7th District community members voice their wants for Historic African-American cemeteries

7th District community members voice their wants for Historic African American cemeteries
Published: Sep. 16, 2023 at 6:20 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - On Saturday morning, community members in the East End’s 7th District gathered at Powhatan’s Community Center to try to figure out the next steps for two historically African American cemeteries, Evergreen Cemetery and East End Cemetery.

The initial plan for restorations was announced in 2019. It was said to use nearly $19 million for things like fixing the Maggie Walker Hilltop, increasing security, signage, and storing grave records... but that changed when the company was dissolved.

Now, Councilmember Cynthia Newbille and the Director of Richmond Parks and Recreation, Christopher Frelke, want to create a plan with suggestions from the community.

“We don’t want a plan that is our plan, we don’t want a plan that is administrations plan, we want a plan that the community starts directing us. Should we do the plan first, or should someone else be doing this plan?” Frelke said.

The main concern of community members - is honoring the families who have loved ones in those cemeteries.

“The idea of spending huge amounts of money on Wi-Fi and electricity and lighting for nighttime when in most situations, it’s illegal to be in there at night anyway, why do you need lights? We want to do the right things and go let’s put a memorial garden, but if you don’t know that that’s space is not occupied, that’s actually not respectful, especially with older graves, they disappear over time,” voiced Lauren Kiser, with Friends of East End and Archeological Society of Virginia.

That’s why they’re demanding a survey be done in the cemeteries to make sure no grave is missing. The community also said they want someone passionate about honoring the lives in those cemeteries.

“Making sure there’s people that’s out there are respected, bring the dignity back to them. I think we need someone with passion,” said Marvin Harris with Woodland Cemetery.