MARTINSBURG — As its art exhibit honoring the Green Hill African American Cemetery wrapped up this past weekend, the Berkeley Arts Council presented the committee with over $600 in funds raised, helping the committee in reaching its goal of deeding the cemetery property.
According to a press release shared Monday, members of the Berkeley Arts Council presented more than $600 to the Green Hill Historical African-American Cemetery Committee after having raised the funds during a recent art exhibit entitled “Fresh Visions: An Exhibit to Celebrate the Green Hill Historical African-American Cemetery.”
“Receiving this money was absolutely amazing and is going to help us in so many ways,” Green Hill Historical African American Cemetery Committee President Gloria Carter said. “We are trying and have been trying to raise enough money to pay for an official property deed on the cemetery land, and the support and money raised by this exhibit has now put us about one-third of the way there. It is so exciting, and the exhibit was so well-received.”
As explained by Annette Verna, volunteer and coordinator for the art council’s exhibitions and communications, the goal of the exhibit was to feature visual art pieces, as well as a performance piece, honoring those African American men, women and children buried at the Green Hill African American Cemetery.
Verna explained the pieces displayed in the exhibit were told to stick to the following specific themes — the revitalization and preservation of the cemetery grounds; the preservation of the history and identity of the GHHAAC; and/or the commemoration and remembrance of souls buried there.
“The arts council would like to do more to raise awareness in our community through the arts,” Berkeley Arts Council President Anna Howard said.
In addition to the money raised, the release said two of the artists donated their artwork to the GHHAAC Committee to be used for future fundraising.
With a clear goal in mind and the success from this most recent fundraiser still palpable, Carter said the committee is already making plans to host a large yard sale in the area in May in hopes of approaching their deed goal soon.
As previously reported, Carter said the volunteer group was established roughly three years ago after a gentleman presented about the deterioration and neglect of the African American burial plots in Green Hill Cemetery during a NAACP meeting, and a small group of attendees volunteered to do something about it.
According to Carter, the site was from the 1700s, when the public used to bury slaves in mostly unmarked graves. When Green Hill Cemetery was established in 1864, it encompassed this burial ground, but no one had taken care of it despite the last known date for a burial being 1872.
“Because of the way the bodies were treated at the time, there is no telling how many there really are there, but for now, we have the names of 44 people buried there,” Carter said.
Carter said for three years now, volunteers worked to make the area a place of beauty and to pay homage to those who had passed by planting flowers for the spring and summer months, placing donated benches throughout the property, working to establish a butterfly garden on the land, creating a stone-cross memorial piece and placing painted crosses on each grave site they were able to identify.
For more information on the group’s efforts, including upcoming fundraisers, or to donate directly to the committee and its mission, visit its Facebook page at Green Hill Historic African American Cemetery or email Carter at [email protected].