The Richmond Defenders for Freedom, Justice, and Equality just released an announcement that they are holding their own ceremony in regards to the new historical markers along the Richmond Walk of Enslaved Africans. The Mayor, Governor, and others decided to postpone the originally scheduled event this Sunday in order to attend a VCU basketball game. This scheduling change is extremely problematic, considering the fact that VCU continues to park cars on the African Burial Ground despite full knowledge of the many reasons for that to be disrespectful at best.
If you can, please attend the ceremony on Sunday in support of the Defenders and others organizing against racism in Richmond. The statement from the Defenders is below:
PO Box 23202, Richmond, VA 23223 Ph: 804.644.5834 Fax: 804.332.5225
E-mail: DefendersFJE@hotmail.com www.DefendersFJE.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 31, 2011
MEDIA CONTACTS: ANA EDWARDS or PHIL WILAYTO at (804) 644-5834 or DefendersFJE@hotmail.com
Defenders pull out of City’s Slave Trail Commission ceremony; call for independent event on April 3
In light of the City’s inexcusable postponement of Sunday’s ceremony honoring sites associated with Richmond’s dominant role in the U.S. slave trade, the Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality have informed the city’s Slave Trail Commission that we will no longer be participating in this event. Instead, we are calling on the community to hold its own independent event on Sunday, at the time and place of the original program.
Originally scheduled for April 3 – Richmond’s Emancipation Day – the Slave Trail Commission’s ceremony was to celebrate the unveiling of 17 historical markers along Richmond’s Walk of Enslaved Africans. Ana Edwards, Chair of the Defenders’ Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project, had been invited by Commission Chair Delores McQuinn to unveil the marker at the African Burial Ground, at 15th and East Broad streets.
The Defenders had initially accepted the invitation because we thought it important to acknowledge the placement of these markers as a good step forward in making Richmond’s Black history visible, and to again demand the immediate closing of the Virginia Commonwealth University parking lot and removal of the asphalt that now covers this sacred site.
However, the Commission rescheduled the event for April 10 after Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones and Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell decided that, instead of honoring their commitment to speak at Sunday’s ceremony, they would instead travel to Houston, Texas, to watch the VCU Rams compete in the Final Four NCAA basketball game.
After nearly 10 years of struggle by the Defenders and many other community organizations and individuals, a bill introduced by Delegate McQuinn to authorize the transfer of the Burial Ground property to the City was unanimously adopted by this year’s General Assembly. Further, a budget amendment introduced by the governor authorizing $3.3.million to compensate VCU for the transfer also passed. And yet, the university – the area’s dominant economic and political powerhouse – continues to use the Burial Ground for a parking lot.
The VCU connection in the decision to postpone Sunday’s unveiling ceremony simply adds insult to this historical and cultural injury, said Edwards. (more…)