Something I was unaware of before somewhere in the middle of the night when I got up because I could not sleep is the fact that a section of Bethesda was once a thriving Black community. This section is now full of shopping centers, fast food restaurants, gas stations and other businesses. The only building left from that time is the Macedonia Baptist Church. There are also a few cemeteries where Black bodies were buried. One was paved over and is now a parking lot and another is the future site of self-storage units.
Today Bethesda is mostly white. According the U.S. Census bureau Whites comprise 81.5% of the Bethesda population and Blacks only comprise 4.0%. That was one thing I felt guilty about when we moved to Bethesda — it was so homogeneous. It is also something my kids feel bad about, having few African American friends in school.
Today’s featured delight was the protest/memorial service for the bodies buried under the construction site. I actually tried to convince myself to not go, that there would be plenty of people there — after all it was featured on the Kojo Nnamdi show the day before — and I didn’t need to be one of them. But I had absolutely no reason, other than my slight social anxiety, to not show up. I found some black clothes, cut several zinnias from the garden and grabbed my most somber-looking mask.
I parked in the parking lot of a shopping center I used to shop at when the kids were young and I was too afraid to try to park in down town Bethesda or drive up Rockville Pike. The McDonald’s where we were supposed to meet was about 7 minutes walk. I thought the McDonald’s was on the far side of River Road, so had to cross in a crosswalk instead of at a light to get to the meeting place. Halfway across the street two other protesters told me we were meeting at the church instead, so I joined them and walked a few more minutes to Macedonia Baptist Church.
After chatting with other protesters (all masked of course) and introducing myself to my friend’s daughter (from last night’s Zoom meeting) we all walked back to the McDonald’s.
The reason we marched to McDonald’s is because its parking lot is the only place to view the cemetery. Once there we sang protest songs, heard the names of the dead read aloud and prayed African prayers for them. Then we walked to where we could view the cemetery and wove our flowers into the fence separating the McDonald’s parking lot from the construction site cemetery.
It really was beautiful. Well, except for the cops and security guards.
Other delights today were: