RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) — As work continues to restore and preserve Evergreen Cemetery’s thousands of African-American graves, custodians are seeking to interest HBCU fraternities and sororities in maintaining the graves.
While volunteers from these organizations have given their time to this cause in the past, the cemetery seeks to keep groups committed to preventing the sites from falling into disrepair again.
The Divine Nine Initiative program will begin later this year, but organization is already ramping up.
“Whether physical or spiritual, we have an obligation to take care of my brother. Are we my brother’s keepers? Yes, we are,” said Tyler Parker, with Alpha Phi Alpha.
Alpha Phi Alpha is the nation’s oldest African-American fraternity with deep roots in Richmond.
“Eugene Kinckle Jones was born here in Richmond and is what we call a gem of our fraternity and one of our founders,” Parker said.
Alpha Phi Alpha members rooted around the final resting place of the Jones family. His parents were both educators from Richmond.
Jones himself then left the city to become a leader of the National Urban League to fight against social injustices.
It’s a site Parker says he didn’t realize was in Evergreen until he found it in disrepair in December.
“I did outreach to the brothers and told them the grave was here and the outpouring of wanting to take care of it was immense,” Parker said.
Alphas from various Commonwealth chapters showed up on Saturday to ensure the site remained well maintained, such as Dennis Winston who joined the organization in 1969.
“So I could say I’m a pretty seasoned veteran of the fraternity,” Winston said.
Brotherhood members like John Neal led the next generation of Alphas like his son to pay homage to the past.
“So he could be part of the community service that we do and rub shoulders with Alpha’s brothers and maybe one day he decides to join Alpha,” Neal said.
Parker says the fraternity will maintain Jones’ family graves while bringing attention to their contributions to Richmond.
“We also submitted a request for a Virginia historical marker,” Parker said. “So hopefully things will go well with that, and hopefully we can find a marker for them.”
Parker said he should hear about his candidacy from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources later this summer.
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