Cemetery Cleanup Inspires Hope In Mansfield Community

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NHS members poses with Mayor Michael Evans at the Mansfield Community Cemetery.

Nina Banks, Assistant Editor

Cemeteries and chainsaws. Combine the two words and you have the perfect cocktail for a horror movie bloodbath. But for volunteers at the Mansfield Community Cemetery on Sep. 11, the usually ominous pair represented unity.

The sunny and 75 degree weather contrasted with the mournful 20th anniversary of the 9/11 Twin Tower attacks. Senior Sandi Perez aided in the cleanup with the Legacy National Honor Society. Prepared with gloves and others prepared with chainsaws volunteers set out to cut and remove excess brush and pick up litter around the cemetery.

“Events like these serve as a way to instill pride in our community and its values. Along with bringing people together for one common goal, volunteer events can be a place to form new friendships and strengthen the ones we already have,” Perez said. “This cleanup event brought together people from all backgrounds across Mansfield to keep our town spotless. Following a long year and a half into a pandemic, these large volunteer events serve as a reminder of what people can accomplish together.”

Despite its now good-natured name, the history of the Mansfield Community Cemetery reflects the once segregated past of Mansfield. It was only 11 years ago that a group of Boy Scouts found multiple unmarked graves from the former “Old ‘Colored’ Graveyard”. Since then, the Bethlehem Baptist Church has renovated the cemetery and has attempted to make both sides of the cemetery indistinguishable from the other. Mayor and Pastor from the Bethlehem Baptist Church Michael Evans has been essential to the renovations of the cemetery and attended the cleanup.

“It makes me want to cry. For years we had a fence up dividing Black and Jewish people from the cemetery and that’s hard. After a while, you say “enough is enough,” so it means a lot. It means a lot because you have folks from the community and neighborhood saying lets help folks out over here as well,” Evans said. “But here, the society has gotten older so it would really be unkind, hypocritical for us to say that when they need our help and we have been preaching and teaching unity and community to go tell them to jump in a lake. We are going to work to live up to our words.” 

Though the anniversary of 9/11 is often a somber day of remembrance, Evans takes pride in the sense of community demonstrated by Mansfield residents.

“Seeing all these young people out here, because I’m in my mid-fifties so you all will take this legacy, I hope to God, to take it and press on and move forward with it and never let anybody tell you that you can’t bring folks together,” Evans says. “I don’t care what they say. Well I look at the news, well it’s pretty bad. Ultimately, we really are one nation, I do believe that. ”