Macedonia Baptist Church in Bethesda, Maryland/ Courtesy Photo 

The members of Macedonia Baptist Church, the last remnant of Black African history along River Road in Bethesda, have been on the front lines to preserve and memorialize what’s now known to be a burial ground holding the remains of nearly 500 people who developed and lived in the thriving Black African community.

For the last two years, congregants, Black and white, have gone toe to toe with developers and the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission, as both entities have colluded to keep the property, named the Moses African Cemetery,  in the hopes that they will eventually build a parking garage over top of it. With each HOC meeting activists attend, and traction gained around this issue over time, the more likely victory becomes.

On the evening of September 21, Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, Macedonia’s social justice coordinator and Harvey Matthews, Black African congregant and one-time River Road resident, spoke about their efforts to shed light on the duplicity of city government and business, a topic of discussion on previous AllEyesOnDC segments.

Mr. Matthews, a descendant of those who built the River Road community, also spoke about his experiences growing up in Montgomery County, and the eradication of River Road’s Black African presence that happened between 1953 and 1968. In this testimony, listeners at Sankofa Video Books & Cafe heard about commerce and industry, racial tensions, and transfer of ancestral knowledge that doesn’t take place today between older and younger generations of Black Africans. Mrs. Coleman-Adebayo spoke about the movement in the context of a grand theft, and demolition of Black wealth, as witnessed in the rise in property value along River Road after the 1960s.

As has been in the case in Washington, D.C. decades later, white people who saw potential for profit erased Black African history along River Road and duped many people in thinking that no Black African presence existed along that corridor. After watching this video, and witnessing the bravery of this collective, viewers will better understand the importance of maintaining cultural heritage and land if We are to build a Black African nation.

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