AUSTIN, Texas - A celebration of Evergreen Cemetery, Austin's first city-operated Black cemetery, took place Sunday afternoon. The cemetery was vandalized earlier this week.
Organizers of the event said its purpose was to reclaim the cemetery as a space of “peace, gratitude, and reverence for Black lives.” “In Austin, when something happens to some of us, it happens to all of us,” explained organizer Steven Brown.
The event featured music, horses, flowers, and balloons. “I truly believe that [the vandal or vandals] were waiting for the community to react in just total grief and mourning. But, we didn't want to give them the benefit and the pleasure of mourning. We wanted to celebrate, uplift our ancestors,” said Brown.
Brown’s great grandmother and his grandfather are buried in the section of Evergreen that was vandalized, but their gravesites were not impacted.
Brown was raised in his great grandmother's home. She passed away when he was 17. The family did not have enough money to pay for a headstone. “As soon as I started making some money, ten years after she passed away the first thing I did was purchase her a headstone,” he said.
He explained, “when someone works hard and they're able to purchase a headstone so that they can have a place to visit with their loved ones and it's desecrated like that -- it really starts the healing process over again.”
Cathie Simpkins understands the feeling, as her grandparents' headstone was vandalized. She says they were “incredibly sweet” people. “I was just hurt,” she said.
Still, Simpkins says she is choosing to take the “high” road, responding to the vandalism with love as her grandparents would. “My assumption is this is probably something children would do, and [my grandparents] would have been the type of people that would have fed them, clothed them, gave them gifts at Christmas.”
Austin Police say this is an ongoing investigation and are asking anyone with information to contact Capital Area Crime Stoppers.