The Zion Community Project, Inc. 10th Annual Fundraising Benefit was held in McCallum Ballroom at Rhodes College on Nov. 1. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley)

Using the theme “Celebrating a Decade of Progress in Zion,” the Zion Community Project hosted its 10th Annual Fundraising Dinner in support of the Historic Zion Christian Cemetery located on South Parkway East last Thursday (Nov. 1 at Rhodes College.

The highlight of the evening was the keynote address by LeMoyne-Owen College President Dr. Andrea Lewis Miller.

An additional highlight was the presentation of awards to notable contributors:

Public Service – Thomas Jones (retired), Memphis Public Library and Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church (award received by Pastor O. C. Collins Jr.);

Preservation – Dr. Earnestine Jenkins, Professor of Arts (University of Memphis) and the Lynching Sites Project of Memphis (award received by Reverend Laura Gettys);

Legacy Awards – Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (award received by Bishop Henry M. Williamson Sr.) for the significance of the Church’s financial contributions both locally and nationally during the decade

LeMoyne-Owen College (received by President Andrea Lewis Miller) in recognition of the College’s partnership since the early 1990’s.

Fundraising Benefit Dinner Chair Dr. Warner Dickerson said the proceeds from the dinner would support the maintenance of the cemetery as the Project continues to seek grant funding for its educational component. Future grants would be focused on middle school students learning of the struggles and accomplishments of African Americans interred in the Cemetery.

Other planned initiatives of the project include completing a written history of the Cemetery and to be designated a point of interest for tourists visiting Memphis.

Zion Christian Cemetery was founded in 1876 on 15.2 acres of land in the heart of Memphis and has more than 30,000 people of color interred.  The last burial was in 1974.  The property was deeded to the CME Church for “safekeeping” in 1986 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in February 1990.

The Cemetery continues to be leased to the Zion Community Project and over time several thousand volunteers have worked to clear the historic site of overgrowth and debris.

(For more information, visit, www.ZionCommunityProject.org.)