Project 80 Roots: Girl Scout beautifies historic African American cemetery for Gold Award

Story by Charilyne Rojas. Photos provided by Victoria Myers.

A local Girl Scout has taken it upon herself to beautify the Champion-Macedonia Cemetery in Lewisville, Texas. This historically African American cemetery dates back to slavery and contains the graves of the city’s Black pioneers, including some of the area’s first doctors, dentists, and community leaders.

Victoria Myers, Girl Scout and founder of Project 80 Roots.

“It doesn’t take a genius to do a project like this or to change the world,” says Girl Scout Victoria Myers on how anyone of any age can make a positive difference in our communities. Victoria spearheaded this project for her Gold Award, the highest achievement within the Girl Scouts.

The name “Project 80 Roots” holds significant meaning. Victoria says that she chose the number “80” because the cemetery was originally purchased for 80 acres. Since then, it has significantly decreased in size and has moved because Lake Lewisville was built. 1880 is also the death date for the first individual buried there.

“I chose ‘Roots’ because I also want to uncover the information of the people buried there, especially those who were slaves or born into slavery,” Victoria explains. “I thought it would be really cool to find out where they lived, if there were plantations in the area, and draw some connections through their lives. I’d like to uncover some of that history that has been buried.”

In its original state, the cemetery was overgrown with natural decay and filled with leaves, dead trees, and unmarked graves. Beyond that, it was difficult to locate the cemetery as it was hidden behind an auto shop and blocked by other warehouses, making it hard to see from the highway. Victoria’s goal is to have benches, light posts, an archway, fairy lights, and black rod-iron fencing. The estimated cost of her revitalization effort is at least $60,000.

Victoria began her Girl Scout journey as a Daisy in kindergarten and believes Girl Scouts build courage, character, and leadership in our communities. Victoria exemplifies that as a senior at the Townview School for the Talented and Gifted in Dallas ISD, where she is no stranger to dedication as an athlete, violinist, and 2023 Bezos Scholar.

Victoria connected with her local chapter, Troop 2477, through her church in Richardson over thirteen years ago. Recently, the troop completed its Silver Award by collecting menstrual products and 1000 books to build a library in Uganda. This project sparked her interest in pursuing the distinguished Gold Award.

As Victoria writes in her appeal letter, every Girl Scout has the opportunity to complete an individual, sustainable, and impactful Gold Award on any topic in their high school years.

“It has to help the world somehow. I had a hard time picking something,” Victoria explains. “I wanted to do something with climate change or nutrition at first, but after discovering the cemetery on the news, this project was so unique that I thought this should be my Gold Award.”

Victoria was inspired by a news story that featured Jackie Shaw, a local advocate, activist, and author, who is also now Victoria’s sponsor for the project. Jackie led the first cleanup of the cemetery in honor of Martin Luther King Day in 2022 with an overwhelming response of 300 volunteers. Victoria and her mother had no idea a cemetery like this existed.

“I go to church, so every Sunday, I pass by the Restland Cemetery, where my grandparents are buried,” Victoria says. “I could visually see the difference between the green grass, little pond, and benches at the Restland Cemetery compared to the dirt and leaves at the Champion-Macedonia Cemetery.”

Victoria shares that how little she knew about the history of the cemetery is what piqued her interest in pursuing this project.

“There’s a big difference between how these cemeteries look visually, so there has to be more under the surface that we don’t know,” Victoria says. “I found out it’s because of the history. It’s an African-American/slave cemetery, which is likely why it’s been neglected, and people don’t know much about it. Now, I can only guess how many individuals might have been covered up by the concrete at the auto shop, or graves with headstones that got washed away in wind or rain. Those unknown mysteries are what caught my eye.”

Victoria says that she used Google to locate Jackie and Westside Baptist Church, the organization involved with the cemetery. She connected with them and learned their major needs were benches, lights, and a fence. The next step from there was trying to figure out what was possible.

Originally, Victoria had hoped the cemetery would get green grass. She would discuss this with people, and they would tell her it was not possible because the cemetery was built on a slope so that the rain would wash away the seeds. She also wanted fairy lights, not light posts, but there was no infrastructure for electricity in the location, so she needed to find another way to do the lights.

The good news is that Victoria is a Girl Scout, so she is not easily deterred.

“These hiccups and making the outline for the project is what I spend a lot of time on. But as I kept talking to more people, they helped me realize I can still plant fast-growing seeds, get solar-powered lights, and a black iron fence.” Victoria notes, “You have to build a team and network with people and find people who are interested in helping you. It involved a lot of communication and talking to the right people.”

Since June 2023, Victoria has been focused on fundraising for Project 80 Roots. Most of the funds will go towards the fence. In November and December 2023, she coordinated and hosted a clean-up with over 100 volunteers to gather trash and leaves from the cemetery. Many who showed up those days were Lewisville High School students.

Victoria hopes to finish her project by April 2024, and for others to support and carry on the legacy.

“Many slave cemeteries around the country are poorly kept and unpreserved, but very rich in history. Each buried individual has a direct link to this country’s past of slavery, and yet the cemeteries don’t receive enough proper care. I want to ensure the Champion-Macedonia Cemetery is well-kept and beautiful for many years to come,” Victoria says.

Victoria encourages those who want to help support her project to consider donating, participating in a clean-up, or following and sharing social media posts at @project80roots.cmc.

Due to Girl Scout guidelines, only physical checks can be accepted for donations. If you would like to help Victoria beautify the Champion-Macedonia Cemetery, please make your check payable to Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, with the memo: “For Victoria Meyers’ Slave Cemetery Gold Award Project” and mail it to PO Box 110960, Carrollton, TX, 75011-0960.