Volunteers clean up damaged gravesites at historic Black cemetery

Volunteers clean up damaged gravesites at historic Black cemetery

ELSMERE, Ky. (FOX19) -Volunteers started to clean up a historically Black cemetery after it was vandalized earlier this month.

Around 30 gravestones were toppled or spray-painted with anti-government and anti-religious symbols at the Mary E. Smith Memorial Cemetery in December, according to Elsmere police.

Chris Brown, who runs a Tri-State non-profit, says she got a call from the president of the Northern Kentucky NAACP to ask if she could help.

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Brown and independent contractor Charles Griggs began assessing the damage last week and righting some of the wrongs they say were done by the vandals.

“Hate doesn’t win here,” Brown said. “This is a community and we’re going to band together and we’re going to restore this place. We’re going to fix these stones. We’re going to wash off the filthy graffiti that you put on these people’s tombstones.”

Jeff and Tonya Mullins were some of the people who helped clean the gravestones Saturday.

“It’s just something you want to do, a good gesture to try and cleanup, because it’s just the right thing to do to help,” Tonya said.

Brown said that she “believes the cleanup sets an example of how community and unity helps dispel the message of hate that was apparent in the act of desecration perpetrated at the cemetery.”

Detective Eric Higgins said last week that based on the on the type of vandalism, he believes a younger person committed the crime.

“I’m just hoping that people, teach your kids to love no matter what kind of culture it is, Black, white who cares. We’re all in the world together,” Tonya said. “Teach everybody to love each other, to learn more about everybody’s cultures, not yours, but other peoples’ cultures. Just be nice to each other. Teach people to love and not hate.”

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