I spent the evening of Monday, January 27, 2020 before the Austin Human Rights Commission and the Historic Landmark Commission testifying about the desecration of graves at Austin’s Oakwood Cemetery. I took some of my evening time on Tuesday, January 28th to testify before the city’s Parks and Recreation Board, which actually oversees the city administrators responsible for cemetery management, but they seemed somewhat less interested or concerned. Let’s see if they decide to hold an emergency meeting regarding this matter, or to make it an agenda item at their next regularly scheduled meeting.
My testimony highlights some of what I pointed out last month in my previous posts. Questions abound; what will the city be doing going forward? Will the city collaboratively put together a reburial plan with a. timelines and b. specific on-site locations for the reburials? Will a good faith effort be made to establish the identity of the dead and their descendants? Will DNA analysis be conducted, and if so by whom? Will the city remove and re-route the sewer line? Will it properly exhume the burials that were previously disturbed? Will there be accountability for the city officials who made the decision to utilize a backhoe at a cemetery? The community deserves answers for these and many other questions.
Meanwhile in other news, the city has recently asked the University of Texas to renew its lease at the most important Black history site in the city: the Lions Municipal Golf Course. As we are about to embark on the 2020 celebration of Black History Month, it is always nice to see that the city has its historic preservation priorities in such fine working order.