Sugar Land African Burial Ground an American Story Then and Now
On Monday, November 19, 2018 a dramatic scene played out in the 434th Fort Bend County Court in Richmond, Texas. At issue was the motion to remove the remains of the #Sugarland95 from the site at which they were unearthed.
National Black United Front (NBUF) representatives Swatara Olushola and Kofi Taharka, along with other community representatives, stepped to the bench at the invitation of Judge Shoemake.
Articulate and forceful, the group argued against the removal of the remains due to the lack of robust descendant community engagement including DNA testing by the Fort Bend Independent School District (FBISD). Lawyers for FBISD were flanked on all sides by African/Black community representatives shooting down their ill-conceived pleas to the Judge. Ultimately, the Judge temporarily halted the petition to remove the remains until further effort was put in to engage all interested parties. He appointed a “Special Master” for the court to work with the parties present.
Judge Shoemake stated further decision on the motion maybe delayed until March of 2019.
In April of 2018 information began to be made public that an African Burial Ground dating from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s was “discovered” on a school construction site of FBISD. By mid-July FBISD announced that 95 intact graves of Africans in America had been unearthed, victims of crimes against humanity in what was known as the convict lease system or slavery by another name. The unholy alliance between the State of Texas and Imperial Sugar Company along with the free labor of enslaved Africans literally laid the foundation for the upscale suburb of Houston, Texas known as Sugar Land.
For the National Black United Front (NBUF), other formations and anyone with a basic understanding of American history the “discovery” comes as no surprise. Mr. Reginald Moore a lay historian known throughout activist circles in the area has been telling anyone who would listen for decades that these forgotten and tortured souls existed. “Sugarland got a dirty little secret and it ain’t so sweet” is one of his common refrains. Further, in 2001 NBUF researcher Omowale Haggerty an east Texas native revealed through his work the bloody history of Imperial Sugar Company as a part of the international movement for reparations.
The racial violence and mass incarceration committed against African people today finds its antecedents in the history being revealed by the unearthing of the Holy Egungun (Ancestors) at the African Burial Ground in Sugar Land, Texas. Police terrorism and other acts of aggression by the Global White Supremacy apparatus taking place in 2018 is on common ground with the tactics utilized to re-enslave Africans after the first Juneteenth announcement in 1865.
Dr. Obidike Kamau states “History is a stream, not a series of disconnected puddles.” FBISD is currently under fire for a recent report that shows African-American children in its district are six times more likely than other students to receive disciplinary measures. At the same time, the school district, city of Sugar Land, Imperial Sugar Company and the State of Texas is attempting to damage control the historic find that reveals its terroristic past.
“The find in Sugar Land is not really rare, when you think about how this country was built off of our free labor during enslavement and convict, concentration camp labor our ancestral remains are throughout this country, what is rare about Sugarland is that it is preserved and being widely publicized. How many cemeteries do you think are just being bulldozed over in the name of development?”
These were the comments of Ray Winbush, PhD, Morgan State University, Baltimore Maryland.
NBUF along with activist, African spiritualist and expert allies over several months has engaged in a series of activities including: ancestral veneration rituals, meetings with officials, site tour, protest, research and community forums. This work has produced the following list of concerns and demands in respect to the African Burial Ground in Sugar Land.
- Intellectual Control should be transferred to properly credentialed and experience scholars of African ancestry
- Use the existing African American historic context document for this project
- Robust Descendant Community Engagement including proper DNA testing, consultation with interested parties and comprehensive burial plan
- Establishment of Convict Lease Museum paid for in part by the State of Texas and The Imperial Sugar Company
- Full and Complete Reparations for descendant community
It would be a grave mistake not to understand that the African Burial Ground in Sugar Land, Texas is not just a story about the past but about the present also.
The Joint Task Force for the Preservation of The African Burial Ground in Sugar Land, Texas includes: NBUF Swatara Olushola, Chief Omilana Fagbenro Amusan, Deric Muhammad, S.H.A.P.E. Community Center Deloyd T. Parker, Black Panther Party Alumni Association John Bunchy Crear, Nation of Islam Muhammad Mosque #45 Abdul Haleem Muhammad PhD, Obidike Kamau PhD, Fred McGhee PhD, Mtangileze Sanyika PhD, Amandla Productions Akua Holt, Shrine of the Black Madonna Church, Freedmen’s Town Association, Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Akoramante Society.
Kofi Taharka has the privilege, honor and responsibility of being the National Chairman of the National Black United Front (NBUF). E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 832-422-7806. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.