Vandals strike historic Black cemetery in Delaware; damage estimated at $25,000

The community's burial ground has been desecrated with litter, paint, and graffiti.
NEWARK, Delaware (WPVI) -- A historic Black cemetery in Newark, Delaware has an estimated $25,000 in damage after vandals spilled paint all over its walkway, broke several areas of the fence, and spray painted graves.

"It's unacceptable," said Pastor Blaine Hackett from St. John African Methodist Church.

St. John Cemetery, about a mile down the road from the historic church, has graves in it dating back to the mid-1800s.

"Most of the old Black community that was once here has been since gentrified. We have maybe three Black churches that are still here in the community," he said.

The community's burial ground has been desecrated with litter, paint, and graffiti.

"I'm not pointing no fingers at nobody. All I do know is we want to restore this historic cemetery to a great resting place," said Hackett, who filed a report with Newark Police Department in September about the paint.

Some of this damage, however, is even newer.

"We put 'No Trespassing' signs all around, they've already tore some of the no trespassing signs down," he said.

It's personal for the pastor too. His family is buried at the cemetery and while surveying the damage, he made a disturbing discovery.

He says his grandfather's headstone is missing.

"I'm just mind-boggled because I've been out here and didn't even notice it until now," he said.

He hopes to find answers as he works to have this sacred ground restored.

"Respect our cemetery as if you had family members here yourself," he asked of the community.

The church says it wants to put Ring surveillance cameras around the cemetery to catch the vandals in the act, but that along with the cost of the restoration is a price the church needs help paying. It started a fundraiser to help with that cost.
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