Black Burial Sites In Danger Due To Gentrification

Rows of tombstones in cemetery
Shiavon Chatman
May 11, 2021

Racism and segregation have touched every facet of American life – and death. Burying deceased loved ones is a unique ritual in Black culture and always has been. But some ancestral grave sites are at risk of destruction. Why?

During slavery, Black people buried their own deceased family members where they could, and many even performed African practices during funerals. But unlike white cemeteries, Black people frequently didn’t have funding for upkeep of the burial sites.

Cemeteries were segregated, and didn’t qualify for civil rights protections – so the land was often sold off. A bus depot in Harlem, for example, sits on top of a Black graveyard. Many of these sites are currently being destroyed for golf courses and hotels!

Large sums of money have been allocated to preserve Confederate gravesites over the years, and millions of tax dollars have gone to paying for Confederate memorials. But Black graves of the same time period and later aren’t being supported – so these sacred spaces are left to be gentrified.

When city planners bulldoze graves, it deprives us of our history and connection to our ancestors. Even in death, we aren’t at peace! Burial sites are eternal resting places. We must honor, respect and memorialize our ancestors – and refuse to let their memories be tainted!

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