OBERLIN, Louisiana — It was a grave insult.
A Louisiana widow was stunned when a small cemetery in her community denied her the right to bury her husband, a sheriff’s deputy, because he was Black and that the burial ground was for whites only.
Karla Semien of Oberlin wrote on Facebook that a woman at the Oaklin Springs Cemetery in southwest Louisiana told her that her husband could not be buried there because it was for whites only.
“She stood in front of me and all my kids wow what a slap in the face. I just can’t believe in 2021 in oberlin Louisiana this is happening,” Semien wrote.
“To be told this is like we were nothing. He was nothing? He put his life on the line for them,” Semien told KPLC-TV on Wednesday.
Days later, the board of the cemetery held an emergency meeting to remove the shocking clause that had been in their sales contracts since the 1950s.
H. Creig Vizena, board president for the cemetery said he was stunned and ashamed to learn that the family of Allen Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Darrell Semien, who died of cancer at age 55, had been told that he could not be buried at the cemetery because he was Black.
“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.”
Vizena said when he told other members about the language, they all agreed it had to be fixed.
He said a relative of his was the woman who told the family about the race clause, and she was “relieved of her duties.”
Vizena said he apologized to the family and offered one of his own plots in the small cemetery, but the offer was turned down. The family said Semien couldn’t rest easily there.
“My dad wasn’t any man, he was a phenomenal man,” daughter Shayla Semien told KATC-TV. “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.”
Vizena said the episode is “a stain that’s going to be on our cemetery and our community for a long time.”