A “sacred site ceremony” was held Saturday, beginning with a march from English Park to the defunct Chattahoochee Brick Co. in northwest Atlanta.

Organizers of the gathering said it aimed “to claim and consecrate the grounds where our ancestors suffered, bled and died working under ‘slavery by another name,’ the horrific convict lease system.”

The large site, located near the Chattahoochee River just north of Bolton Road, once belonged to the Chattahoochee Brick Co., which used inmates from Georgia’s prisons to perform backbreaking labor. The inmates, who were leased through a state-run system operated from the 1860s until the early 1900s, suffered and some even died on the job from abuse and a lack of care.

In February, Norfolk Southern announced it was abandoning its plans to build a rail terminal on the land. The rail company’s decision came days after the city of Atlanta took legal action to stop Norfolk from developing the land. That news also drew cheers from nearby residents who have pushed for years to prevent development on the historic land.

Saturday’s ceremony included metro pastors as prayers were held as part of the remembrance in addition to consecration of the grounds where people had lost their lives in the convict lease system. A cross bearing the names of the victims was erected as a tangible reminder.

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Participants attend a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost at the former Chattahoochee Brick Company. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials, and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Participants attend a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost at the former Chattahoochee Brick Company. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials, and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

A Kente cloth, a traditional African garment, hangs on a cross that bears the names of victims who died while serving in the convict lease program at the Chattahoochee Brick Company. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials, and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
A Kente cloth, a traditional African garment, hangs on a cross that bears the names of victims who died while serving in the convict lease program at the Chattahoochee Brick Company. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials, and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Names of victims who died while serving in the convict lease program at the Chattahoochee Brick Company are listed on a participant's shirt. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Names of victims who died while serving in the convict lease program at the Chattahoochee Brick Company are listed on a participant's shirt. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Event facilitator Derrick Boazman, host of WAOK 1380 News and Talk, addresses participants gathered at the site of the former Chattahoochee Brick Company during a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during the period the company used the convict lease system. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Event facilitator Derrick Boazman, host of WAOK 1380 News and Talk, addresses participants gathered at the site of the former Chattahoochee Brick Company during a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during the period the company used the convict lease system. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Participants raise a cross that bears the names of victims of the Chattahoochee Brick Company’s convict lease system during an event to commemorate the lives lost during the period the company was in business. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials, and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Participants raise a cross that bears the names of victims of the Chattahoochee Brick Company’s convict lease system during an event to commemorate the lives lost during the period the company was in business. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials, and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Peachtree City residents Abdou Bah (left) and his daughter Saratou Bah (right) march with other participants as they walk along Bolton Road to the site of the Chattahoochee Brick Company during a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during the period the company used the convict lease system. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials, and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Peachtree City residents Abdou Bah (left) and his daughter Saratou Bah (right) march with other participants as they walk along Bolton Road to the site of the Chattahoochee Brick Company during a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during the period the company used the convict lease system. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials, and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Participants walk along Bolton Road to the site of the former Chattahoochee Brick Company during a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during the period the company used the convict lease system. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials, and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Participants walk along Bolton Road to the site of the former Chattahoochee Brick Company during a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during the period the company used the convict lease system. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials, and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Decatur resident Amani Saleem (holding sign "Our Ancestors Matter") marches along Bolton Road to the site of the former Chattahoochee Brick Company during a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during the period the company used the convict lease system. The event also included prayers, community testimonials and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Decatur resident Amani Saleem (holding sign "Our Ancestors Matter") marches along Bolton Road to the site of the former Chattahoochee Brick Company during a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during the period the company used the convict lease system. The event also included prayers, community testimonials and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Participants walk along Bolton Road to the site of the former Chattahoochee Brick Company during a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during the period the company used the convict lease system. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Participants walk along Bolton Road to the site of the former Chattahoochee Brick Company during a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during the period the company used the convict lease system. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

The Rev. Jamal Harris Bryant, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, addresses the crowd gathered at the site of the former Chattahoochee Brick Company during a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during the period the company used the convict lease system. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
The Rev. Jamal Harris Bryant, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, addresses the crowd gathered at the site of the former Chattahoochee Brick Company during a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during the period the company used the convict lease system. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Community representative Gina Bilingsly addresses the crowd gathered at the site of the former Chattahoochee Brick Company during a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during the period the company used the convict lease system. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Community representative Gina Bilingsly addresses the crowd gathered at the site of the former Chattahoochee Brick Company during a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during the period the company used the convict lease system. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Marietta resident Rodney Harris takes a photo at the site of the former Chattahoochee Brick Company during a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during the period the company used the convict lease system. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Marietta resident Rodney Harris takes a photo at the site of the former Chattahoochee Brick Company during a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during the period the company used the convict lease system. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Atlanta residents Mary Yancey (from left), Bobbie Paul and Sharon Harley attend a sacred ceremony at the site of the former Chattahoochee Brick Company. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Atlanta residents Mary Yancey (from left), Bobbie Paul and Sharon Harley attend a sacred ceremony at the site of the former Chattahoochee Brick Company. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Names of the victims of the Chattahoochee Brick Company are seen on a cross carried by participants of a  sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during a period the company used the convict lease system. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Names of the victims of the Chattahoochee Brick Company are seen on a cross carried by participants of a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during a period the company used the convict lease system. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Participants walk along Bolton Road to the site of the former Chattahoochee Brick Company during a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during a period the company used the convict lease system. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials, and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Participants walk along Bolton Road to the site of the former Chattahoochee Brick Company during a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during a period the company used the convict lease system. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials, and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Names of the victims of the Chattahoochee Brick Company are seen on a cross carried by participants of a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during a period the company used the convict lease system. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Names of the victims of the Chattahoochee Brick Company are seen on a cross carried by participants of a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during a period the company used the convict lease system. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Douglasville residents Huntia Perryman (from left), her husband, Dennis, and their granddaughter Jourdan Belton march to the site of the former Chattahoochee Brick Company during a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during a period the company used the convict lease system. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials, and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Douglasville residents Huntia Perryman (from left), her husband, Dennis, and their granddaughter Jourdan Belton march to the site of the former Chattahoochee Brick Company during a sacred event to commemorate the lives lost during a period the company used the convict lease system. The event included a procession, prayers, libations, community testimonials, and site consecration Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Atlanta. (Photo: Daniel Varnado for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

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