At the Jan. 5 McKinney City Council meeting, Beth Bentley announced during public comments her formation of an organization that would document, honor and promote the historical legacies of McKinney’s Black and Mexican communities on the east side of the city.
“There are many of us whose hearts are attached to east McKinney in various ways,” she said at the meeting.
The organization, Legacy Keepers of Old East McKinney, was formed in light of the upcoming redevelopment opportunities coming to the part of the city east of Hwy. 5, including the Tupps Brewery expansion and the new city hall, Bentley said. Legacy Keepers will work in tandem with the city so in spite of the physical changes coming to this part of McKinney, “the heart” remains the same, she said.
“[Change] is happening, so what can we do to preserve it?” she said. “This way people always know what was important to this community, not just to the people of the east side, but to the whole community.”
Legacy Keepers had its first event in early February with a sacred walk at Ross Cemetery facing Old Mill Road near Pecan Grove Cemetery. On the walk, participants were able to learn about some of the persons and families buried in the once-segregated cemetery for Black people. Buried there are former slaves, veterans, professors, entrepreneurs and multiple generations of families, Bentley said. Many of those in attendance expressed it was their first time there, Bentley said.
More events are planned and in the works to continue the mission of preserving and documenting the history of the east side throughout the year, Bentley said, although the event for Feb. 20 has been postponed to a later, unnamed date due to weather conditions.
Jason Hernandez, who is also working on this initiative, has made efforts to restore McKinney’s “Mexican Cemetery” bordering Pecan Grove Cemetery off Hwy. 5. Hernandez has been coordinating volunteers to help maintain the cemetery as it is unclear who owns the plot of land.
“[McKinney] was built off of the blood, sweat and tears of the people who are buried here,” Hernandez said in a 2019 interview. “It is only right to restore it, preserve it and give it the integrity it deserves.”
As McKinney’s east side moves through redevelopment in 2021, Bentley said she will do what she can through Legacy Keepers to help preserve the history and culture of this side of the city.
“We want to bring people together from all walks of life and create a collaborative space to celebrate all cultures within the community,” she said.
The next Legacy Keepers of Old East McKinney event is scheduled for Feb. 27. Legacy Keepers will present blues and gospel music on the Square in Historic Downtown McKinney. Free. 2-4 p.m. McKinney Performing Arts Center, 111 N. Tennessee St. Contact Beth Bentley with questions at 214-498-3540.