- Dr. Michael RaoPresident of Virginia Commonwealth University
- Dwight JonesMayor of Richmond, Va.
Reclaim Richmond's African Burial Ground
Richmond's African Burial Ground, located within sight of the Virginia State Capitol, was from about 1750 to 1815 used primarily as a municipal cemetery for enslaved Africans and people of African descent. It is also where, on Oct. 10, 1800, the great slave rebellion leader Gabriel was executed. Truly this is Sacred Ground. Long abandoned, the site is now used as a commercial parking lot owned by Virginia Commonwealth University, a state institution with enormous economic and political influence in the city. A community struggle to reclaim this sacred ground has been building for nearly 10 years, and progress - or at least the promise of progress - is being made. However, VCU still refuses to close its parking lot - despite meetings with its president, appeals to its Board of Visitors, leafleting, forums, an e-mail campaign, an award-winning documentary film, rallies and marches. This petition is the latest in a series designed to increase pressure on VCU and its financial backers to do the right thing - NOW. For more information on this struggle, please log onto www.DefendersFJE.org. Thank you, from the Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, in Richmond, Va. (The photo is of a vigil held at the Burial Ground on Dec. 18, 2010, led by African-American students from VCU. The highway marker, noting that this was the site of Gabriel's execution, was erected by the Defenders on Oct. 10, 2004.)
- President of Virginia Commonwealth University
Dr. Michael Rao
- Mayor of Richmond, Va.
cc: Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones;
Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell;
Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project of the Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality
I urge you to immediately close the VCU-owned parking lot that covers Richmond's African Burial Ground, the city's oldest municipal cemetery for enslaved Africans and people of African descent.
It is now universally accepted that all or part of this historic site lies under the parking lot located at 15th and East Broad streets. It is unacceptable that Virginia Commonwealth University, a publicly funded state institution, continues to encourage commuters to park their cars on this sacred ground.
As Virginia prepares to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War and the beginning of the end of slavery, I urge you to do the right thing and remove this continuing stain on the reputation of all Virginians.
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