Reclaiming Our Sacred Ground


The Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project of the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality will host the 20th Annual Gabriel Gathering on Monday, Oct. 10. The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place from 6:30 to 10 p.m. at the Shockoe Bottom African Burial Ground, located in downtown Richmond just north of East Broad Street between I-95 and the CSX railroad.

“Each year on Oct. 10, the Sacred Ground Project hosts a community gathering at the African Burial Ground to mark the date in 1800 when the great slave rebellion leader Gabriel was executed at the town gallows,” said Ana Edwards, founder and chair of the project. “We gather to honor Gabriel and all those who gave their lives in the cause of freedom, to celebrate more than 20 years of learning the history of this sacred ground and to rededicate ourselves to reclaiming and properly memorizing Shockoe Bottom, once the epicenter of the U.S. domestic slave trade. This year we also are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality!”

Portrait of Gabriel, acrylic, ink, mulberry paper on canvas, 2005. This image comes from a painting done by Ana Edwards. A similiar detail was included on one of the two interpretive markers installed at the Shockoe Bottom African Burial Ground in 2009. This piece imagines Gabriel after his capture deciding after all to give no information to Gov. Monroe, no testimony at trial, nothing to do with any logistics for their bold attempt to end slavery. Here Gabriel knows that though his role might be over, that he will die, that the next revolutionary was already in motion and might need the foundational work the men and women of the August 1800 put in place. In this way he would help their righteous struggle continue.
Portrait of Gabriel, acrylic, ink, mulberry paper on canvas, 2005. This image comes from a painting done by Ana Edwards.

This year’s commemoration will acknowledge several aspects of the history and future of Shockoe Bottom, with a common thread: making visible the invisible – three nights of light art, video projections and history presented in collaboration with the acclaimed artists who famously projected images onto the Lee statue on Monument Avenue during the Black Lives Matter uprising of 2020. Recontextualizing Richmond will project video images of the history of Shockoe Bottom, the African Burial Ground, Gabriel’s Rebellion and the community reclamation struggle. The projections will take place at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8; Sunday, Oct. 9; and Monday, Oct. 10 on the walls of the East Broad Street tunnel that connects the African Burial Ground with the Devil’s Half-Acre, once the site of the notorious jail owned by slave trader Robert Lumpkin.

Also collaborating with this year’s Gabriel Gathering are:

Richmond artist Sandy Williams IV, also with Recontextualizing Richmond, who will install “Praise Your Mother,” a neon work that pays homage to the “mothers” who were made invisible to historic events by the lack of historical reporting. This work was created in collaboration with artist Mariana Parisca and commissioned by 1708 Gallery in Richmond in partnership with the Virginia Museum of History and Culture for the exhibition InLight 2020.

Networked Public Spaces, a research project of the UVA Next Cities Institute, which will bring environmental issues into visibility through sensors that will light up with changing colors in response to sound and air particles from the area while a QR code will take the viewer to the data as it is collected.

For more information:

The “20th Anniversary Gabriel Gathering!” Facebook event page

The website of the Sacred Ground Project

Email: or Call/Text: 804.644.5834

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