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Resurrecting Love, the origin story

CHINA REMEMBERS:

 

Resurrecting Love is the independent narrative documentary film about race, reparations, and reconciliation told through the lens of a small East Texas mixed community near the Louisiana border.  The African American members of this community found themselves locked out of their nearly 200-year old ancestral burial ground named Love.  Two of the Black community leaders asked me to join them in getting back into Love as I went back to East Texas regularly to visit cousins.  That was 2003.  Mrs. Nuthel Britton and Mrs. Doris Vittatoe had hit a wall and that wall was white people.  So they asked a white person to join them and that was me.  I was honored, terrified and liberated all at once. I got to name the discomfort of growing up white in America and Christian in Texas. 

I wrote the book, Love Cemetery, Unburying the Secret History of Slaves and published it in 2007.  Publication ignited state-wide public hearings first in Austin in 2008 and then around the State because so many families came forward and testified to similar stories of being locked out, unable to keep up their ancestors graves.  By 2009, the Texas legislature changed the law and surrounding private property owners were liable for fines and penalties if they denied people access to a cemetery.

 

Love follows the real-life drama of a small community of East Texas descendants of people who were once enslaved on the rich cotton plantations that built enormous wealth in the 19th century.  At that time, the elders say, there were fresh spring waters that ran year-round at Love Cemetery, water that flowed into larger nearby streams that emptied into Caddo Lake, fed from the north by the Red River, and emptied into a multitude of bayous and streams that ultimately fed into the Mississippi River and took cotton to the international exchange at New Orleans on flat-bottom paddle steamers and made a handful of East Texans rich before oil ever hit.  Wealth built upon the so-called “free labor” of people enslaved and cotton meant that some Harrison County family’s daughters and wives could go to Paris to shop for ball gowns and wedding dresses.  Some sent their sons to Europe for advanced education. 

When the 1960 Civil Rights movement came to life in Marshall, Texas, the gates to Love Cemetery were locked up and people were suddenly denied access to their ancestors and place of burial since the 1840’s when southerners flocked to Texas.  It was part of the hidden backlash to 1960’s Civil Rights, much of which was around voting.

Mrs. Britton and Mrs. Vittatoe, both of whom had moved away, moved back to the Marshall area and had been largely locked out of their Ancestor’s burial ground since the 1960’s. 

Students at HBCU Wiley College joined us in not only getting back in but in clearing over 40 years of overgrowth that covered the cemetery, and happily, protected headstones, graves, and unmarked burials.  Then, no doubt because of national attention on the celebration that followed, the community was locked out again.

 

LOVE CEMETERY is roughly two-hundred years old.  Currently, Doris Vittatoe, President of the the Love Cemetery Burial Association, does not have a key to roads that access Love Cemetery.  Once the documentary is done in 2023, curriculum development begins.  We are are hoping that legions of young people will be touched by the struggle as we were and cause the honoring of the law.  Then, we can celebrate the return to Love!

 

 

 

People Talk about Love

Bill Moyers: "a riveting story ... couldn't have come at a better time."

Nikki Giovanni: “…a mystery…solved.”

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Sue Monk Kidd: “Racial injustice … calls for particular and concrete narratives of healing.  Love Cemetery is such a narrative …. a moving work of immense social consciousness and spiritual power…”
 

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Nelson Mandela: "If you want to change the world, change education."                                                       

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