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Oberlin family denied a burial plot in ‘white’s only’ cemetery

 

Oberlin cemetery is 'whites o

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - An Allen Parish Sheriff’s Deputy died Sunday and when his wife went to meet with a cemetery, she was shocked to hear her husband couldn’t be buried there. As it turns out, Oaklin Springs Cemetery in Oberlin only allows certain races to be buried there.

Deputy Darrell Semien was diagnosed with cancer in December. In the last month and 9 days of his life, Semien talked with his family about burial plans, telling them he wanted to be laid to rest at Oaklin Springs Cemetery because it was close to home.

“It was in their by-laws that the cemetery was ‘white’s only,’” says widow Karla Semien. “I just kinda looked at her and she said ‘there’s no coloreds allowed.’”

“Just blatantly, with no remorse, I can’t sell you a plot for your husband,” says Semien’s daughter, Kimberly Curly.

The President of the Oaklin Springs Cemetery Association, Creig Vizena, outlined the clause in their by-laws, which says “the right of burial of the remains of white human beings...” It’s a cemetery contract which he says dates back to the 50′s.

“It never came up,” says Vizena. “I take full responsibility for that. I’ve been the President of this board for several years now. I take full responsibility for not reading the by-laws.”

The Semien family says the anger they felt from racial remarks combined with the grief of losing a loved one is too much to process.

“There was nothing none of us could do, but we did it,” says Semien. “And to be told this is like we were nothing. He was nothing? He put his life on the line for them.”

“Everybody dies,” says Curly. “They bleed the same. You die. You’re the same color. Death has no color, so why should he be refused?”

The family says they then called around to other cemeteries double-checking if they accepted any kind of body - whether it be white, black, or hispanic.

The Semien’s say the cemetery president attempted to rectify the problem by changing the by-laws. However, they say nothing can change the fact they were initially denied based on skin color.

“I even offered them, I can’t sell you one, but I can give you one of mine,” says Vizena. “That’s how strongly I feel about fixing it!”

Cemetery board members say they will try to make a decision by Thursday night to resolve this issue.

Copyright 2021 KPLC. All rights reserved.

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