A Louisiana cemetery barred the burial of a Black sheriff’s deputy last week because of its “whites-only” sales restriction.
The widow of Darrell Semien, who died last Sunday, was stunned to learn that Oaklin Springs Cemetery in Allen Parish had such a policy that dated back to a 1950s sales contract.
“Wow what a slap in the face,” Karla Semien wrote in a Facebook post:
Nearly a quarter of the residents in Allen Parish are Black.
When Karla Semien and her children went to the cemetery to pick out a plot, the saleswoman “just looked us cold in the face, and straight-up said, ‘I can’t sell you a plot,’” daughter Madison told local ABC affiliate KATC-3 TV.
The saleswoman also reportedly said that the graveyard was not for people of color.
“It’s a white human being-only cemetery,” Madison’s sister Shayla said.
H. Creig Vizena, the board president of the cemetery, told The Associated Press that he was stunned to learn Semien was denied burial. He also said he had fired his 81-year-old aunt, the salesperson who had turned away the Semiens.
“I’m still very ashamed of what happened,” Vizena told KATC-3. “Who wouldn’t be?”
According to KIRO-7 TV, the cemetery board held an emergency session Thursday evening and voted to jettison the whites-only restriction.
Vizena said he also apologized to Semien’s family and offered one of his own plots, but the family rejected his offer.
“My dad wasn’t any man, he was a phenomenal man,” Shayla told KATC-3. “He was a police officer in this same community for 15 years. He protected the same people that denied him a place to lay eternally because of the color of his skin.”