Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Remembering Our Ancestors

Dedication of memorial Wall and Meditation Garden
The Chinese Historical Society of Southern California asked to see the site at the Los Angeles County Crematorium where almost 200 graves were unearthed after learning that an old Chinese cemetery had been disturbed from a expose article in the L. A. Weekly. While at the crematorium which is part of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS) they were surprise to learn that grave markers from that old Chinese cemetery were being used to line the driveway leading to the building where the county's unclaimed or indigent bodies are cremated. The Department of Health Services which also oversees the LA County/USC Medical Center was just as surprised and apologized immediately. The  DHS and county Supervisor Gloria Molina held public meetings in Chinatown where they invited the community to suggest ways to remedy this tragic situation. Time had erased the memory of a cemetery for Los Angeles' poor and unclaimed deceased that had existed from the late 1870's. Due to the racism at that time a separate section of this cemetery was sold to the Chinese. By 1923 the cemetery was full with over 13,000 graves including nearly 1,500 Chinese graves.The County decided to no longer provide burials and would cremate unclaimed bodies. Eventually the old cemetery was completely buried with 4 to 14 feet of dirt. A large section was sold to adjoining Evergreen Cemetery including part og the old Chinese cemetery and Chinese altar. This was done in the 1960's without notification to the Chinese community. Some families and family associations learned about these changes during their yearly visit to honor their ancestors. When the MTA Goldline light rail was being planned there was little visable evidence on the grounds of the Crematorium that there was a cemetery at that location. In 2005 while excavating for the rail line more than 187 graves were found and removed. These grave were recently returned to a site in Evergreen Cemetery in front of the Chinese altar.
The community, the Department of Health Services and Supervisor Gloria Molina strongly supported a Memorial placed at the Crematorium as a way to remember this forgotten cemetery for generations to come.
On September 4th, the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California would like to invite the community to join Congresswoman Judy Chu, Assemblyman Mike Eng, the Boyle Heights Historical Society, The Chinese American Museum, the First Taoist Foundation and the Studio for Southern California History to the dedication a the Memorial Wall and Meditation Garden. The program will be from 10 am until 12:30 pm at which time a light lunch will be served. The program will consist of a special Chinese traditional blessing for the spirits of our ancestors. We will also hold a multi-faith prayer ceremony for the 131 recently reburied ancestors who had been removed from their graves during the construction of the Gold line..

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