I’ve been sitting on this for a week. Perhaps I wasn’t quite sure I could trust the news. But it’s time to share and, in keeping with the season, these are glad tidings:
The City of Wilson is restoring recognition of Vick Cemetery as an historic sacred space.
The City established Vick in 1913, neglected it for 40 years, abandoned it for 40 more, then cleared away and destroyed its grave markers. None of that can be undone. However, the City can, and is now willing, to take measures to locate the cemetery’s graves and to erect a permanent interpretive sign that explains its history and significance to Wilson’s African-American community and the city at large.
I’m grateful to Mayor Carlton Stevens for his steadfast support of Lane Street Project and his dogged behind-the-scenes pursuit of a solution to the vexing anonymity of Vick Cemetery and its dead. I have gotten to know him as we strategized over the course of numerous telephone calls this past year and am proud to count him as friend and ally.
My thanks also to Wilson’s seven council members, who unanimously embraced the terms of our proposal to move forward to restore recognition of this cemetery as a cemetery and to reclaim for the City’s Cemetery Commission responsibility for Vick’s upkeep. Councilmember Derrick Creech deserves special kudos for his unflagging efforts to find positive ways to bring everyone to the table.
Since showing up almost exactly a year ago to see the Lane Street cemeteries for himself, Charles Farris Jr., chairman of the Commission, has also quietly searched for ways to bring equitable principles to bear for the future of Vick.
And then there’s Castonoble Hooks, shown above greeting the ancestors of Vick Cemetery. Cas has been my boots on the ground, speaking out on social media and at council meetings to keep the Lane Street Project cemeteries from slipping again into inaction and obscurity.
Finally, there are all of you. The volunteers, the donors, the boosters. We still have work to do, yes. Odd Fellows and Rountree Cemeteries remain in terrible shape. But Vick is a victory, y’all.
Photo credit: Chris Facey.