MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. -- Wednesday, tempers flared as members and supporters of Macedonia Baptist Church called on the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission to allow them to investigate the land beneath a paved over African American burial site known as Moses Cemetery.
It's something that Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, Social Justice Chairperson for Macaedonia Baptisit Church, has pushing for, for months.
She said, “We’re here because HOC is actually holding the lease to the land where our ancestors are buried. And they have refused to allow us to investigate the burial site of our ancestors. And, without that, there can be no movement. At the same time, we have the county saying that their bodies are not there when we know in fact our ancestors have been laid to rest at the Moses cemetery.”
Moses cemetery now sits as a short road running alongside Westwood Towers in Bethesda.
The HOC and Macedonia Baptist church had been in mediation discussions which were recently halted.
Members of the church have been in a long-fought battle to stop further development on the site.
“What kind of people think that they’re entitled to build a parking garage on top of a cemetery. In any universe, how is that a good idea. And worse, one that is the final resting place of freed slaves and their families?”, said one outraged resident to the panel of commissioners.
HOC Commissioner Jackie Simon told the crowd they could not make a public comment on the matter because of litigation involving the property, but said they are sympathetic to the concerns being raised and that the commission has no plan to develop the property.
“The Commission intends to purchase Westwood Tower and operate it in its current state. In keeping with the master plan process for this property, the Commission will conduct a study, should it decide to move forward with any development on the site.”, said Commissioner Simon.
While that may seem a small victory, Coleman-Adebayo says if the commissioners can’t grant them access to the land, then it might be time to go.
“We’ve come to the decision that your leadership is bankrupt and devoid of presence of justice. We’ve called upon you to give us the vote and recognize the sanctity of the Moses Cemetery. If you cannot do that, then the only decent choice you have is to resign.”, said Coleman-Adebayo to the commissioners.
Macedonia Baptist Church would like to erect a museum where the gravesite sits.
Their next demonstration is set for Sunday, November 12th.