Un-Friended?


Why have the Friends of East End Cemetery not been on the cemetery grounds collectively since March 2020? Longtime volunteers John Shuck, Justin Curtis, Maurice Fountain, Erin Hollaway Palmer, Brian Palmer, Melissa Pocock, Mark Schmieder, and Bruce Tarr are exiled from the property, as are the community groups whose efforts they have cultivated since 2013. Anyone who has seen the Friends’ work knows this is terrible news for the future of East End Cemetery. At the time of their exile, they were approaching complete clearing of the overgrowth and had produced a sophisticated map of all known burials, beyond countless connections made with living descendants.

Their disappearance does not have to do with the pandemic, as other volunteers have worked sporadically at the site since July 2020.

I would like to see an explanation from the Enrichmond Foundation, de jure owners of the site following decisions from the state and the Richmond circuit court in 2019. I encourage everyone who cares about the cemetery to find out the answer to this question.


7 responses to “Un-Friended?”

  1. RyanSmith Avatar
    RyanSmith

    More elaboration on the above, to document East End Cemetery’s rough summer. Not only were the Friends of East End Cemetery barred by Enrichmond’s management from tending the grounds, but Enrichmond compounded the cemetery’s difficulties through a series of mis-steps: clearing fresh U.S. flags and flowers from graves and throwing them in the dumpster, exposing human remains found on the property to the news media for insensitive distribution, allowing VA 2A to come in and powerwash sensitive historic markers with apparently non-approved techniques, and, lately, hiring a grounds crew to take power equipment through the delicate graves that had previously been cleared by hand. There’s a public hearing set for October 23 for citizens to register comments on the disposition of those remains, if anyone wishes to express their opinion: https://enrichmond.org/2020/10/virtual-public-hearing-on-the-discovery-of-human-remains-at-east-end-cemetery/
    None of this ever happened on the Friends of East End’s watch.

    1. RyanSmith Avatar
      RyanSmith

      See October 26 post for more reaction to the October 23 public forum.

  2. Elaine Phillips Avatar
    Elaine Phillips

    Thank you for the explanation. It was disappointing that all the above points were sidetracked by the very abhorrent information shared during the public hearing- everyone was just so shocked. I didn’t know the problematic side of Enrichmond until I came across Friends of East End work in the course of my volunteer research for Enrichmond about someone laid to rest at East End. I noticed some red flags along the way but didn’t connect the dots: disregard of historically important context while volunteering one Saturday to clear debris this summer at Evergreen (I had to point out the importance of yucca plants to African-American cemeteries); the volunteer coordinator had never heard of Lynn Rainville, etc. And they never shared all the work by the Friends of East End, nor your website, as helpful resources (and they have a resource page for volunteers). I’m shocked at their behavior Friday night, and honestly disappointed with VDHR staff. I’m in contact with Friends so I can share my research with them and will not be sharing anything with Enrichmond. It’s so sad because so many people don’t know the true story behind Enrichmond!

  3. […] imagine learning that the site’s new owner, the Enrichmond Foundation, discovered human remains exposed at a crumbling bank on July 20, 2020, around the same time that […]

  4. RyanSmith Avatar
    RyanSmith

    I encourage everyone to read the Friends’ statement, “End of an Era”:
    https://friendsofeastend.com/2020/11/13/end-of-an-era/

  5. RyanSmith Avatar
    RyanSmith

    In Richmond, what happens after the scenario above is that the Enrichmond Foundation gets rewarded with a Right of Entry agreement with the city’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities to enter and help maintain portions of city-owned Oakwood Cemetery, specifically the “Colored Paupers Cemetery” there. News of this just got out in late November 2020. So to recap, the grassroots volunteers of the Friends of East End get cleared out, and the irresponsible and ill-equipped Enrichmond Foundation receives further responsibilities over sensitive historic sites.

  6. RyanSmith Avatar
    RyanSmith

    One more point of clarification regarding my objections to Enrichmond Foundation’s stewardship. In June 2020, I received, along with other faculty colleagues at VCU and the University of Richmond, a new volunteer form and project request form created by the Enrichmond Foundation, which we were told to sign before continuing the work at East End Cemetery that we had been engaged in for years. We had always signed volunteer release forms in the past when we led students out for research or work days at the cemetery as standard practice. But these new forms were something different entirely.

    Plainly put, they included the most restrictive language I’ve ever seen used at a cemetery, period, and they demonstrate a disagreeable approach.

    One item required Enrichmond’s approval for all research conducted at the cemeteries, stipulating that “All research must be shared with Enrichmond.” Further, the volunteer form claimed that “All images and likenesses of burial and grave markers within the Cemetery (the “Grave Images”) shall belong to the Organization and the family members of the interred person (the “Descendants”).” What kind of stipulations are these? How could Enrichmond possibly enforce them? For example, would I need to get Enrichmond’s approval to do biographical research based on headstone findings for posting on my website? Would Enrichmond own every photograph onsite that I took personally? Would I need to get approval to do research for my book and then share all my results directly with Enrichmond? I’ve just simply never seen anything like this at any historical site. What would the purpose of such restrictions be?

    Another item required us and our students to “grant to the Organization the perpetual, worldwide and non-revocable right to use my name, voice, likeness and biographical information (collectively, “Likenesses”) in connection with the advertising and promotion of the Organization and/or the Cemetery, as it may determine in its sole discretion.” Even worse, we would be required to “authorize the Organization to incorporate and license others to incorporate any part of all of the Likenesses in any other production.” So to recap – for my students and I to do research or volunteering at the site, we would need to allow Enrichmond to be able to use any part of our likenesses or biographies for its own purposes and to be able to license those to any third party for any reason (non-revocable) in perpetuity without our further consent. Who would allow their students to sign such an open-ended claim that would impede students’ privacy and rights?

    Lastly, we can understand why the volunteer form included the following restrainer on signatories: “I understand that all data, materials, knowledge and information generated through, originating from, or having to do with the Organization or the Cemetery, including volunteers, are to be considered privileged and confidential and is not to be disclosed to any third party.” If I were in Enrichmond and had undertaken such a dubious approach to volunteer engagement, there’s no way I would want word of such practices getting out, either.

    Enrichmond will claim that these were draft forms, but that is not how they were represented to the Friends of East End Cemetery when Enrichmond’s staff ejected members of the Friends from the site in June 2020 when Enrichmond, in their staff’s own words, sought to “begin checking to verify all volunteers have completed the proper forms” and the Friends naturally could not comply by signing such forms.

    Our faculty group and administrators at the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University were able to pressure John Sydnor and the Enrichmond Foundation to strip some of the offending language from these documents by the end of the summer. But it was not an easy process, and it did not result in a scenario in which the Friends of East End Cemetery felt comfortable returning.

    I ask again: why would a nonprofit foundation like Enrichmond that makes loud claims to be interested in community engagement initiate and enforce such predatory forms? We see that they got the result they were apparently looking for.

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