Richmond leaders discuss what to do with historic Black cemeteries

Posted at 11:09 AM, Feb 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-22 18:41:59-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- The City of Richmond appears to be taking steps to take control of two historic Black cemeteries impacted by the collapse of the Enrichmond Foundation, but that process has been delayed for at least three months.

Along with serving as an umbrella organization for smaller "Friends of" groups in the city that used Enrichmond's nonprofit status to raise and store money, the foundation also took control of East End and Evergreen cemeteries in 2019. The fate of the money and the cemeteries has been unknown since the nonprofit dissolved in 2022.

During a Government Operations Standing Committee meeting on Wednesday, Richmond City Council was supposed to consider a resolution from councilmembers Ann-Frances Lambert and Cynthia Newbille that would start the process for the city to take control of the cemeteries.

"To request that the Chief Administrative Officer cause the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities to consult with the Office of the City Attorney concerning the development of a plan and the preparation of necessary documents to acquire, preferably by gift, the properties known as Evergreen Cemetery and East End Cemetery and to present such a plan and documents to the Council," reads the first paragraph of the document.

However, the resolution was continued for at least another 90 days.

In a statement released ahead of Wednesday's meeting, the Friends of East End (FOEE), a nonprofit founded in 2013 to clean up the cemetery -- but discontinued after they said they were forced out in 2020 by Enrichmond, endorsed the resolution.

"Following Enrichmond’s collapse in summer 2022, FOEE cautiously returned to East End. More than two years had passed since Enrichmond forced us out of the cemetery, during which time maintenance was careless and sporadic. Now, we are back at work as a team, hauling away tree limbs, cleaning up burial plots, and bracing for the coming growing season," they said, in part. "We have long urged the city and other levels of government to support community-led efforts to save East End and Evergreen. We have also said that public ownership, with robust citizen representation in planning and governance, is the most sustainable, long-term solution to problems inherent in clearing and preserving these complex, fragile burial grounds, which together comprise 76 acres."

"There is a tremendous task in front of us. FOEE is ready to work in partnership with the City of Richmond to protect and restore East End Cemetery."

But, following the decision to continue the resolution, people with the group expressed concerns with the delays.

"Our fear is that if dealing with them is just constantly deferred, they will become even more overgrown. I mean, we have done what we can to reclaim and protect East End Cemetery and we'll continue to do that. But the cemetery's need more help," said Brian Palmer.

Committee chair Katherine Jordan told CBS 6 that details in the resolution need to be worked out before it is discussed by council.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email to send a tip.

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