By Oscar H. Blayton
It is a tragedy when we lose a loved one. That tragedy is compounded when are unable to visit their final resting place to honor and remember them.
Black cemeteries have been under assault by antagonistic forces in this country since the very first Black body was interred in American soil. And that assault continues to this day.
The most recent assault comes in the form of a bill being proposed in the U.S. Congress titled the African American Burial Grounds Preservation Act. This bill introduced by Congresswoman Alma Adams (D-NC) and Reps. A. Donald McEachin (D-VA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) is akin to a mushroom – raised in the dark and nurtured on manure. I would venture to guess that none of these Congressional representatives has given serious consideration to the wording of this bill or its implications for the families and the descendant community of those buried in Black cemeteries. It seems to be the case that an organization in Richmond, Va., known as Cultural Heritage Partners, is the architect of this bill and I can find no convincing connection between this group and a motivation to preserve Black cemeteries for the sake of Black descendants or to honor their dead.
In a recent meeting with congressional staffers familiar with this bill, it became clear to descendants of those buried in Black cemeteries, as well as other stakeholders, that little, if any, input was sought from the Black community as this bill was being drafted. It also was telling that a request was made by a congressional staffer that the meeting’s discussion be “off the record.” The only time someone wants a discussion to be off the record is when they want to keep information from the public.