Black community leaders and Black-led organizations are uniting to celebrate and highlight the value and significance of Evergreen Cemetery after the site was vandalized recently.
More than a dozen headstones were spray-painted with graffiti at the historical and sacred space. By hosting a community celebration, the group plans to redirect the negative energy caused by the vandalism.
Evergreen Cemetery, built in 1926, serves as a final resting place for nearly 12,000 Black residents, including several African American community and civic leaders. Before the cemetery was established in 1926, Black residents were buried in shared sites.
This horrific act has only brought the Black community closer. We won’t let this, or anything, divide us
“This act of vandalism sent a clear message of disrespect, and we are taking it very seriously,” said Steven Brown via a media release, a fourth-generation Austinite who has family members buried at the cemetery. Brown reached out to the Black Leaders Collective and other groups to organize a positive and uplifting community response. “This horrific act has only brought the Black community closer. We won’t let this, or anything, divide us.”
A community celebration will take place Sunday, Sept. 27, at 3:30 p.m. The purpose of the event is to reclaim the graveyard as a space of peace, gratitude, and reverence for Black lives. Organizers say they want to protect their loved ones buried at the cemetery and show the respect and honor that is due to their ancestors. They also want to use this incident to organize resources and support for future cleanups, additional security monitoring equipment, and funding for a detailed catalog of each of the Black cemeteries in Austin and Central Texas.
The community is asked to line up on the Tillery St. side of the cemetery in their vehicles at 3 p.m. for a car parade that will travel through the cemetery. The car parade will begin promptly at 3:30 p.m. and will be led by a New Orleans style second line. Organizers also encourage everyone to wear a mask during the event to protect against the spread of COVID-19. Donations are being accepted for new masks, hand sanitizer, and water. Those who have family or friends laid to rest at Evergreen are encouraged to gather in groups of five or less around their loved ones’ gravesite. The celebration is also open to all people who want to honor Black lives, said organizers.
“We know it’s our responsibility to protect our landmarks and our cultural heritage. By coming together in this way out of love for our people, we continue to protect and honor our ancestors and build up our community,” said Nook Turner, founder of the Black Austin Coalition, who has long-standing family ties to Austin. The Black Austin Coalition recently completed a cleanup at Evergreen Cemetery, just days before the incident occurred.