East End Cemetery Descendants in Conversation

Moderated by Alicia K. Aroche, multimedia artist and storyteller whose work focuses on community engagement, racial justice, and healing 

This virtual event brings together students, faculty, and community members to explore the history of East End Cemetery, honor the people laid to rest there, and contribute to a shared vision of its future. We will hear from two East End descendants—Thomas Taylor and Alice Wooldridge—in a conversation moderated by Alicia Aroche, also an East End descendant and an international faculty affiliate with the Center on Digital Storytelling and Oral History at Concordia University in Montréal.

A Q&A will follow. 

The conversation will be held on Zoom and will be open to the public. Registration is required through this form; a Zoom link will be sent to you after registering. An outdoor, in-person event that builds on the themes that emerge in this discussion is being planned for April, in collaboration with Oakwood Arts

Background:  

Founded in 1897, East End Cemetery is a historic African American burial ground in Henrico County and the city of Richmond. It is the final resting place of upwards of 15,000 people, some of whom were born enslaved; many more were born in the decades following the Civil War, as African Americans built lives for themselves in freedom shadowed by segregation and white supremacy. 

As with other Black burial grounds of the period, plots at East End were maintained primarily by families. However, the weight of Jim Crow’s racially discriminatory policies, the lack of public investment, and the displacement of many African American communities took a heavy toll on the cemetery. By the 1970s, it was almost completely overgrown, plagued by vandalism and illegal dumping. 

In 2013, volunteers launched an effort to restore East End and by early 2020 had cleared most of the 16-acre cemetery. UR and VCU students and faculty worked alongside the Friends of East End for many of those years, recovering and documenting thousands of grave markers that span generations. 

Now, though, East End Cemetery has a new owner whose priorities are at odds with those of the longtime stewards. Can these competing visions be reconciled for the good of the cemetery? Can we create a space where all voices can be heard? 

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