South Louisiana Family Distraught After Being Denied Burial Plot In ‘Whites Only’ Cemetery
In a textbook case of insult added to injury, one Allen Parish family is still in utter disbelief after their loved one was denied burial in a South Louisiana cemetery due to the color of his skin.
Darrell Semien was an Allen Parish Sheriff's Deputy who served his community for 15 years. Semien was diagnosed with cancer in December of 2020. Over the final few weeks of his life, he expressed to his family that he wanted his final resting place to be the Oaklin Springs Cemetery due to its close proximity to their family home.
Semien's widow, Karla, says she was shocked when she was told that the Oberlin cemetery only allowed "certain races" to be buried there.
It was in their by-laws that the cemetery was ‘white’s only.’ I just kinda looked at her and she said ‘there’s no coloreds allowed.’
Semien's daughter, Kimberly couldn't believe what she heard. Not only was the racist by-law still on the books, but someone was holding paperwork, upholding discriminating policy in print to deny her family the right to bury their father at Oaklin Springs Cemetery. Semien said her family's anger on top of the grief from losing their father was "too much to process."
Just blatantly, with no remorse, I can’t sell you a plot. There was nothing none of us could do. And to be told this is like we were nothing. He was nothing? He put his life on the line for them.
Our media partners at KATC spoke with Creig Vizena who is currently the President of the Oaklin Springs Cemetary who says while he didn't know about the by-law, but took full responsibility.
The clause in the by-laws states that "the right of burial remains of white human beings..." a part of the cemetery's contract that date back to the 1950s and serves as a haunting reminder of the type of segregation that many had to deal with in the Deep South, long after slavery was abolished.
It never came up. 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. I even offered them, I can’t sell you one, but I can give you one of mine. That’s how strongly I feel about fixing it!
Vizena did reach out to rectify the situation, but the Semien family had moved on, saying nothing could "change the fact they were initially denied based on skin color."
My dad wasn't any man, he was a phenomenal man. He was a police officer in this same community for 15 years. He was denied a place to lay because of the color of his skin.
According to the video report from KPLC below, the employee who denied the Semien request has been fired.