Even ghosts struggle in ghetto

This plaque from 2012 arrived about 50 years after the cemetery was forgotten.

Last week I visited a haunted housing project in a lower-income neighborhood of Miami. The strange setting is the subject of August’s Park Patrol column, which will be posted within the week at www.biscaynetimes.com. Not technically a park, the private property’s managers have pledged not to re-disturb the dead on these two acres of grass (in Miami’s concrete jungle, that’s a park!).

The forgotten Lemon City Cemetery for black residents of early Miami, many from The Bahamas, was discovered in 2009 when construction began on the property and bones were unearthed. Stop the bulldozer! The discovery led to a historical scavenger hunt, legal battles, and eventually a settlement to reinter the bones and create a memorial to the forgotten dead–not by the city but by the developer. The City of Miami had claimed amnesia about the cemetery’s existence. By allowing it to remain private, develop-able property, the city seems to be saying that it could care less.

The Lemon City Cemetery Memorial lists the names many of early Miami's black residents.
The Lemon City Cemetery Memorial lists the names many of early Miami’s black residents.

It reminds me of the ancient Tequesta Indian bones discovered in the downtown financial district of Brickell, discovered in 2005 during a condo’s construction, which were reinterred in a small park without the benefit of a plaque (I covered it a few years ago as part of the Miami Circle scandal of unmarked graves). This year a petition has been filed to name the area an official historic park of the city.

Guess what–the Lemon City Cemetery beat them to that punch and got that designation due to the persistence of a community activist (get details in my upcoming article).

It is strange to think that dead people are buried underneath your subsidized housing development or high-class condominium, but they certainly could be. Glossy real estate brochures don’t try to sell that feature (inhabited by 23 ghosts!) and it seems that whole cemeteries can be forgotten.

Hardly recognized in life, the poor and landless dead get erased by concrete over their final resting places. Or do they rest? These two examples show that some forgotten spirits keep fighting to live again.


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