Groups protest VCU re-paving of parking lot

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Protestors spoke out today against the university's repaving of a parking lot on Broad Street. They believe the university is desecrating a historic black burial ground.

A VCU spokesperson says the school resolved this issue months ago when it agreed to set aside part of the parking lot. But a small group of protestors made it clear today, that was not enough for them.

VCU is just re-paving a parking lot at 15 and Broad. But to this group of VCU students, staff and Richmonders, the simple act of putting down new tar is a desecration.

"This is the general area of the property that contained the burial ground," said Ana Edwards, Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project.

Prior to the civil war, Richmond ran the largest internal slave market in the country. And these protestors believe this parking lot is on top of a centuries old burial ground for slaves and freed blacks.

"If it was James Madison's bones that we found this would be a center piece for all sorts of historical renovation and archaeological and historic everything," said VCU student Bradley Brookens.

"Like so much of the black history in the early part of the history of this country right on to living memory, it was simply pushed aside," Edwards said.

But according to a state archaeologist, most of the Richmond burial ground is under I-95 and only a portion extends under the parking lot. A VCU spokesperson says the university has gone to great lengths to protect what's left of the burial ground, setting aside the area in question.

A VCU spokesperson says this section they set aside is worth about $450,000 and would bring in about $40,000 a year in parking fees.

The protestors say this entire area should be memorialized.

"There's no way we can fully know what was here. What if I want to go back and trace my history? And what if that remain is right here and they're building over it?" said Ja'nel Edens, VCU student.

A VCU spokesperson says the school worked closely with the slave trail commission to decide what section of the parking lot to set aside. The NAACP wants the city to get involved and buy back the entire property.

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