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Black Deputy's Family Told Cemetery Won't Bury 'Coloreds'

Louisiana's Oaklin Springs Cemetery updates contract amid uproar
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 29, 2021 8:53 AM CST

(Newser) – As he was dying of cancer, a Louisiana sheriff's deputy told his family the specific cemetery he wanted to be buried in. Allen Parish Sheriff's Deputy Darrell Semien was comforted to know that Oaklin Springs Cemetery in Oberlin was close to home, meaning the possibility of frequent visitors. But following the 55-year-old Black man's death on Sunday, his plan unraveled. Semien's family tells KPLC a cemetery worker refused to sell them a plot, claiming "no coloreds allowed." There was "no remorse," says Semien's daughter, Kimberly Curly. "What a slap in the face," adds widow Karla Semien, per the AP, noting her husband "put his life on the line" for such people. It turns out there was an actual rule against Semien's burial. The cemetery's contract denoted the site for "white human beings" only.

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Creig Vizena, president of the cemetery association, says the contract dates back to the 1950s and has never been an issue. "It never came up" and "I take full responsibility for that," he tells KPLC. He tells the AP that most people sign the one-page contract without reading it. The whites-only provision was removed during an emergency meeting of the cemetery board on Thursday, per KATC. But the family has secured a plot at another cemetery, saying Semien couldn't rest in peace at Oaklin Springs. "It's a stain that's going to be on our cemetery and our community for a long time," Vizena tells the AP, noting he was so upset upon learning what had happened that he offered the family one of his own plots. Vizena’s 81-year-old aunt, who initially spoke with the family, has been fired, per WHBQ. (Read more racial discrimination stories.)

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