It first started to come together Christmas Eve a year ago when I fought my way into the thicket of Odd Fellows cemetery. At the time, I didn’t even know its proper name. Shaken by what I found, I posted a quasi-manifesto that included this passage:
I confirm that I’m feeling pretty reactive right now, but here are my initial thoughts on next steps for the reclamation of this important African-American burial ground, reaffirmation of respect for our dead, and restoration of common decency:
- If this account contains inaccuracies, I welcome correction by any authoritative source.
- I restate my request for a copy of the survey prepared by PLT when Vick cemetery was cleared. A copy, if not the original, of this survey should be shared with Wilson Cemetery Commission and made available to descendants, genealogists, or other researchers as requested.
- As, through the city’s actions, the locations of the graves in (A) have been obliterated, the city should map (A) and (B) with ground-penetrating radar and make the results available to the public.
- If (C) is part of Vick cemetery, it is the city’s responsibility to maintain it, and it should do so immediately. The city should also survey and catalog the cemetery’s headstones, leave them in situ, and utilize ground-penetrating radar to determine the locations of additional graves.
- If, as it appears, the city has no legal responsibility for (D) the Odd Fellows cemetery, I implore community groups to intervene to clean it up, survey it, and create a record of the identifiable graves remaining there.
And then the pandemic.
Ten days ago, though, the Lane Street Project regained its legs and is putting into place a 2021 action plan. As we begin, what’s the status of last year’s “next steps”? In bullet-point order:
- No inaccuracies found. (Or at least not by any “authoritative source.” I corrected and updated posts as I uncovered better information.)
- The city’s eventual response to my records requests included PLT’s survey of the locations of graves at Vick. Apparently, neither PLT nor the city catalogued the gravestones removed from Vick, and those names are thus lost.
- This demand stands.
- (C) is Rountree cemetery. It does not belong to the city.
- (D) is Odd Fellows cemetery. Lane Street Project has begun to take the steps listed and will announce a schedule of events and opportunities in early January 2021.