Sunday, February 25, 2018
Church asks HOC to allow cadaver dogs onto Bethesda black cemetery site
The historic Moses African Cemetery holds approximately 500 bodies, including many of the first freed slaves after Maryland Emancipation. Construction workers excavating for the Westwood Tower building in the late 1960s desecrated the cemetery, before reportedly relocating some remains into a mass grave downward from the rear slope behind the development. The rest of the graves were covered with fill dirt and a paved parking lot. Notes kept by the County Parks Department indicate landowner Dr. Lazlo Tauber was fully aware of the cemetery and desecration.
HOC, which had planned for several years to acquire the property from owner Regency Centers and build a parking garage on top of the cemetery, has steadfastly refused to allow any archaeological investigation of the graveyard. Prior to acquiring the land from Regency in January, HOC used the excuse that it did not own the land, and therefore could not give permission for the church to conduct a study on it.
But now that HOC owns the land outright, they have yet to allow any investigation to take place. Montgomery County has taken a similar approach, dismissing two highly-regarded anthropologists specializing in black cemeteries last year. County officials tricked the church into entering a farcical mediation process with HOC and Regency last summer. When the County's mediator blew up the process under false pretenses, it was revealed that the County had simply been trying to put a stop to the regular protests and rallies that brought public attention to the scandal in prior months.
HOC has engaged in other skullduggery, falsely claiming that the church had leaked information during the mediation, and citing a lawsuit Macedonia Baptist Church is not a party to as an excuse to avoid communication with the church. “HOC has been using a pending lawsuit—that Macedonia is not a party to—as a blanket excuse for not responding to any of our reasonable requests for permission to begin a cemetery delineation,” Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, MBC's Social Justice Chair said yesterday. “Walking the grounds with these dogs would not involve heavy equipment or even the slightest disruption of the site,” she continued, “but it would go a long way toward beginning a healing process for Macedonia’s congregation and the wider descendant community.”