The last you knew we were still locked out of Love Cemetery -- despite the change in Texas laws precipitated by our struggle for access to Love Cemetery. On March 20, 2011, we fulfilled a promise Doris Vittatoe made to her mother to get back in and clean her grandmother’s grave. Doris Vittatoe, Nuthel Britton, and their grown children cut the ribbon on the gate and led the Marshall, Texas, community back into Love. Ben Galland filmed the re-opening, and I stood by, privileged to be part of this act of “Resurrecting Love Cemetery.” Eight years had passed since March 2003, when Nuthel first took Doris and me and Ben with her to rescue Love Cemetery and her Ancestors there. Mrs. Nuthel Britton, the Keeper of Love, was determined to get back into Love Cemetery before she died. She and Mrs. Doris Vittatoe’s mother, Mrs. Katie Taylor, were locked out for forty years. The trouble started at the height of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s. Mrs. Taylor died during the lockout, unable to get into Love to clean her mother’s grave. It broke her heart, the president of the Love Cemetery Burial Association, Mrs. Vittatoe told me.
There is now a legal agreement between the Love Colored Burial Association and the adjacent landowners that will allow access to the families and descendents of the people buried at Love. Please take a look at our 3 minute video of the celebration, shot by my son Ben Galland, the director of Resurrecting Love Cemetery: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hD9z4Blmxvw
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It indeed took the proverbial "village" for us to get back into Love. Over a hundred people joined us that morning to celebrate the reclaiming and reconsecration of the Burial ground. Rising star Nate Parker of "The Great Debaters" fame (Denzel Washington's movie based on the true story of Wiley's 1935 championship debate team) flew out from Los Angeles with his wife and baby to be with us. Nate's friend and mentor, Brian Favours of Sankofa, an educator, flew in from New York to join us. Wiley College played a big part in helping us get back in to the cemetery that day. Students, including the Nate Parker Scholars, came and worked to help clear years of overgrowth, the Wiley Chaplain coordinated with other local priests and ministers and led us in the service, Wiley Trustees, at least three or four of whom discovered that they have family buried in Love too, were in attendence. Jerry Cargill, another Wiley trustee, was out there for two weekends before, working with everyone. Wiley faculty and administration, as well as their students were part of our effort. That weekend also marked Wiley's 138th anniversary. The local Boy Scout Troop 210 and parents came back to help again as did many friends and relatives. Della Love who deeded the cemetery to the Love Colored Burial Association, has a large family of descendents. Even the Love family didn't know about Love Cemetery, they tell me, untll my book came out. Three younger members of the Love family traveled cross-country to come and pay respects to their common ancestor, Della Love.
Many more deserve thanks and acknowledgement too. I'm on my way back to East Texas in the morning. I've promised to blog from there. I'll leave this entry with a "to be continued."