Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Habari gani Friend

Friends of Bethel Burying Ground Coalition

Habari gani Friend

During recent weeks we have been working diligently to inform the general public, especially the African-American community in Philadelphia about the rediscovery of an historic African-American cemetery that is underneath a playground in the Southwark section of the city. The cemetery contains the interred remains of at least 5,000 black Philadelphians who lived in the city between the 18th and 19th centuries almost half of the remains are those of children. It is located in the 400 block of Queen Street one block north of Catherine Street underneath the building at Weccacoe Playground.

The people buried there are the people who founded the black community in Philadelphia. They are our ancestors in the African Diaspora, the very people who are collectively responsible for our community’s continued existence in the 21st century.  Their existence was rediscovered by an independent historian, who tried to get Philadelphia leaders to pay attention, to no avail, to the significance of this major historic rediscovery and its impact. The site is completely owned by the City of Philadelphia.  The city intends to allow the local community group to renovate the playground and the building, even though they are aware of the existence of the Bethel Burying Ground underneath the building and part of the tennis court.

You have become a part of the Friends of Bethel Burying Ground Coalition to help build broader public input and oversight on the future of this historic sight.  As always there are some people who don’t welcome broader public interest in this major historic site.  They felt empowered by low-level bureaucrats in the government of the City of Philadelphia to try and take charge of the future of this nationally important historic cemetery.  Our work to educate our community and ensure broader interest and participation in protecting Bethel Burying Ground is imperative to ensuring that our history in Philadelphia is permanently protected and preserved. We cannot continue to allow people who do not share our interest in preserving our history to determine the future of this historic site. Please recruit more people and organizations to support our efforts. We are encouraging Philadelphians to contact and/or visit the Mayor and the At Large members of Philadelphia City Council. There is additional information attached to this correspondence.

This coalition now has more than sixty-five community activists from Philadelphia’s grass roots organizations.  These are all solid community leaders who are respected in their neighborhoods and in their organizations.  Since we have barely just begun, it is an indication of how much our work is supported. We must do all that we can to protect and preserve Bethel Burying Ground. It almost seems that the ancestors are guiding us. We cannot ignore their call.

We will soon be ready to attend community meetings and other gathering, to urge folks to stand up for Bethel Burying Ground by joining our grass roots campaign for preservation. Please do what you can to help get information to people, so they can join us in our mission. Your attendance and participation in recent public meetings and signing up to join the Friends of Bethel Burying Ground, has allowed us the opportunity to be sure our message reaches thousands of our neighbors.

Now, we need to know if you are ready to help in the campaign. 1)  We need operations volunteers to help build events at the neighborhood level. 2) We must also reschedule the Libation and the offering of a public prayer at Bethel Burying Ground.  3)  We want to speak at community meetings and events to let others know what they can do to help. This requires a Vanguard that is prepared to take the field. 

If you are one of those people send an e-mail to FBBGCoalition@gmail.com
The coalition also needs volunteers to help with communications and others to help with funding and resources. There’s a lot of work to be done and we need committed folks to step forward. We can also use as many financial sponsors as possible, to help pay for printing and other costs like the flyer and button we’ve included. So let us know how you can help.
We think it’s also important to have representatives of the Friends of Bethel Burying Ground Coalition who can attend meetings and speak on behalf of our coalition. So, send us a message letting us know where you want to become involved. You’ll be invited to a small meeting with folks who want to work on the same thing and you’ll get started. It will be necessary from time to time for all of us to perform collective assignments. You’ll be advised with plenty of time to prepare.

The next meeting of the Coalition will be on Saturday morning May 3, 2014 at the Church of the Advocate, 1801 Diamond Street (entrance on Gratz Street) at 10:00 a.m. You should make every effort to attend.  In the meantime, here is the contact information for the Mayor and the At-Large members of Philadelphia City Council.  You should contact them and let them know they must do everything they can to support our efforts.
Michael A. Nutter - D
Room 215, City Hall   
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3290   
P: (215) 686-2181
F: (215) 686-2180
W. Wilson Goode, Jr. - D

William K. Greenlee - D
City Hall, Room 316
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3290
P: (215) 686-3414/3415
F: (215) 686-1928
City Hall, Room 508
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3290
P: (215) 686-3446/3447
F: (215) 686-1927

David Oh - R

James F. Kenney - D
City Hall, Room 319
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3290
P: (215) 686-3452/3453
F: (215) 686-1925
City Hall, Room 330
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3290
P: (215) 686-3450/3451
F: (215) 686-2013


Blondell Reynolds Brown - D
City Hall, Room 312
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3290
P: (215) 686-3420/3421
F: (215) 686-1930
City Hall, Room 581
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3290
P: (215)686-3438/3439
F: (215) 686-1926

Dennis O'Brien - R
City Hall, Room 582
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3290
P: (215) 686-3440/3441
F: (215) 686-1929

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