This new Virginia law helps maintain Black cemeteries: 'It's past due'

This new Virginia law helps maintain Black cemeteries: 'It's past due'
Posted at 9:24 PM, Apr 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-16 21:24:57-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- In Richmond and across Virginia, many historically Black cemeteries haven't been taken care of over the last decades.

Many, like the Evergreen Cemetery in Richmond, are overgrown and unrecognizable.

However, new state law is aiming to help store these sacred places.

John Mitchell is one of many people who are committed to restoring the cemetery.

"The concept of a cemetery is laying someone to rest. When you see what happened to this place, you realize they would not let their souls rest," Mitchell said.

Back in the day, his family helped with upkeep at the cemetery. Now, generations later, he said it's his turn.

"It was crushing that this place looked like a forest. You weren't even able to come out here and see what is here. You knew it was here but you could not find it," Mitchell said.

Thanks to increased funding, awareness and weekly volunteers, the cemetery is 40% reclaimed.

"Even though there is funding allocated from the state, there is so much more funding needed to restore these places to their original pristine," Mitchell said.

As of last week, new Virginia law is in place to further expand funding. It expands the funding of maintenance grants through the Virginia Department of Historical Resources.

"This opens up to not only cemeteries but also cemeteries that were after 1985," Mitchell said. "It's past due. But we want to thank the senators."

Each day of service clears one more piece of land for a loved one.

"I'm seeing people come out here and cry for different reasons now. They may cry because they find something they are looking for. They may cry because they can't find something and now they cry of happiness because they can at least come out here and look," Mitchell said.

There are a number of opportunities if you are interested in helping clean up places like Evergreen. For more information, click here.