ALLEGANY COUNTY TO PARTICIPATE IN NATIONAL TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION EFFORT FOR RACIAL JUSTICE
The following press release was issued by the ACLTRC Coalition Leader and Founder of The Brownsville Project, Clory Jackson. For more information, call 240-217-6330 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in partnership with local community organizations; The Brownsville Project (TBP), Allegany County Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Committee (ACLTRC), and the Allegany County NAACP, Branch #7007 invites the Allegany County community to participate in a series of remembrance projects to memorialize William Burns, a local African American resident who was lynched in Cumberland on October 6, 1907.
According to https://eji.org/projects/community-remembrance-project/, EJI collaborates with communities to memorialize documented victims of racial violence and foster meaningful dialogue about race and justice. The first remembrance project for William Burns will take place on November 1, 2020 a 5pm at Emmanuel Episcopal Church at 16 Washington St, Cumberland, MD 21502 for the annual All Saints Day which marks Maryland’s annual Slavery Emancipation Day. This event will be open to the public and social distancing will be observed. At the event, members of the community may participate in a soil collection ceremony and dedication by placing soil from the ground where Mr. Burns was lynched into jars. In preparation for the event, members of ACLTRC and select members of the community helped to gather soil from the lynching site at the Allegany County courthouse on Washington Street on October 3, 2020. The jars of soil will be displayed at exhibits throughout the local community and one jar will be displayed at the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, AL alongside jars of soil from other victims of racial terror lynching throughout the United States.
ACLTRC plans to participate in all of the EJI community remembrance projects, including placement of a historical marker, a student essay contest, and the placement of a monument. Details for each project will be shared with the public as they develop.
The essay contest is currently available to Allegany County public high school students grades 9-12. Students may submit their essays to the Equal Justice Initiative Racial Justice Essay Contest at https://sites.google.com/eji.org/eji-allegany-essaycontest/overview. Students are challenged to write an essay that reflects on a historical event of racial injustice, connect that event to present-day issues, and include their lived experiences of the issue. Essays will be accepted throughout the Fall Semester until January 1, 2021. EJI may choose up to 4 or 5 winners, and award up to $5,000 in scholarships and prizes.
Dr. Sarah Welsh, Equity and Student Outcomes Coordinator of Allegany County Public Schools will coordinate working with local teachers to engage students to submit their work to the contest. According to Welsh, “Students participating in this essay contest are participating in an event that is vital to the community's history, as well as crafting a piece of writing that can serve the student in many ways during their college application process.” Welsh says lesson plans created by EJI, and local community support will be available to both teachers and students in writing the essays over the first semester of the school year. “Allegany County public school teachers will have the option to use lessons and resources from EJI in order to support and expand students' involvement in the contest. Participating community organizations hope to work with Allegany County educators, community members, and college students to offer writing workshops prior to the deadline of the essay contest to support the high school students' efforts in writing their essay.”
The Brownsville Project founder, Clory Jackson, sees the EJI community remembrance projects as an opportunity for the community to critically think about applying the past to their present and future. According to Jackson, “While remembering the past can be painful, it is essential to ensure we do not repeat it. These projects provide a constructive space to do that.”
The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) was founded in 1989 by Bryan Stephenson, a public interest lawyer in Montgomery, Alabama. The mission of EJI is to provide legal representation to people who have been illegally convicted and unfairly sentenced in the criminal justice system. EJI produces reports, and short films that explore the United States’ history of racial injustice, and recently launched a national effort to create markers, and memorials that address the legacy of slavery, lynching, and racial segregation. Stephenson is the author of the book, Just Mercy, which was made into a movie in 2019 starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx. He is also the subject of the 2019 HBO documentary True Justice. www.eji.org
The Brownsville Project (TBP) is an organization that helps communities uncover and flourish from suppressed history and its impact to the present. The Brownsville Project was founded by Clory Jackson based on her personal history and connection to Brownsville, a community of formerly enslaved people once nested in Frostburg, Maryland. The community began with two African American women, Tamar Brown and Elizabeth Jackson, the great-great-great-grandmother to Clory Jackson. Both were formerly enslaved women who purchased and raised homes on neighboring lots. With the support of other formerly enslaved people in Allegany County, they organized and nurtured an African American community that lasted from the 1860’s through the early 1950’s. Frostburg State University now exists where Brownsville once stood. TBP’s current project is collaborating with the Allegany County Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Committee (ACLTRC) to uncover the suppressed history of lynching in Allegany County, which is part of a state-wide project organized by The Maryland Lynching Memorial Project. TBP and ACLTRC’s goal is to support Allegany County residents in healing the intergenerational harm caused by lynching and other violent acts against the African American community. Learn more about TBP, ACLTRC, the biography of William Burns, and the EJI community remembrance projects at www.thebrownsvilleproject.com/acltrc.