The Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition, a member organization of the Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations, issued the following email to elected officials of Montgomery County, Maryland on February 5, 2024.
Dear Congressman Raskin, Senator Van Hollen, Senator Ben Cardin, members of Montgomery County Council, & Maryland State Delegates,
This letter is to inform you that the historic Moses African Cemetery was the target of intentional massive flooding the week of January 25, 2024. A portion of Moses African Cemetery now lies under water (see photograph). As you are aware, the desecration of African burial grounds occupies a long and violent chapter in American history. Desecration of African burial grounds is a hate crime that must be brought to the attention of law enforcement and perpetrators prosecuted.
As public officials, your constituents deserve a strong and unequivocal statement from you condemning the intentional flooding of Moses Cemetery as a hate crime. The public demands that you call for a strong law enforcement response and support a Department of Justice (FBI) investigation.
Two courts have confirmed the existence of Moses Cemetery but Montgomery County has never initiated actions to stop or condemn the desecration of kidnapped, murdered, raped Africans. The silence by the County has signaled that Moses African Cemetery is open season for grave looting, garbage dumping, white supremacist attacks and now intentional flooding. We ask you to denounce the latest desecration as a hate crime, support a Department of Justice (FBI) investigation and MCPD investigation and prosecution of the criminals who committed this depraved racist hate crime.
Silence in the face of an intentional flooding of a sacred space, such as Moses African Cemetery is tantamount to complicity. The former Dean of Mechanical Engineering at the University of the District of Columbia has confirmed that the pvc pipes would have been intentionally turned 90 degrees to direct the sludge and untreated (potentially toxic) waste water into Moses African Cemetery. As an environmental scientist, I concur with this analysis of intentional flooding with concurrent environmental impacts.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Mr. Josh Silver, a Bethesda resident wrote after hearing about the latest desecration of Moses African Cemetery: “As a Jew, this feels too reminiscent to me of desecration of Jewish cemeteries in Europe. That there is a good possibility that this is happening in my hometown and county is sacrilegious and an atrocity. I want to feel proud of my hometown, not ashamed.”
The BACC believes the intentional flooding of Moses Cemetery is in retaliation for 8+ years of anti-racism activism and the growing attention the desecration has garnered as a response to the Supreme Court of Maryland case that was heard earlier this month. As you are aware, the desecration of African burial grounds was extensively practiced by the KKK to intimidate and signal escalating violence against the Black community.
Historic Overview: Human remains were found under the Westwood Towers during construction in the late 50s. The bodies were dismembered and scattered throughout the area and asphalt poured to lock their remains in the earth in order to erase their existence and create a parking lot for the apartment building. The KKK in collusion with Montgomery County officials violently displaced an entire Black community, desecrated its sacred and holy Moses African Cemetery and stole the communities hard-won intergenerational wealth. In 2020, over 200+ remains were stolen from Moses African Cemetery, as cited in a MoCo 350 article and trafficked across state lines into Virginia where they are being held at a WSSI Warehouse in Gainesville, Virginia. Montgomery County officials have been in receipt of this information since June 2023 and have not initiated legal proceedings against those who have stolen and continue to hold the remains of our ancestors.
See Washington Post article on Moses Cemetery by Lisa Moore: Opinion | Putting Black Bodies Back On The Auction Block
It is imperative that public officials publicly condemn this latest act of desecration. You must make it clear that you do not support the flooding of a Black cemetery. We will continue to inform our community about which county, federal and state officials publicly condemn this racist act.
The community looks forward to receiving your public condemnation statement on the flooding of Moses African Cemetery.
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, Ph.D
Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition