Honoring the forgotten ancestors
Athens, Ga-On Thursday, May 4, 2017, the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement, Fred Smith, co-chair of the Athens Area Black History Committee, and various community leaders will meet 5:30 pm at the UGA Arch to honor the ancestors whose remains were discovered at UGA Baldwin Hall. Organizers encourage local citizens to join them at the Arch , bring positive signage, and vernations. Supporters and local residents will walk peacefully from UGA Arch to Athens Clarke County City Hall where guest speakers will pay their respects, and bring awareness to Athens jubilee, which occurred May 4, 1865.
Prior to meeting the general public at the Arch, community leaders will gather at Baldwin Hall– site of Athens’ oldest known slave cemetery (1810 to 1858) for a libation ceremony and vigil.
“This is not the first time UGA has removed remains from the area. Others were moved to a different place in 1938, when Baldwin Hall was built, said ” Fred Smith, co-chair of the Athens Area Black History Committee. Without input from the Black community or plausible relatives of the slaves, UGA made every crucial decision regarding moving the bodies and re-burying them in the Oconee Hill cemetery. Following the March 20th re-interment of the slaves’ bodies, the university announced that “it will work with local leaders to explore new ways to collaborate in the community around priorities of mutual interest, such as education and economic development of Hill Cemetery.”
On March 25, 2017, a presentation called “A Conversation about Slavery at UGA and the Baldwin Site Burials” was held at Richard B. Russell Jr. Special Collections Libraries. The presentation gave many concerned citizens and community leaders the opportunity to share their concerns. Moving forward, in the event, more remains are uncovered, community leaders would like to be more involved with the process and respectful handling of the remains. “How we treat the dead is the most spiritual thing there is; on par with being born and getting married,” said Judith Mcwillie, local artist, and author.
This vigil will include an African ritual heritage, the libation ceremony. The organizers’ overall goal is to honor the lives of these individuals and their contribution to the Athens we all live in today. Many community leaders believe the bodies should have been buried with their free ancestors in one of Athens’ historic African-American cemeteries, not in Oconee Hills with their slave masters and their masters’ descendants.
The Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement will stand with the Athens Area Black History Committee hosting a vigil and rally for the slaves still buried there and the slaves removed in 1938, 1943, and most recently 2016. The Vigil and Rally will encourage respect, peace, unity, love and dialogue. Supporters and special guests include Alvin Sheats President of the local NAACP Chapter, Fred Smith co-chair of Athens Black History Bowl, Mansur Buffin UGA Student, Linda Davis, Economic Justice Coalition, Unitarian Universal Fellowship Church justice committee, Broderick Flannigan of Flannigan Studios and more.
This ceremony is our community’s way of becoming a part of the act of finally putting these unfortunate souls to rest in a place without the weight of the chains of slavery on their backs.
Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement leaders Mokah and Knowa Johnson believe that this event is an opportunity to open dialogue and bridge the gap between the University of Georgia and the disenfranchised African American community. On May 4th, 2017, 5:30 pm we will honor our African-American ancestors, who while slaves, built the University of Georgia by the Red blood in their hearts and Black hands. For more information regarding this event, you may contact Mokah Johnson at 678 835-8497