Residents and community leaders in Montgomery County are not giving up, as dozens took the stand at the Housing Opportunities Commission to testify against destroying the Moses African Cemetery on the Westwood Tower property in Bethesda.
Tensions are rising as many questions remain to what the Housing Opportunities Commission will do the cemetery.
“We had ministers from almost every denomination supporting us today,” said Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, member of the Macedonia Baptist Church Social Justice Ministry. “We have almost every candidate from Montgomery County supporting us today.”
County leaders say about 500 people are buried in the historic cemetery, which was desecrated during the construction of Westwood Tower in the late 1960s, and now it is a parking lot.
Those who came to testify expressed their frustration as they’ve been fighting to preserve the Moses African Cemetery for more than a year, but the commission remains silent.
“We have to respect the sanctity of cemeteries,” stated Lorna Forde, candidate for Montgomery County Council at Large (D). “We have to honor the memories of those lives and families that are represented there.”
Back in January, HOC bought the property for $20.5 million dollars. Members of the Macedonia Baptist Church say they want it back as it is filled with their ancestors’ legacy, and they are hoping for a museum.
“We will continue to march; we will continue to organize; we will continue to build this movement,” Coleman-Adebayo said.
It’s unclear when officials will make a final decision. Local leaders will hold another hearing with HOC next month.