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College Hill Cemetery dedicated with memorial marker

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Posted at 5:03 PM, Jun 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-17 18:17:02-04

TAMPA, Fla. — It’s an issue that’s been highlighted recently here in the Tampa Bay Area: erased cemeteries, their re-discovery, the fight to preserve them. On Friday, one cemetery received a special dedication, while advocates shared the progress in addressing the problem.

Angela Alderman says a marker now unveiled in Tampa symbolizes the tombstones that aren’t there.

“The majority were African American and Cuban that were laid to rest there,” said Alderman.

On Friday, Alderman alongside local leaders led a memorial marker dedication in remembrance of those buried within College Hill Cemetery founded in 1889.

It’s personal for Alderman because her great uncle was buried there in 1917.

“He’s my legacy, he’s my heart, and he’s a part of what I am. He’s a part of me, so it was very, very emotional to see this take place because it’s not just about him,” said Alderman. “There’s 1,200 other people buried with him, and they had families that loved them that would come out and visit their graves and honor them and bring them flowers or go spend time with them, and that unfortunately over time, either it was abandoned or just forgotten.”

“It is not a unique problem, nor is it a problem that is separate and distinct from other patterns of erasure that we see nationwide,” said Kaleigh Hoyt, Creative Director of the Black Cemetery Network.

The Black Cemetery Network is a national network to connect researchers and concerned citizens working to preserve historical Black cemeteries. The network just marked its one year anniversary and has 57 sites registered nationwide.

“It speaks to our shared humanity in acknowledging not just the stories of those that have died, but memorializing them and honoring them in a way that restores dignity to the spaces they were buried,” said Hoyt.

Hoyt explained these rediscovered stories are often entangled in systemic acts of erasure, reminding us the history that lies at these sites is important to us all.

“People should care because Black cemeteries are Black history, and Black history is American history,” said Hoyt.

Advocates and family members continue to take these important steps, all in an effort to preserve, protect, and honor the lives of those who came before.

“These people should not be forgotten, and maybe through this, we can learn from the past mistakes made, and for the future never, ever repeat this,” said Alderman.