Finding Ceremony, Philadelphia

Information below regarding dispensasion of human remains held in the Morton Cranium Collection at the Penn Museum (of Pennsylvania University) provided by Abdul-Aliy A. Muhammad, Philadelphia journalist, & Dr. Lyra D. Monteiro, professor of history, Rutgers University.

"Finding Ceremony" proposal and Update on Feb 2nd, 9 am EST public hearing at Orphan's Court

1. This morning, we published a short introduction to and contextualization of the work we propose with Finding Ceremony. It is available for free to read on Medium.com: https://intersectionist.medium.com/finding-ceremony-for-our-ancestors-held-in-penn-museums-morton-cranial-collection-c7580a98064a

2. We have made public a shortened version of the Preliminary Proposal for Finding Ceremony that we submitted to Judge Woods-Skipper of Philadelphia's Orphans' Court. You can access the PDF here

3. We have updated the signup form to reflect the public hearing date and other developments--this remains the best way for folks to connect with and support this work: https://forms.gle/bigJi5cGWokVJKn1A 

Writing to Judge Woods-Skipper

If you would like to convey to the Orphans' Court judge your perspectives, expertise, and disagreement with Penn’s plans, here are the instructions for how to submit the letters:

Write a letter that details your concerns and perspectives on this matter, and conveys who you are in connection to this issue. You do not need to be an expert on all aspects of this court case in order to share your input with the judge. If you wish to know more, however, you can find some key documents here (reply to this email if you would like further material on any aspect of this work). 

Include the following at the top of your letter:  

Hon. Sheila A. Woods-Skipper, Administrative Judge

Orphans’ Court Division  

Court of Common Pleas, County of Philadelphia  

Room 519 City Hall

Philadelphia PA 19107

Re: Morton Cranial Collection, O.C. 578 NP of 2022

Include your signature on your letter (if need be, print it out and sign the letter, then scan before sending as an email attachment). 

Email your letter to the judge’s clerk, Lynda Evans: Lynda.Harry@courts.phila.gov and cc Abdul-Aliy, Lyra, and Penn’s attorney: jennifer.nevins@stevenslee.com, lyra.d.monteiro@gmail.com, aliy.muham@gmail.com   

There is no fixed deadline for submitting public input of this nature, but the judge’s clerk recommends that letters be submitted prior to the hearing on February 2, so that the Judge will have time to read them and take them into consideration. 

Thank you again for your continued engagement and support for this work! If you have any questions, please reply to this email. 

-Lyra & Abdul-Aliy


Happy New Year!

Dear friends, 

We realize it's the end of January and we are just now wishing you well for 2023, but events are popping up and planning is underway. 

Our biggest news is that progress on the Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park, also known as part of the Richmond's Shockoe Small Area Plan (currently named) "Enslaved Africans Heritage Campus," is actually, finally moving rapidly. And while we keep our eyes on the goals stated in the very first Shockoe Bottom Alternative Proposal back in 2015 about governance, stewardship and who benefits, there is reason to cheer right now.

A total of $27 million, over five years, has been allocated to this project from the City of Richmond Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) budget.  A local Black, award-winning architect, has been hired to design the master plan for the entire area which could include everything from the Trail of Enslaved Africans south of the river in Manchester through the ten acres in Shockoe Bottom, Devil's Half Acre and African Burial Ground and on up the hill to the Shockoe Hill African Burying Ground. The idea is that these projects have been considered separate for too long, that organized coordination will be critical to success.

An initial master plan advisory group is being formed. An engineering firm has recently completed a comprehensive good plain/flood way analysis of Shockoe Bottom, the results and implications on construction locations will be released, hopefully, in February. With this most current information about what can and cannot be built (or even planted) in the Bottom, real plans can finally be designed and proposed. 

Separate funding, $11 million, has been secured by the city from the Mellon Foundation to establish a visitors center and Shockoe Bottom history interpretive center in the 29,000 square foot ground floor section of the Main Street Station Train Shed. While not finalized, it is likely the city will also assign this project to the Heritage Campus master plan team in keeping with the logic of coordination and to avoid redundancy of services. 

Questions? Please write is at sacredgroundproject@gmail.com.

NOTE: links to reports and sources referenced in this post will be added shortly.