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Historic 'Burial Ground for Negroes' Believed to Be Under State-Owned Parking Lot in Virginia

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Special to the NNPA from the Richmond Free Press –

RICHMOND, Va. (NNPA) - Former Richmond City Councilman Sa’ad El-Amin is now seeking a second round in his bid to halt the desecration of a historic “Burial Ground for Negroes,” which he claims is now covered by a paved parking lot at North 15th and East Broad streets in Downtown. The property is owned by Virginia Commonwealth University.

The former city councilman and disbarred lawyer has begun his new push in Richmond Circuit Court. He has delivered a revamped version of his lawsuit that was dismissed July 1 by Circuit Judge Clarence N. Jenkins Jr. His new suit contains fresh wording aimed at overcoming the judge’s objections.

El-Amin’s purpose is the same: He is seeking a court order called a writ of mandamus to require Kathleen Kilpatrick, director of the state Department of Historic Resources, to excavate the site to determine the boundaries of the graveyard. His new wording alleges that Kilpatrick has shirked her mandatory duty to “properly identify, explore, evaluate, preserve and protect” the burial ground where he states his “ancestors are buried.”

Her failure, he states in the suit, has enabled VCU to repave the lot and park cars, despite “ample and credible evidence that the burial ground may well encompass” the entire property.

He alleges that without the court order, Kilpatrick “will not voluntarily carry out her statutorily mandated duties with regard to the burial ground.”

Assistant Attorney General Paul Kugelman Jr., who represents Kilpatrick, has another week to respond. He has previously argued that the court lacks authority to issue a writ of mandamus because Ms. Kilpatrick has discretion under state law in deciding how best to carry out her duties.

A new court date for a hearing on El-Amin’s revised motion has not yet been set.

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