24.2 C
Niagara Falls
Tuesday, June 18, 2024
Editorial: Action needed on Black burial ground
The Lake Report's weekly editorial. File

As public demonstrations go, last Sunday’s march in support of finding graves and restoring the Niagara Baptist Church Burial Ground was more media event than public show of support.

That’s unfortunate and we don’t know exactly why the turnout was so sparse.

As much as organizer James Russell seems to have a bone to pick with The Lake Report (he no longer will speak to our reporters; his prerogative, but it won’t stop us from reporting on the issue), we commend him on his pursuit of justice for those long-forgotten souls buried at the cemetery near Mississagua and Mary streets.

In fact, in past editorials, we readily have endorsed Russell’s efforts — though he has disagreed with some of our coverage and even complained to the NewsMedia Council about a news headline published in April about an earlier protest in which he briefly chained himself to the historic plaque on the site.

The council summarily dismissed Russell’s complaint as without merit. But that’s all water under the bridge as far as we are concerned.

Allow us to reiterate: Without sounding holier than though, we refuse to simply be cheerleaders for community endeavours (though obviously we will cheer good works when it is deserved).

And if, when we report the news, some disagree with our content or approach, we welcome them to let us know.

Media at Russell’s protest on Father’s Day didn’t outnumber the small number of folks who turned out to support Russell, but it was close.

Again, not that it really matters. One of the goals was to highlight what Russell wants done on the property, so mission accomplished in that regard.

Meanwhile, members of the Friends of the Forgotten, a group working with the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake to arrange a suitable memorial or recognition of the people buried on the site, disagree with the hardline and vocal approach Russell has taken.

Frankly, neither side is really wrong but we don’t want any disputes or disagreements to sidetrack or derail the long-awaited recognition the burial ground — and those for whom it is a final resting place — deserves.

When we hear tales from longtime residents about some of the stories they knew of over the years (such as headstones from the Black burial ground turning up as “souvenirs” of sorts in some residents’ homes), it is just one indicator of how disrespected and how much of an after-thought this cemetery has been over the decades. That needs to change.

Yes, the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake has been working (sometimes in concert with Russell) on a solution for a number of years. And Russell, Friends of the Forgotten and others may have different viewpoints about how best to recognize the importance of this historic plot.

We see no reason why that process can’t be expedited.

Meanwhile, Russell’s hyperbole (such as, the town has done “nothing” to preserve the inactive cemetery for well over a century) does not help his cause, in our view. Especially when it’s not accurate.

Yes, the bureaucracy grinds much more slowly than any of us wish.

And yes, the municipality needs to finally take more concrete action.

We look forward to the day, and it can’t come soon enough, when the Niagara Baptist Church Burial Ground — like already has happened with Voices of Freedom park and historic properties associated with the Underground Railroad — is given the prominent recognition and place it deserves in NOTL’s history.

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