“He volunteered to be an advisor because he comes to the cemetery a lot to visit his great grandfather” and other relatives who are buried here, said Vanessa Gray, president and founder of the non-profit society. The other four society advisors are Kim Harker, Sharon Butler, Johnnie Lamons and Fran Burns. Burns and Lamons also have relatives buried in the cemetery and Butler is Gray’s mother.
On April 21, Basha Jordan broadcast two live video interviews on his Facebook feed “calling on the community to come together and support the efforts Gray and the non-profit society she established to care for the property.”
You can view the video where he interviews Gray here: facebook.com/basha.jordan/videos/10213469434757149/.
In the second video, Jordan interviews Butler and Toni Clair Carcione, society treasurer: facebook.com/basha.jordan/videos/10213468959345264/
Established in 1926, the Lincoln Cemetery is located at 600 58th St. S. in Gulfport and is a historically black graveyard located near Gray’s home.
Part of the society’s restoration efforts is to clear out the brush and debris, which may uncover previously unknown grave markers.
In one of the videos, Jordan says, “There are different nationalities buried out here.” Gray confirmed and said, “There’s a 13-year-old Asian boy.” And, Jewish and Native American people.
“God is working here to make it a better place for all of us,” said Jordan. “There was nothing done for years” regarding maintenance until Gray began her restoration and maintenance effort in December 2015. “I would encourage African Americans, whites, Jews, gentiles, Koreans, I don’t care who you are to come out and help us to keep this place neat and clean.”
According to a Wall Street Journal news story dated April 17, 2017, “Gray obtained a deed to the whole property from the cemetery’s former owner. The restoration turned into threats of litigation as a potential legal battle has begun to brew over the cemetery’s fate. Greater Mt. Zion AME Church, a black congregation in St. Petersburg, is contesting Gray’s ownership.”
The two sides have retained lawyers and say they are prepared to go to court.
In the meantime, regular monthly clean ups continue and people can get involved as volunteers or by becoming members of the society. To find out more, call Gray at 727-280-6635, visit the society’s website at lincolncemeterysociety.org or their Facebook page: facebook.com/Lincolncemeterysociety.
Memorial Day Celebration Will Feature Dr. Jordan, Jr.
As part of the total of 6,714 people buried at Lincoln Cemetery, 247 are recorded as military veterans, said Gray. One significant find was uncovered last year when the long lost marker of John W. Sharder, a Civil War veteran, was found during a cleanup after being lost for over 50 years.
“Memorial Day is a special day set aside to remember all of those who have fought for our freedom so that we may now pursue our happiness in a free yet united nation,” said Gray in a society press release dated May 23.
The society will be hosting a ceremony at the cemetery at 1 p.m. on Monday, May 29, which is Memorial Day. Jordan will give the invocation. Gray will provide a brief history of the cemetery.
Members of the Gulfport American Legion Post 125 will be placing flags at the sites of those fallen veterans immediately following the opening statements and invocation. Following tradition, members of the military who have served in the same combat zones will place honor pennies on graves.
Refreshments will be served and several members of society will be on hand to answer questions.