(By Janet McConnaughey for the Associated Press) The board of a small Louisiana cemetery that denied burial to a Black sheriff’s deputy held an emergency meeting Thursday and removed a whites-only provision from its sales contracts.
“When that meeting was over it was like a weight lifted off of me,” H. Creig Vizena, board president for Oaklin Springs Cemetery in southwest Louisiana, said Thursday night.
He said he was stunned and ashamed to learn two days earlier that the family of Allen Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Darrell Semien, who died Sunday, had been told that he could not be buried at the cemetery near Oberlin because he was African American.
“It’s horrible,” Vizena told The Associated Press on Thursday morning. He said the board members removed the word “white” from a contract stipulation conveying “the right of burial of the remains of white human beings.”
“It took more time to keep up with the Roberts Rules of Order” than it did to make the change, he said.
Karla Semien of Oberlin wrote Tuesday on Facebook that a woman at the cemetery had told her that her husband could not be buried there because it was for whites only.
“She stood in front of me and all my kids wow what a slap in the face. I just can’t believe in 2021 in oberlin Louisiana this is happening,” Semien wrote.
“To be told this is like we were nothing. He was nothing? He put his life on the line for them,” Semien told KPLC-TV on Wednesday. She did not immediately respond to a Facebook message from the AP requesting comment.
Vizena said when he told other members about the language, each one said it had to be fixed.
The offensive wording wasn’t in the cemetery association’s bylaws but only in sales contracts used since the cemetery was created in the late 1950s, Vizena said.
People tend to sign such things without reading, he said.
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