At the July Wilson City Council meeting, City Manager Grant Goings promised to deliver a set of recommendations to council for action at Vick Cemetery.
On August 11, I emailed the four council members who attended the reconsecration last week and asked them to move for:
(1) formal engagement by the City with Lane Street Project and other representatives of the Vick Cemetery descendant community;
(2) an independent investigation into the removal and disposal of Vick Cemetery’s headstones circa 1995;
(3) preparation of a full survey map of Vick Cemetery, to include all built features; and
(4) a ground-penetrating radar survey of the areas not surveyed in 2022, including, but not limited to, the public right-of-way between the power poles and the street.
(None of the four council members have acknowledged receipt, but they generally don’t, so I’m going to assume they got my missive.)
I also encouraged council members to hold off on making decisions about Vick’s future without additional information about the history and current condition of the site and without the input of stakeholders whose family members are buried there. This means NO FENCE. It also means leave the parking lot alone for the time being. It is not lost on us that closing off the parking lot will make accessing all three cemeteries more difficult. And, as I noted before, the City doesn’t own any property “across the street,” so a new parking lot will not be built in the foreseeable future. Further, far more worrisome than the 18 graves lying under the lot are the unknown numbers at perpetual risk from the power poles.
When it tendered its GPR report, New South Associates offered to meet with Council to discuss its findings. The City did not accept this offer originally, but should do so before taking another step. (To borrow from Proverbs, lean not upon your own understanding, Council. The experts have offered to answer your questions.) The City should also consult with the North Carolina Office of State Archaeology, especially concerning the options for handling the bodies lying in graves under the power lines and/or in the public right of way. Additionally, the City could benefit from reaching out to counterparts in cities like Rocky Mount and Statesville, who have confronted similar issues.
On Thursday, August 17, Council will hold an Agenda Work Session at 5:45 P.M. followed by a regular Meeting at 7:00 P.M. Please attend the 7:00 meeting. Take notes. Speak out. We must continue to show council that we are committed to a better Vick Cemetery, and we demand transparency and accountability in all aspects of planning for the future of this sacred space.