Carolyn Maye, a generous contributor of photographs to Black Wide-Awake, made it to Imagination Station on closing day to see Say Their Names. The exhibit included among its displayed documents a copy of the obituary of her formerly enslaved great-great-grandmother, Jane Rountree Mobley.
She brought with her Skylar, the youngest of Jane Mobley’s great-great-great-great-granddaughters.
Thank you, Carolyn, for affirming the purpose of Black Wide-Awake. Your determination to get to Wilson, despite a pandemic, and to introduce Skylar to Jane Mobley, both humbles and inspires me. She will never believe, as so many of us have, that the lives of her ancestors passed unknown and unknowable.
Frankly, I didn’t expect much. I’d made similar appeals before and then spent hours tangled up in briers by myself. December 15, 2020, though, was different. Despite cold weather and Covid-19, a dozen people (and, critically, a newspaper reporter) came with pruners and rakes and surgical masks — and Lane Street Project stepped into its purpose. We’re still feeling our way to long-range plans, but short-term we’re exceeding my wildest dreams.
What Lane Street Project has done in three months:
Developed a fantastic core team of volunteers responsible for planning, promoting, supplying, and managing bimonthly clean-ups at Odd Fellows Cemetery, as well as strategizing about ways to encourage community engagement in the reclamation of these historic African-American spaces
Conducted two informal and five planned clean-ups at Odd Fellows Cemetery with a multi-ethnic, multi-generational crew of enthusiastic, hardworking volunteers
Built a tool bank for volunteer use during clean-ups
Recovered the gravesite of educator, businessman and community leader Samuel H. Vick; cleared the grave of Red Hot Hose Company chief Benjamin Mincey; and named and reclaimed the gravesites of 22 more individuals (bringing the total at Odd Fellows to 76), for which we maintain a detailed spreadsheet
Developed relationships with established organizations doing similar work in African-American cemeteries across the Southeast
Developed relationships with allies in local government, business, and the faith community, as well as individuals willing to invest time and talent to our efforts to preserve and protect the historic burial grounds of thousands of Wilson’s African-Americans
Begun to map the locations of graves at the site
Developed a plan for responsible defoliation of invasive plant species in Odd Fellows cemetery
We’ve accomplished a lot in three months, but there is so much more to be done. Thanks so much to those who have supported us with gifts of labor, tools, coins, cheerleading, signal-boosting, and prayer. Please continue to do so! Follow us on Instagram at @lanestreetproject; join us on Facebook at Lane Street Project; reach out to us at email@example.com. In the coming months, we’ll be broadening our focus from clean-up to documentation and restoration, and we will need your help at every step.
Photo of Corp. Willie Gay’s headstone courtesy of Drew C. Wilson.
In conversation with Brittany Daniel about what the Lane Street Project is and what to expect at this weekend’s clean-up kick-off:
And, on the eve of the kick-off, a heartfelt shout-out to my Lane Street Project team, my boots on the ground. In less than a month, they’ve adopted this project as their own and are literally making my dreams for the LSP come true. This multigenerational crew is pouring into the project critical new perspectives and talents, and I’m so grateful to and for Joyah Bulluck, Portia Newman, Craig Barnes Jr., Brittany Daniel, Castonoble Hooks, LaMonique Hamilton, John Woodard, Charles Jones, and Raven Farmer. (Look at all those good “Wilson names” in the bunch!)