Louisiana cemetery apologizes after declining to bury a Black officer due to ‘whites only’ policy

The contract has since been changed and the word “white” has been removed
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A Louisiana widow was stunned when she was denied burial for her late husband due to the cemetery’s ‘whites only’ policy.

Karla Semien, who lives in a town called Oberlin in Louisiana, lost her husband due to cancer this month. Mr Semien was 55-years-old and had worked as a local sheriff’s deputy in Oberlin.

In a post on Facebook, Mrs. Semien wrote that she went to Oaklin Springs Cemetery to pick a plot for her late husband’s burial only to be denied on the basis of his race.

“I honestly can’t believe this just happened” she wrote. “I met with the lady out there and she said she could not sell me a plot because the cemetery is a whites only cemetery” reads the post.

“She even had paperwork on a clipboard showing me that only white human beings can be buried there” Mrs. Semien wrote on Facebook.

This is the image of the old contract from the Oaklin Springs Baptist Cemetery Association, indicating that they bury the “remains of white human beings” (Photo:  courtesy of CBS)

The board of the cemetery held an emergency meeting a few days after the incident and decided to remove the whites-only provision from its contracts.

“When that meeting was over it was like a weight lifted off of me” said H. Creig Vizena, the board president of the Oaklin Springs Cemetery, on Thursday.

Vizena told The Associated Press that he was stunned and ashamed when he found out that the family of Sheriff Deputy Darrell Semien had been denied burial at the cemetery due to his race two days earlier. “It’s horrible,” he said.

Vizena told the news agency that he was on his way home from work on Tuesday when he found out what had happened through a deputy who knew Semien.

Since then, Vizena said he apologized to the family and even offered a plot of his own in the cemetery, however Semien’s family rejected the offer and said he would not be able to rest easily there. 

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has been growing and drawing global attention ever since it first started a hashtag in 2012 following the tragic shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

The group continues to remind us about the importance of equality and how pervasive systemic racism is in different aspects of our society, and very much still exists.

The hashtag #BLM has been used globally by many to show solidarity with Black people. In fact, the movement was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize just last month.

 

Featured Image: Courtesy of Karla Semien

Wiki Production Code: A0546

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