Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Bethesda Juneteenth event to be meaningful celebration with march to save a Montgomery County Black cemetery

Macedonia Baptist Church at 5119 River Road in Bethesda will host a Juneteenth celebration this Sunday, June 19, 2022 from 2:00-4:00 PM. The event will be about a current civil rights struggle as much as a remembrance of past history, as the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition will lead a march from the church to the nearby site of the Moses African Cemetery. Desecrated by construction workers building the Westwood Tower apartments in the late 1960s, the majority of the gravesites remain hidden under paved parking spaces at the apartment tower, and on a second site across the Willett Branch stream next to the self-storage construction site behind McDonald's. The church and coalition have been battling Montgomery County officials and developers to restore and memorialize the burial ground, prevent any further construction on it, and potentially transfer stewardship of the land to the church.

A banner will be raised on the Capital Crescent Trail bridge over River Road during the ceremony, and a traditional African libation ritual will be presented by Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Speakers at the event will include former resident of the lost black community on River Road Harvey Matthews, historian C.R. Gibbs, County Council At-Large candidate Brandy Brooks, Circuit Court Judge candidate Marylin Pierre, and activist Robert Stubblefield. 

Musical and dance performers will include Luci Murphy, Karen Wilson Ama Ethefu, Freedome Nsaroma Lee-El, Martha Peterson, and EverGreen Productions. Representatives from the Poor People's Campaign, UNIA, Party for Socialism and Liberation, The Claudia Jones Organization, and the Green Party will also be in attendance.

It will be a celebration, and also a tremendous educational opportunity to learn more about not only the past, but the direct legacy of that past in our own community of Bethesda and Montgomery County. Impacts of the loss of the River Road community in the 1960s included former residents moving and making major contributions to historic and growing African-American communities in East Rockville, Silver Spring and beyond, while still representing that living legacy of the Loughborough plantation in Bethesda. That makes this event of interest to residents of the entire Washington, D.C. region seeking meaningful ways to celebrate Juneteenth this year.

1 comment:

  1. Do the Macedonia Baptist church want the Westwood Tower Apartments taken down? How would the cemetery be restored?