HEMPSTEAD, Texas – Long-standing concerns over the maintenance of a city-owned, historically Black cemetery in Hempstead have reignited a debate over racial equity when it comes to municipal resting places.
“It is not equitably kept up,” said Dr. Walter Pendleton, touring a field of headstones and history at Hempstead Oakwood Cemetery, one of two historically Black cemeteries owned by the city.
Burials at the site date back to the early 20th century.
The city of Hempstead owns and operates four municipal cemeteries: Hempstead Cemetery, Hempstead Jewish Cemetery, Hempstead Houston Cemetery, and Hempstead Oakwood Cemetery.
The latter two historically served as resting spaces for Black residents and were once legally segregated. While that’s no longer the case, Pendleton and others argue they have not been maintained as well as Hempstead Cemetery and Hempstead Jewish Cemetery.
Drainage concerns, a lack of fencing around the site, and a lack of lighting are three reasons why the cemetery needs attention, according to DeWayne Charleston, a Hempstead resident,
“You can see how this is flooded right here,” Charleston said, referring to waterlogged patches throughout the site.
While heavy storms have made for saturated grounds throughout southeast Texas, Charleston, Pendleton -- others said flooding at Oakwood is bad because there isn’t a drainage system and nowhere for the water to go.