African American abandoned cemeteries

— Robin Harris
Co-Chair, Green Party of Florida

Black Power is what is needed to ensure black lives matter.  That same power is needed for black deaths to be respected as well.  There are countless African American cemeteries in Florida that have been abandoned.  Completely forgotten.  The physical appearance of most of these neglected sites reflect the defiant attitude Florida has harbored against the African Community.  Torn, ripped, pillaged, and neglected describes the numerous cemeteries of those of African lineage.

Several abandoned African cemeteries and burial sites statewide have been discovered.  For example, in Tampa, Florida graves were found at King High school and MacDill Air Force base.  More astonishing is the Zion Cemetery, the first African-American cemetery recognized by the city.  It also was horribly forgotten.  The cemetery was established in 1901 but deaths were not always recorded.  This was typical because there were no regulations that protected graves for African-Americans .  So it was acceptable for them to be treated as second-class citizens.  Therefore, missing information, bodies, andeven graves have been the end result for the forgotten sites.  The Tampa Bay Times reports, “Nearly 400 people buried in Tampa are missing.”  Its uncertain if they were moved or still buried underneath North Florida Avenue where there’s constant traffic and a public housing complex.

Regrettably, Zion Cemetery is not the only site that’s been rediscovered and abandoned without explanation.  In Jacksonville, Florida historic headstones were recovered by construction workers.  There are many more documented stories of African American cemeteries being left in distress.

After months of these horrible discoveries, volunteers, descendants, and community leaders pressured the Florida Senate to pass legislation create a statewide task force to identify and memorialize abandoned African-American cemeteries.

Senate Bill 220 was initially filed by Senator Janet Cruz.   She had this statement to offer:

“I am honored to have the support of my Senate colleagues in passing this important legislation.  This task force will restore honor and dignity to all those who came before us.  Florida’s history is incredibly unique.  But it has been incomplete for too long.  I am humbled to have the opportunity to advocate for those who have been forgotten from our state’s history and I look forward to seeing all of the great work this task force will accomplish.”

While SB 220 has been filed and has unanimous support in the Senate it must be moved further, yet it is currently stalled.  The Green party of Florida has the opportunity to advance this Bill to full passage.  Please read the Bill’s text and analysis:

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/220

GPFL has proven that we are serious about repairing reprehensible behaviors toward African and Indigenous Communities:

https://www.gpfl.org/legislative/
https://bills4florida.org/

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