounds like they are strangling rats.

How much is the Las Vegas CoC paying you for that ad, Robert?

Anonymous said...

Re 9:03 AM's link - Who knew that changing a light bulb could unleash such passion?

Anonymous said...

Dyer's photos and video of the crowd are shot at very close range. Looks like he doesn't want you to see that there are only about 50 attending, rather than the 200+ he claims.

Bill Castner said...

"Church member Marsha Coleman-Adebayo said this weekend’s march proves that support for the cause is only strengthening over time.

“I think the rally accomplished what it was supposed to accomplish, and that was to show the breadth of our support in Montgomery County,” said Coleman-Adebayo, who leads the church’s social justice ministry.

She estimated that 300 to 400 people attended the rally." BB


Anonymous said...

Fun Fact: The buyer of the "alleged" cemetery was a Jewish doctor from Hungary (Laszlo Tauber) who came into this country with nothing to build a net worth in excess of $1 billion. Dyer, why aren't you reaching out to his foundation to buy the land from Regency and donate it to the church?

Anonymous said...

It's too bad the Regency is attacking the church and residents like Robert.

Enough defamation and name calling. It's time for Regency to come to the table and negotiate. We want the museum and park dedicated there.

Anonymous said...

Be great if the church boycotted all Westbard business. If they could drive out McDonalds and others so we could actually make Westbard a decent area other than suburbia, I would be forever thankful.

Anonymous said...

@1:40 I have no connection to Regency, but I do respect property rights and the rule of law. The current owner bought it fair and square from the seller. The church needs to get mad at whoever sold it back when it was supposedly a cemetery, not the current owner.

Anonymous said...

1:40 you are a loser like Dyer.
Defame? Doesn't that require you to be famous or to have money? Not living in your moms basement reviewing twinkies and fast food, and hanging out at the mall and snack shop at the Westbard pool.
The only reason Robert cares is his moms house which he resides in the basement is in Westbard and he doesnt want low income housing (what RObert thinks is MS 13) moving in like a racist scared loser. The sacred grounds are already a parking lot, the land got sold twice over and now someone cares??? Its already a PARKING LOT!!!! All the white people you see so called protesting are NIMBYs pretending to care about the church just have nothing better to do and are stuck in the past, isnt that loser from the purple line lawsuit in the back to it was 50 people there tops. But why did the church speak up now and not after the first parking lot?? Obviously race card got pulled when the country is already dealing with Dyers beloved KKK coming out.

Anonymous said...

Most liberals are NIMBY, most conservatives are klansman. Dyers blog in a nightshell

Anonymous said...

More attacks on Robert. He doesn't live in his parents basement.

Shame on Regency and their supporters on the Council & staff for defaming residents standing up against this insane plan.

Dyer won't be intimidated- he will keep reporting on this story.

Anonymous said...

Dyer completely failed again - he isn’t in the know. Not so much of a peep about Amazon coming to Bethesda. He can report on businesses closing because he takes notice of the closed signs a week after the signs up. But the old chap, missed the biggest five or six stories of the year. I’ll stick to reading the real news that the interns at Bethesda Magazine are putting out rather than the garbage this blog mainly puts out.

Tim said...

Imagine if Robert spent time every day to post on Bethesda Magazine that's it's publisher is a child rapist, bigot, murderer, lives in a basement, etc. No facts, just defaming someone.

So, why are they posting that stuff here anonymously? Weird and disturbing.

And why are they so insecure about their work that they tout it here?

Why did they file a fake news report on yesterday's protest when, apparently, they weren't there? Folks, it's hard to cover Bethesda from Frederick.

So many questions!

Anonymous said...

The first time Dyer saw the name "MS-13" he thought it meant "13-yo Miss".

Anonymous said...

6:07pm Dude- your joke isn't any funnier the 5th time you posted it today.

You desperately want to change the topic away from desecrating this cemetery.

Anonymous said...

"Why did they file a fake news report on yesterday's protest when, apparently, they weren't there? Folks, it's hard to cover Bethesda from Frederick."

Keep telling yourself that, #UnsignedDyer.

Anonymous said...

3:22pm Roger Berliner wants to desecrate the final resting place of freed slaves so his friends can build a parking garage.

If that's not bigoted and racist, I don't know what is. Berliner is a bigot, verified through his actions on this matter.

Anonymous said...

Bethesda news through the lens of Frederick, Maryland.

Anonymous said...

Building a garage on top of a parking lot is "racist"?

Need a Willie Wonka meme for that one.

Anonymous said...

Nothing is funnier and more pathetic, simultaneously, than watching a bunch of rich old white folks singing "We Shall Overcome".

Robert Dyer said...

6:31: Your Klan hood is crooked. Yes, building a garage on top of a parking lot that's on top of a black cemetery is racist.

11:33: I've skeptical that Tauber arrived with nothing. What the Taubers have to answer now is, did they disclose the cemetery to Capital Properties when they sold the land? The impotent County Council never bothered to ask.

And read this:

And who shredded the Westwood Tower documents in 2015 or 2016 during the cemetery cover-up? The architect's son? The County? Equity One? The Taubers?

That was a criminal act, and obstruction of justice. Who dunnit?

6:33: Not more pathetic than you, who spend hours a day trolling on my websites, either being paid by developers/County Council or you're a raving lunatic - one or the other.

2:36: No, the reality is that whoever sold the land without disclosing the cemetery could be sued by Regency Centers. Unless it was disclosed and Regency is covering it up.

Robert Dyer said...

8:43: Is there anything the alleged killer would say that wouldn't believe? No one even knows if there was an actual relationship. He could have just been stalking her for all we know. Creepy.

I absolutely do know the difference between 1st and 2nd degree, and that's why I'm flabbergasted they are only charging him with 2nd degree, knucklehead.

Anonymous said...

What evidence do you have that it was premeditated? You need to have such evidence to bring charges of first-degree murder?

Anna said...

According to Dyer @ 6:38...either 6:33 "is being paid by developers/County Council or they're a raving lunatic - one or the other."

Why? Because they read all of Dyer's bloggy sites several times a day.

Wow...most businesses call those folks regular readers.

Robert Dyer said...

7:58: Wrong. Actual readers don't post troll comments and spam all day and all night. They read, and they post comments that are actually part of the topic of the article, and behave in a civil fashion even if they disagree with me.

Anna said...

Whoa there buddy. You're making an awful lot of assumptions, most of which are completely whack.

Someone needs to sit you down and walk through how to read comments.
I'll volunteer. Set? Here we go:

Step one. My comment refers to 6:33's comment. We'll start there.
"Nothing is funnier and more pathetic, simultaneously, than watching a bunch of rich old white folks singing "We Shall Overcome"."

Step two. Think about the comment. Does it seem like humor? (Hint: yes, it does)
Is it insulting anyone in particular? (No.)
Is it on topic? (Yes.)
Did you crack a smile? (I know I did.)
Is it thought-provoking? (I think maybe it is.)

Step three. Could this be a one-off comment? (Sure, you can't know for sure as it is anonymous.)

Step four. Think up an appropriate retort. ("If that wasn't so sad it'd be funny" comes to mind.) Post it and feel good about your adult interaction with a reader, that left you both smiling. They'll be plenty of time to snipe at your nemesis, but not everyone is said nemesis.

The End.