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Del. Roem Rallies Community to Fund Rebuilding of Historic Black Church

| June 4, 2020 | 0 Comments | News

In light of resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, people are returning their attention to an historic Gainesville African American church destroyed by arson eight years ago.

Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church along Lee Highway in Gainesville sustained serious damages as a result of arson in 2012. Fixing the historic African America church would required hundreds of thousands of dollars, something the church congregation did not have. 

While congregants started meeting elsewhere, they did not forget their beloved historic church building and hoped to one day return to it and preserve its history. 

The Mount Pleasant Baptist Church was not only a community center for the growing Black community in Gainesville. It had a long history of serving some of the areas newly free Black men and women who built a thriving middle class community along Carver Road in the Haymarket area.

Gainesville’s Mount Pleasant Baptist Church was constructed in 1877 in another location. In 1882 church members purchased the current property along Lee Highway for $10 and rebuilt the church there. Some years later the building was destroyed in a fire. Members constructed the current building in 1929. 

On March 25, 2015, Thomas Wilson created a GoFundMe page for Mt. Pleasant. His hope was to raise money to rebuild the church. He began by setting a goal of $104 thousand to complete phase I of the reconstruction. 

“In August 2012, our church was set on fire by an arsonist and the inside of the church was destroyed,” Wilson wrote on the GoFundMe page. “We need your help to rebuild our beloved church, Mount Pleasant Baptist in Gainesville, VA. We have designed seven (7) phase to rebuild. The $104,000.00 will help us complete Phase I.” 

But the GoFundMe raised $30 thousand. Currently the church sits empty unfinished largely due to a lack of funding. 

Then, in late May, the world witnessed on video the brutal killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis Police Officer, and it ignited nation-wide support for the Black Lives Matter movement, even during a pandemic. 

Black Lives Matter protests grew all over the nation in a response to police brutality. In Del. Danica Roem’s (D-13th) district, which includes Manassas and Gainesville, protests sprung up everyday from Saturday through Tuesday. It was clear, justice for African Americans was on everyone’s mind. Roem began thinking about a positive way she could promote change. 

“After marching in the Gainesville protest Monday, I thought about how Carver Road was only two miles down the street- the first place in Prince William County where free black residents could own property,” said Roem. “This morning (June 2), I thought about Gainesville again for #BlackoutTuesday, which is about elevating black voices and causes.” 

Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church sits right near Carver Road and was a part of that first free African American establishment. Could she help raise funds to get that church up and running again? With many also concerned with helping Black communities, it seemed like the right thing to do at the right time. 

And if anyone could garner the attention to revive the church, it was Roem. Del. Roem was extremely popular, not only in her district, but around the country, as she became the first transgender state delegate. With that notoriety came a large following on Twitter, giving her the ability to use her platform to promote worthwhile causes. This was a cause she felt was worth amplifying. 

“Well, this has been a cause now for eight years since the 2012 arson gutted the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church building, a pillar for the Black community in Gainesville. So with that in mind, I wanted to follow the example set by Black leaders in our community of doing something to help.”

It worked! In the first hour and a half, the GoFundMe page raised $2,178. In ten hours, it surpassed $12,000, then $20,000 and at the time of publication, the church has raise more than $50,000. It is now halfway towards reaching the goal.

Roem is ecstatic, but she knows there is more to go, and incoming donations will make a difference. The GoFundMe only asked for enough money to fund Phase I. The church will need hundreds of thousands more to return the church to its former glory. 

“We can never absolve the injustice inflicted upon the Black community from what happened to MPBC but we can set the tone and example for our community. This is a way to do that,” Roem said.

If anyone wants to donate, they can go to Mt. Pleasant’s GoFundMePage.

© 2020, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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