A Black Family In North Carolina Wants People To Stop Illegally Dumping In Their Family Cemetery

Downtown Fayetteville in Cumberland County, North Carolina

The Hodges are one of the first Black families to own land in Cumberland County, NC, and they want people to stop illegally dumping in their family cemetery, “where both veterans and Black people born during slavery are buried,” ABC11 reports.

The Hodges family acquired this land in the early 1900s, and has been using this site to bury their family members since the 1910s.

Ken Slankard’s wife is one of the Hodges, and he is heartbroken over the trespassing and disrespect occurring on the family’s sacred burial grounds.

“Illegal dumping and littering throughout is causing problems because the trash ends up in the fields, the trash ends up in the cemetery,” said Slankard.

Cheri Leach, another member of the Hodges family said, “They can take whatever trash they want, dump it back there, and no one will see them.” She said that some of the dumpers may have been unaware about the graveyard, but “[s]ome people don’t care that there’s a graveyard there…It’s disgusting.”  

This is emblematic of a larger environmental justice issue. As one geographic journal article posits, “[a]ctivists and scholars often describe environmental racism as an immoral and illegal dumping of toxic waste into poor, Black, and people of colour communities.”

The City of Houston recently reached an agreement with the Department of Justice over the city’s “response to illegal dumping in Black and Latino neighborhoods.”

The Hodges family believes people are choosing to dump on the graveyard “to avoid paying at the county dump” and want “Cumberland County to stop people from illegally dumping and to invest in more sanitation sites.”

“The county commissioners are more engaged with what’s going on in Fayetteville instead of taking care of the entire county,” continued Slankard, who brought this issue in front of a county commissioners meeting earlier this month. “They need to refocus on what’s important and that is your constituents.”

In addition, the Hodges family is attempting to have their family gravesite become “historically recognized.”

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