Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival supports return of African cemetery in Maryland to local church
Bethesda, Maryland — The co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival will join local activists in supporting the return of a Black cemetery to the Macedonia Baptist Church in Maryland during a rally and march on Friday.
Descendants of those buried at the Moses African Cemetery and church members will attend the rally in person at 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 10, outside Macedonia at 5119 River Road in Bethesda. The co-chairs, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, who were invited to speak by the Maryland Poor People’s Campaign and the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition, will join via Zoom. A march to the cemetery will follow the rally.
The program will be live-streamed here.
The Moses African Cemetery, where over 500 enslaved and free people are buried, lies under the parking lot of an apartment complex constructed by developers in the 1960s. After Emancipation, the cemetery served the historic African River Road Community in Bethesda, which was also wiped out by development, discriminatory developers, Realtors and county officials at the time.
“One of my most sacred duties is committing the souls of the deceased and ensuring the sanctity of their burial ground,” said the Rev. Dr. Segun Adebayo, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church. “Because of the county, we can’t do that now at our Moses African Cemetery.”
“Black lives must matter even — and especially — in death,” said Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, president of the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition.
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival supports this effort “because it’s not just about but also economics,” Rev. Barber said. “It reveals another way that poor communities have had land stolen and redeveloped for profit by corporate and wealth-grabbing interests. This is not right, dead or alive.”
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is supporting the return of the cemetery to the church “to end such economic violence against the people and return the cemetery to the church and memorialize the dead and their descendants,” Rev. Theoharis said.
Leaders of the Maryland Poor People’s Campaign also pledged their support.
“We stand solidly behind the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition’s struggle to end the continued desecration of Moses Macedonia African Cemetery,” Rabbi Alana Suskin and Rev. Angela Martin, co-chairs of the Maryland State Poor People’s Campaign, said in a statement.
Macedonia Baptist Church plans to restore the cemetery and build a monument and museum on the site.
The support of Rev. Barber and Rev. Theoharis comes at a critical moment in the struggle for the cemetery. The BACC, the church and descendants recently won a temporary injunction blocking the attempted sale of the apartment building. A hearing on a preliminary injunction will be held Sept. 27.
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