VCU Professor’s Documentary Examines Richmond African Burial Ground
University Public Affairs
Community discussion about the future of an historic burial ground for enslaved and free blacks in downtown Richmond is the focus of a documentary produced and directed by Virginia Commonwealth University Department of African American Studies Chairman Shawn O. Utsey.
“Meet Me in the Bottom: The Struggle to Reclaim Richmond’s African Burial Ground” will be shown at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 23, at the Grace Street Theater, 934 W. Grace St. The documentary is free and open to the public.
The Burial Ground for Negroes was used from about 1750 to 1816 and is located north of Broad Street, between 15th and 16th Streets. Utsey said it is the oldest municipal cemetery for enslaved and free blacks known to exist in the Richmond area. The documentary examines community efforts to reclaim the burial ground as the final resting place of their ancestors.
“What surprised me most in putting this documentary together is how the community differs on what to do with the burial ground,” Utsey said. “Some want to excavate the site to find out how the people buried there lived and others want to leave it alone. They’d prefer to memorialize those buried there and move on. My documentary hopes to bring dialogue to the issue of the burial ground and other sacred spaces in Shockoe Bottom.”
The 40-minute documentary includes interviews with community members, activists, scientists, academicians, politicians and students and features historic photographs and maps, illustrations and video footage in and around Richmond. Utsey worked with VCU alumni Jennida Chase and Shanika Smiley on the project, which took more than a year to complete.
To R.S.V.P. for reserved seating or for more information, contact Shawn Utsey at 804-828-4150 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 223 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-eight of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise the VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see www.vcu.edu.