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Descendant of African-American woman buried in Zion Cemetery holds memorial

Memorial at Zion Cemetery on 2/17/2022
Posted at 5:23 PM, Feb 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-17 17:55:48-05

TAMPA HEIGHTS, Fla — For seven decades, Robles Park Village has covered up Tampa’s first burial ground for black people. Concrete slabs became the barrier between the living and the dead there. But in 2019, Zion Cemetery was rediscovered.

“I knew about it, I heard about it, I read about it, I thought OK so here’s another injustice that has occurred,” said Jeraldine Williams.

Williams has attempted to speak spiritually to her great-great-grandmother, Anna Wyche, who is buried in Zion Cemetery. She has practiced the MBUTU religion out of Northwest Africa.

“I am 32% Nigerian so I’m figuring it works,” she said with a smile. “I read about the religion and one of the observations is that the ancestors speak to you from the grave. Well, I’ve had interference of course because we might be standing on her and we don’t know!”

Williams started to research her ancestry to learn more about her family tree. She found a 1912 Clerk of Courts record that shows Wysch died March 30th of that year and was buried in late spring.

“She must’ve been a really outstanding woman, I know that she was a cook but she must’ve been more than that because I am her descendant.,” she said. “I look at a glass that’s on the table and it’s at the halfway mark. For me, it’s half full, not half empty. I try to find more to live for rather than reasons to live against.”

It’s why she held a memorial service and wake in her great-great grandmother’s name as a way to remember the sacrifices she made and the pain she endured.

“I want to know, but to know is troubling,” said Williams, as she wiped away a tear. “It’s difficult and I’ve asked my family to come, I’ll ask my friends to come and they have been.”

Williams looks forward to seeing a memorial here at Zion Cemetery.

A master plan for the historic neighborhood includes up to a thousand new homes for families and seniors, as well as a memorial park to honor those buried at Zion Cemetery. The plan includes a memorial for Zion cemetery although details are still in the works.