Statement by the Four African Burial Ground Advocates

"Wednesday, May 25, 2011, was a day of victory for us and the community. We wish to thank whatever higher power we believe in, our lawyer, Steve Benjamin, and the community for showing up at the Manchester Courthouse to support us. The courtroom was filled to capacity with supporters. It was awesome to see the room empty out when we left. We also thank those who were not able to come but were there in spirit.

To Virginia Commonwealth University, we say that “actions speak louder than words.” A true good-faith gesture would be to donate $123,000 to be used for the development of the African Burial Ground. This is the amount VCU is saving because of the generosity of several companies that are donating their time, energy and equipment to remove the asphalt from the African Burial Ground at no cost. In addition, VCU should donate all the parking fees they collected over the past three years to the African Burial Ground. That money was to recover the cost of purchasing the land, but the cost has now been covered by the General Assembly.

To the Slave Trail Commission, we say the Richmond African Burial Ground Community Organizing Committee is ready and willing to interact with them in a positive manner. Our goals are to promote continued community input in regard to decisions affecting how the African Burial Ground is to be memorialized and to promote the principle that any related contracts and jobs should go first to the African-American community.

To the community, we say please continue to join us in deciding how the African Burial Ground should be memorialized. Your input is so important. Our meetings are held on the first Sunday of each month from 4-6 p.m. Do come out. To receive meeting notices, please send your name, phone number and/or email address to: Janet “Queen Nzinga” Taylor at , or call (804) 347-3598.

Again, thanks so much to everyone for supporting us. We really appreciate it.

Donnell C. Brantley
Rolandah “Cleopattrah” McMillan
Autumn Barret
Phil Wilayto


May 25, 2011

WE WON! We ALL won! - Charge was nol prossed. 45 people at vigil, about 65 in courtroom. More details soon. THANKS to everyone who attended - from Richmond, C-ville, D.C. and those with us in spirit.

May 24, 2011

The VCU parking lot is finally closed! 

On Tuesday, May 24, the City of Richmond will officially take possession of the site of the African Burial Ground. Join us at 10:30 am for a ceremony to mark the beginning of the removal of the parking lot asphalt from the graves of the ancestors and celebrate this victory that is the result of nearly 20 years of community struggle.

And on Wednesday, May 25, please join us to support the four members of the Richmond African Burial Ground Community Organizing Committee (COC) arrested April 12 after successfully shutting down the VCU parking lot. (Details above.)

We encourage you all to stay involved as the memorializing of this sacred ground goes forward. The COC will continue to attend the monthly meetings of the City's Slave Trail Commission to help ensure community input into this process.

For more information, contact the COC c/o the Defenders at DefendersFJE@hotmail.com or 644-5834 (area code 804)


Asphalt Removal Begins Tues. May 24 at 10:30 am

At 11:40 am this morning, 19 May, the Defenders Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project received and accepted the invitation of the mayor's office to participate in the asphalt-breaking ceremony on Richmond's African Burial Ground next Tuesday, May 24th. At 1:48 pm the city issued the following press release announcing the event:


Media Advisory

For Immediate Release Contact: Tammy Hawley

Thursday, May 19, 2011 (804) 646-3110


Richmond African Burial Ground Restoration to Begin

~Mayor to lead group that will begin lifting the asphalt~

WHO: Dwight C. Jones, Mayor, City of Richmond

Delores McQuinn, Chair, Richmond City Council Slave Trail Commission

Kathy Graziano, President, Richmond City Council

Ellen Robertson, Vice President, Richmond City Council

Cynthia Newbille, Richmond City Council

Michael Rao, VCU President

King Salim Khalfani, Virginia State Conference NAACP

F. Todd Gray, Pastor, Fifth Street Baptist Church

Janine Bell, Elegba Folklore Society

Ana Edwards, Defenders Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project

WHAT: Removal of the asphalt from the Richmond African Burial Ground

WHEN: Tuesday, May 24, 2011

10:30 a.m.

WHERE: Richmond African Burial Ground

1554 East Broad Street

BACKGROUND: Earlier this month, Mayor Dwight C. Jones announced that three contractors have joined forces to donate services to the city of Richmond for the removal of the asphalt and gravel from Richmond's African Burial Ground. The city will officially take possession of the site on Monday, May 23, 2011. This event will mark the beginning of the asphalt and gravel removal from the 3.4-acre site. The asphalt and gravel that is presently covering the Burial Ground and use of the area as a parking lot has met with much public dissension over the last several years.

# # #


Richmond's slave burial ground site set for transformation


A parking lot that's believed to cover a burial ground for slaves and free blacks will be turned into a sod-covered memorial by mid-July, thanks to the generosity of three contracting firms.

Mayor Dwight C. Jones announced Wednesday that J.E. Liesfeld Contractor Inc. of Rockville, Dwight Snead Construction Co. of Glen Allen and Ty's Hauling and Paving Inc. of Richmond had agreed to donate $123,000 in services to help provide a more honorable setting for the deceased.

"My family has lived and worked in Richmond for generations, and we're very pleased and very happy to be a part of this just cause," said Joseph E. Liesfeld Jr., president of J.E. Liesfeld Contractor.

The company had submitted a bid to handle all of the project's site work but was not selected.

Dwight Snead, president of Dwight Snead Construction, and Malcolm E. Thomas, president of Ty's Hauling and Paving, said they were pleased to support the city's plans for the 3.4-acre site, which is now being called the African Burial Ground.

Late this month, the three firms will remove four inches of asphalt and six inches of gravel before Messer Contracting LLC, which is being hired by the city, installs an irrigation system, nine inches of fill material and one inch of sod.

The parking lot, along East Broad Street by Interstate 95, became the subject of controversy nearly three years ago when its owner, Virginia Commonwealth University, prepared a repaving.

Activists, including representatives of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said such action would amount to further desecration of sacred land. Former City Councilman Sa'ad El-Amin also filed lawsuits attempting to get the asphalt removed. The lawsuits failed, but the property is being transferred from VCU to the city thanks to a $3.3 million state-budget amendment.

At Wednesday's announcement, Jones credited the contractors as well as the NAACP, Gov. Bob McDonnell, state legislators and the Richmond Slave Trail Commission for helping the city to secure the property. The City Council is expected to formally accept the gifts this month.

The parking lot will be closed permanently May 20, allowing site work to begin May 31. The project is expected to take about six weeks. An archaeologist will be onsite in case any historical artifacts are unexpectedly uncovered.

The exact location of the burial ground is not clear and it may have been disturbed years ago with the construction of I-95, the diversion of Shockoe Creek and other changes to the land, according to state archaeologists and the Slave Trail Commission.

The commission is expected to lead discussions of long-term plans for the site. The group is preparing a planning workshop that will focus on the burial site and nearby areas of Shockoe Bottom that include the remains of the Lumpkin slave jail and the site of a potential slavery museum.

"We're going to beautify it and make sure it's kept in pristine condition," Jones said of the burial ground.