On the bright morning of February 12, I drove with my church group to Houston’s first incorporated African American cemetery. We were excited to help clean up the area, called Olivewood Cemetery, which had suffered decades of neglect, for the non-profit organization Descendants of Olivewood, which works to clean, beautify, and revitalize the 6-acre grounds.
Upon reaching the grassy area dotted with trees, our team set to work. We scattered throughout the cemetery with lawn-mowers, tarps, weed-eaters, and other tools. There was debris everywhere: rusted wire, abandoned tile, dry foliage. Carrying all of these unwanted items could be a challenge, so we assembled piles of sticks on tarps and gathered up huge bundles of brush in our arms.
As we worked, the treasurer and maintenance coordinator of Descendants of Olivewood, Charles Cook, guided and encouraged us. Cook also shared bits of the cemetery’s history, as one of his descendants was buried here.
Slowly, the grassy cemetery began to clear, and the pile of collected debris in the Dumpster grew steadily higher. It felt great to care for a cemetery that had been so neglected for many years. Even now, with more volunteers helping at Olivewood, clean-up is a constant process as plants keep growing, tree branches fall down, and other debris gradually accumulates. At the end of our volunteer shift, my church group left tired and happy, knowing that we had filled an entire Dumpster with collected debris and made the cemetery look a bit better than before.
Thanks for reading! If you would like to help at Olivewood Cemetery or learn more about Descendants of Olivewood, please visit the charity profile page here.