Archer cemetery preservation film debuts Thursday

A documentary film that chronicles the preservation of an African American cemetery in Archer debuts Thursday at the Archer Community Center.

The documentary, titled “They Taught Us How to Work, How to Love One Another,” features the Saint Peters Cemetery in Archer. Imani Lee Creative produced the film for the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN), which is working with cemeteries around Florida on preservation projects.

“I would like the general public to know that these places are special,” Michelle Rutledge, resident of Saint Peter and Pinesville neighborhoods in Archer says in a trailer for the film.

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“Our slavery didn’t allow for the history of the enslaved people to be documented,” Rutledge said. “If you can find a place where families are still here, several generations later, that’s special.”

Rutledge said she thinks it’s important for the general public to know about the cemetery and the preservation efforts.

“There’s a little place called Pinesville, Saint Peter neighborhood that are descendants of slaves,” she said. “We’re still here, we’re still contributing to society, we’re still loving and honoring our relatives.”

The documentary was made with the help of volunteers and associates of the Bethlehem Methodist Episcopal Cemetery Restoration Organization, Saint Peter-Saint Paul Community Council and the The Real Rosewood Foundation Inc.

Archer resident Gerie Crawford’s grandfather was born in 1901 and is buried at Saint Peter’s Cemetery. She encourages people to interview their family members and document both the good and difficult memories.

“It’s important for the younger generation to know this history moving forward, because of laws being passed trying to erase the teaching of slavery and other difficult chapters of the past,” Crawford states in the documentary trailer. “That’s the most important thing that we could ever do.”

In June, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed off on legislation that created a task force set to preserve abandoned African American cemeteries. The bill created a 10-member task force that started meeting in August and must submit a report to the state by Jan. 1.

According to the bill summary, the panel will “study the extent that unmarked or abandoned African-American cemeteries and burial grounds exist throughout the state and develop and recommend strategies for identifying and recording cemeteries and burial grounds while preserving local history and ensuring dignity and respect for the deceased.”

The event on Sept. 23 is from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Archer Community Center 16671 SW 137th Ave.

Face masks are required to be worn for the presentation.

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