SBY Lynching Memorial Task Force continuing to make progress after more than a year of work

SALISBURY, Md. – The City of Salisbury’s Lynching Memorial Task Force has been hard at work for just over a year now. Now they’re closing in on their memorial event. “There’s going to be emotion. I know that. Maybe there will be a little bit of anger. But we have to get through that, pull off that scab, and move toward healing. A true healing,” said President of the Wicomico County NAACP Dr. Brante’ Dashiell.

The task force is working on memorializing the lives of three men who were victims of violent lynchings in Salisbury. But task force members say that’s just the tip of the iceberg. “We can’t get to that broader representation until we deal with the truth. These cases are one of thousands of cases that happened throughout the country,” said Charles Chavis with the Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Chavis says he believes the task force’s work will set an example for not only the state, but for the United States as a whole. “This isn’t just a deep south issue. This happened in border states such as Maryland and throughout our country. It’s really an honor to be a part of this project,” said Chavis.

Although the task force has their eyes set on a lynching memorial event in May, they say the work they’re doing leading up to it is just as important. task force Secretary James Yamakawa says without community connection and a space to have difficult conversations, no true healing can ever be achieved. “The idea of not talking about it even though everyone knows about it is part of the way that these wounds never heal, because no one’s allowed to talk about it. But everyone has to know about it,” said Yamakawa.

Task force Co-Chair Amber Green tells 47ABC that COVID-19 has forced them to go virtual in their planning and even considering a hybrid memorial event. But she says it’s also helping to tell the story of inequity and injustice that people of color face in the community. “COVID has really unlocked, I think, the key to really changing and really exposing the disparities that we have been talking about for years,” said Green.

In the coming weeks, the task force will also be launching an essay scholarship contest to help get Wicomico County’s youth involved in acknowledging and rectifying injustice. “I think we do our youth and younger population a disservice by not highlighting and bringing an opportunity for this history to not be brought to the focus,” said Green.

The task force says true healing can’t be achieved by simply shining a spotlight in the darkest corners of Salisbury’s history. That’s why they’re also working to connect those young people with the older generations. “They don’t want to talk about it. They didn’t talk about it. They didn’t share it and it didn’t get passed down through generations. Now we’re at this point where we are actually going to do this,” said Dr. Dashiell.

Dr. Dashiell recalled her time growing up on the Eastern Shore, telling 47ABC that she hopes the task force’s work will open up those difficult conversations that she never got to have with generations before. “I think it’s definitely something to propel us to the next level with empathy, with respect for those that came before us to do what we’re doing today,” said Dr. Dashiell.

Yamakawa says the conversations necessary to reach that point will be difficult But, he says they open the door for a brighter future. “If we can talk about these, if we can actually have an honest conversation – a brave conversation about these – then we can talk about everything else,” said Yamakawa.

Categories: Local News, Maryland