Black Lives Extinguished, Black Ancestors’ Bodies Desecrated
We are killed in the streets while we are alive and then our bodies are dug up and thrown away like trash when businesses require the land for profit making.
“In the 1800’s they would have used a rope; today they use a boot, bullets or the deadly neck chokehold.”
This week, the progressive community is deeply traumatized over the slaughter of innocent Black people and the determination of ruling elites in politics, media and civil societies to patch up a deprived, debased and white supremacist system. One prime example is Minneapolis officials charging Officer Derek Chauvin with 3rd degree murder and manslaughter. Is this charge a revisiting of the idea that Africans are 3/5th human? White supremacy fault lines have intentionally deepened and the murder and incarceration of young, primarily black men, is the norm — in fact, it is expected. Black leadership, usually channeled through corporate sponsorship called the Democratic Party, has completely failed.
What we witnessed was a 21st Century lynching of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin and his gang. Officer Chauvin had over ten complaints of abuse lodged against him. On June 1st, it was announced that the Milwaukee Police Force has used the deadly neck chokehold restraints 44 times since 2015 on Black people, resulting in unconscious victims. Black people are not considered human in capitalist America.
We have all seen the video. In the 1800’s they would have used a rope; today they use a boot, bullets or the deadly neck chokehold.
“Black leadership has completely failed.”
On May 8th, a 30 year old, Eritrean named Finan Haile Berhe was murdered in Silver Spring, Maryland by Montgomery County Police. Unfortunately, his murder did not receive the same amount of media attention as George Floyd but it certainly deserved the same level of outrage. Mr. Berhe, had just been fired from his job due to COVID layoffs. He was despondent and depressed. Someone called the police and told them that Finan had a knife in his hand. Instead of treating this situation as a medical emergency and deescalating the situation, the policeman jumps out of his car, gun in hand, barking orders. Approximately, three minutes later, Mr. Berhe is shot to death in front of his home. Conversely, in Michigan and Arizona, white supremacists with AK47 assault rifles in hand, not wearing facemasks, shout in the faces of police officers without “fear” of retribution. From Minneapolis to Silver Spring the DNA of white supremacy provides the 400 year-old intergenerational link to the notion that Black lives or deaths do not matter.
The Bethesda African Cemetery recently found out that during the state-imposed quarantine, the Westbard Self-Storage company was given permission by the County to start the desecration of one of the oldest and most significant African burial grounds in the United States. This storage company, in collaboration with County officials, used the “shock” of the pandemic and our inability to monitor Moses Cemetery to start excavation of Black bodies. Remains will be discarded and the history of the struggles of West and Central African people and their descendants will be destroyed. The burial ground, located in Bethesda Maryland is the one of the most horrific sites of atrocities against African girls and men in the US.
“County officials used the ‘shock’ of the pandemic to start excavation of Black bodies.”
The genesis of this uncontrollable white supremacy capitalism starts in Hampton, Virginia and slowly snakes its way to Bethesda, Maryland. Some of the remains that today are being excavated, desecrated and thrown away are located in Moses African Cemetery.They were among the first victims of the vicious and violent occupation of Africa by European powers and the genesis of what became the system of US white supremacy.
At this point, we have 360 degrees of Black death in this country. We are killed in the streets while we are alive and then our bodies are dug up and thrown away like trash when businesses require the land for profit making. But, this is the essence of white supremacy, Black bodies, whether alive or dead are to be used in the pursuit of white economic power and privilege and then disposed of.
In our work researching the African American community on River Road in Bethesda we have documented the abuse of African girls and the capitalization of black bodies. As the cotton boom began in the 1830s, northern African kidnapping states like Maryland and Virginia became the primary exporting states of black bodies. Euro-American human labor and sex traffickers often commented that the best kidnapped Africans came from Maryland and Virginia.
“We have 360 degrees of Black death in this country.”
Charles Ball, kidnapped and confined in Maryland, then sold to a cotton death camp/plantation, commented that pregnant women would bring the most interest. At his auction a buyer walked along the line, saying that “he wanted a couple of breeding wenches, and would give as much for them as they would bring in Georgia.” Ball’s master pointed out two he claimed were “of the best breeding-wenches in all Maryland — that one was twenty-two, and the other only nineteen — that the first was already the mother of seven children, and the other of four.”
1863 Census records for the estates in the River Road area show cases where all the adult women were Black but some of the young children were Mulatto, further evidence of how widespread the rape of young black girls was. And, in fact, the majority of the kidnapped victims on the Counselman plantation, where the only remaining Black church exists, namely, Macedonia Baptist Church, were children. We believe these children were used in the inter-state sex trade. Their remains are currently at risk for desecration by the storage company in Moses African Cemetery.
Perhaps, this is the reason that Montgomery County has tried to bury this information for decades and placed Moses African Cemetery literally under a parking lot. But history and the dignity of these girls demands that we tell their stories. In addition, research is currently underway to prove that Macedonia Baptist Church, the church that provided the spiritual guidance for this community and was once the site of the Counselman “slave quarters,” was a station on the Underground Railroad.
“The majority of the kidnapped victims on the Counselman plantation were children.”
The community cemetery, which in the Twentieth Century would become the Moses Cemetery, contains the bodies of African citizens from nations that we now know as: Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Cameroun and other West and Central African countries that lived through these horrors. Their individual stories have been buried, just like the century old African American community that once lived there. If it were not for the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition, a parking garage would have been built over their bodies.
The County, in collaboration with corporations, has spent years attempting to cover-up this history. But, if we have learned anything in the past 20 years it is that the people will determine the future, not politicians, not corporations, the people!!
We request the immediate and urgent help and solidarity of our community.
Our challenge as activists is to creatively understand how to organize in the era of a pandemic. If the ruling class can move their agenda forward then the progressive movement has no choice but to use every resource available to fight back.
The struggle for Moses African Cemetery is the struggle for a thorough understanding of white supremacy capitalism. This struggle has helped us deconstruct the elements of white supremacy and with these tools our goal is to intentionally dismantle a system that thrives on violence, incarceration, economic and social deprivation.
Dr. Marsha Adebayo is the author of the Pulitzer Prize nominated: No FEAR: A Whistleblowers Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA . She worked at the EPA for 18 years and blew the whistle on a US multinational corporation that endangered South African vanadium mine workers. Marsha’s successful lawsuit led to the introduction and passage of the first civil rights and whistleblower law of the 21st century: the Notification of Federal Employees Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (No FEAR Act). Marsha was inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame, March 2017. Currently, she is working to stop HOC from its continue desecration of an African burial ground in Bethesda, Maryland.