Marc Elrich, Use Eminent Domain and Return Moses Cemetery to the Macedonia Baptist Church!

Marc Elrich, Use Eminent Domain and Return Moses Cemetery to the Macedonia Baptist Church!

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Despite over six years of activism by the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition (BACC) to end the desecration of the historic Moses Macedonia African Cemetery, Montgomery County and its agencies continue to ignore the Black descendant community and cover-up their unjust, racist actions. 

Moses is where the post-Emancipation Black River Road Community buried their beloved family members for over half a century; hundreds of people were buried, including community leaders and Civil War veterans. The Macedonia Baptist Church cared for the cemetery through this era, and is the last remaining institution of the community. Moses is also one of the largest mass graves in the United States, containing the evidence of the barbaric slaughter of hundreds of Africans trafficked from West and Central Africa forced into death/labor camps on River Road until they were murdered or raped to death. 

This sacred site along River Road in Bethesda, Maryland is now formally owned by the Housing Opportunities Commission (HOC) and the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC). These two rogue agencies are desecrating the cemetery with sewage pipes and refusing to negotiate with the BACC, much less acknowledge the existence of human beings buried there. The M-NCPPC is a Jim Crow era institution that has been instrumental in dispersing and erasing the Black River Road Community, among other Black communities. M-NCPPC Director Michael Riley himself called the cemetery “park land” and suggested its recent trashing is commonplace, rather than a hate crime. Furthermore, the M-NCPPC is planning to build over Moses Cemetery in order to develop the Willett Branch Greenway, a planned recreational park that was conceived without any direction or input from the Black descendant community.

Now it has come to light that the M-NCPPC is sheltering racist police officers who have called for a race war and the massacre of Black Lives Matter protesters, one sergeant writing, "Kill em all!" However, there has been little outrage from our representatives about this taxpayer-funded agency's violent agenda against Black people. There is no doubt that an agency whose police force desires to massacre Black people should not have power over a historic Black cemetery. 

Montgomery County must use eminent domain NOW to end the racist desecration of Moses, end the anguish forced on the Black descendant community, and ensure the proper memorialization and respect of those buried in Moses. The BACC and Macedonia Baptist Church's ultimate goal is to construct a museum and memorial at Moses.

Who can make this happen?

The County Executive invokes eminent domain and the County Council approves its use. Eminent domain is the government's right to take private property for public use upon payment of just compensation at an impasse in negotiations.

Marc Elrich repeatedly states that "he can't do anything" to address the white supremacist desecration of Moses Cemetery, saying that his “hands are tied” and there is “nothing [he] can do" - even though he campaigned on this issue when he last ran for County Executive. Elrich consistently fails to speak out, use his bully pulpit, or exercise any of his vast powers as County Executive in response to violence against Black people, whether it is the desecration of a historic Black cemetery or the senseless killings by County police of young Black men like Kwamena Ocran and Ryan LeRoux. We now understand that this inaction and his statements are dog whistling to white supremacists throughout Montgomery County that at the highest level of government, violence against the Black community is condoned.

We also know for a fact that Elrich's excuses are lies. His predecessor Ike Leggett used eminent domain on two occasions during his term as County Executive. As for the County Council, it has demonstrated fervor for exercising eminent domain, proposing a bill in 2017 that would have enabled them to force residents out of homes immediately. In fact, the County used eminent domain during the 1960's to take the property of Black families on River Road for development, so we ask why not use eminent domain to return their remains to their descendants?

Why is this important?

Black lives matter in life and in death. The way that Montgomery County treats its Black citizens is directly reflected in the desecration of Moses Cemetery where enslaved people are laid to rest. Their memorialization and recognition is vital for the community to reckon with the brutal history of this state and the genocide that is occurring here. Furthermore, the Black descendant community deserves peace. Throughout this struggle the community has experienced a complete disregard for their wellbeing from County officials. We are sick of watching Black ancestors be disrespected in this way, and we are sick of being ignored. We are saying NO MORE. 

Marc Elrich, we demand you step up to be the leader that you were elected to be. You have the power to invoke eminent domain, which would return this sacred burial ground to its rightful stewards. Enough is enough.

To learn more about the BACC's struggle, please visit our website and socials:

 

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