November 19, 2019

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Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Emancipation Day Ceremony – Nov. 1

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Soil Collection Ceremony to Memorialize 1887 St. Mary’s County Lynching Victim on Maryland Emancipation Day

The ceremony is one of healing and remembrance for the only documented lynching victim in St. Mary’s County – Benjamin Hance – in 1887.

The ceremony begins at 4 pm Nov. 1 at Port of Leonardtown Winery Park, where Mr. Hance was said to have died in 1887. During the ceremony, soil will be collected from the spot where Mr. Hance died and put into two specially made jars. One will travel to Montgomery, AL, and become part of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and the other will stay in St. Mary’s County and become part of a traveling display to educate local citizens, visitors, and students.

The Equal Justice Initiative has been partnering with organizations around the country to collect similar jars of soil at other such sites and bringing them to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.

The memorial in Alabama opened April 26, 2018, and is “the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation, and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence,” according to the EJI website.

The memorial includes 800 six-foot monuments, each representing a county in the US where a racial terror lynching occurred, the names of the lynching victims engraved on the columns.

“EJI is inviting counties across the country to claim their monuments and install them in their permanent homes in the counties they represent,” explains the website.

In St. Mary’s County, the Soil Collection Ceremony in commemoration of Benjamin Hance, is a partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative, National Memorial for Peace and Justice, St. Mary’s County Museum Division, Maryland Lynching Memorial Project, the town of Leonardtown, St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office, Unified Committee on Afro-American Contributions (UCAC), St. Mary’s County NAACP, Community Mediation Center of St. Mary’s County, St. Aloysius Gonzaga Catholic Church in Leonardtown, Together We Will, Sierra Club, Archdiocese of Washington, St. Mary’s Ryken High School, Maryland Commission on African American History & Culture, Tri-County All-Community Collaborative, Closing the Gap Coalition, All Saints Episcopal Parish, St. Mary’s County Libraries, Concerned Black Women, and others.

“It is said soil holds the memories of the things that happened upon it. So, by collecting the soil at the spot where this act happened and placing it in a memorial, we acknowledge and never forget that this did indeed occur,” said Karen Stone, manager of the St. Mary’s County Museum Division. “We will then lay a wreath, which will eventually decay into the same soil, to contain happier memories for the future.”

Speakers and participants at the ceremony include Dr. Kyrone Davis, scholar-practitioner of Executive Leadership in Human and Organizational Learning, who will give the keynote speech; St. Mary’s County Commissioner President Randy Guy; Leonardtown Mayor Daniel Burris; St. Mary’s County Sheriff Timothy Cameron; Father David Beaubien of St. Aloysius Church; Dr. Janice Walthour of the St. Mary’s County NAACP; Gabrielle Daniels of the Equal Justice Initiative; and students from St. Mary’s Ryken High School’s Black Student Union and other clubs who will recount the Benjamin Hance story and perform a dance and song during the ceremony.

Ms. Stone believes such an event will bring about community awareness to such difficult topics, much of which many residents in the region know nothing about.

“It was such an honor to be asked by Dr. Janice Walthour from the St. Mary’s County NAACP to head up this Soil Collection Project. Though it is just one small part of her Building Bridges: Dismantling Racism SOMD initiative, this ceremony gives us an opportunity to connect with other statewide and national groups like the Equal Justice Initiative and the Maryland Lynching Project to face and discuss these issues head-on and hopefully bring about some healing after all these years,” Ms. Stone said.

For more information regarding the ceremony, please visit Facebook.com/DraydenSchoolhouse.

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