Ten students from several of Dr. Frances Staten’s classes and various majors, including sociology, social work, engineering, criminal justice, drafting design technology and marketing, recently attended a Nationwide Summit on Cemetery Preservation in Nashville, TN. Grambling was extended an invitation to participate in the conference from Jason Church, materials conservator for the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training in Natchitoches. Prior to the conference, Church served as the guest speaker for a Founder’s Day luncheon in remembrance of Charles P. Adams and conducted a demonstration at the Grambling Cemetery – burial site of the founder. These activities were in conjunction with Grambling State University’s ongoing project “Save Our African American Cemeteries.”
The purpose of attending the conference was to acquire knowledge on the preservation and restoration of monuments, tombs and grave markers at the aforementioned cemetery and other rural church cemeteries.
The students were exposed to sessions in such topics, as archaeology, anthropology, mapping and documentation, landscape, engineering, materials conservation and national cemetery issues.
Fiona Francis, a social work major, said,
“The information and skills obtained will be used to improve the ongoing service learning project at the Grambling City Cemetery.”
In the words of Stanley F. Horn, one of the presenters at the summit, “It is important that we preserve our cemetery because here lay the mortal remains of generations of public and private citizens who contributed so much to the establishment and development of our city, state, and country. It is not only our duty, but privilege to maintain it with loving care as a perpetual memorial to those who have gone before us.”
Following the summit, the team visited Tennessee State University (TSU) and its various departments.
Overall, the trip was educational and empowering. Students were exposed to a greater movement involved in cemetery preservation that ties in perfectly with the work Dr. Staten has outlined for them to carry out at the Grambling City Cemetery.
Clifton Gideon, an engineering freshman, said that for him meeting and engaging in meaningful discussion on ideas for improvement of the Grambling City Cemetery with Mary Jablonski, Principal of Jablonski Building Conservation Inc. from New York, was the highlight of the trip.
The practical demonstration of techniques on how to maintain and preserve the tomb stones was also of great interest to Gideon. He learned how to wash away the mold and care for weathered and vandalized tomb stones.
Ayanna Dugas, a sophomore drafting design technology major, said this was her first convention trip at GSU and it helped her conceptualize her involvement in the service learning project. She added that the presentation on African American material culture in cemeteries was the most interesting to her.
Alice Leonce, a senior criminal justice and paralegal student, noted that tombs are representations of loved ones’ stories, who once assisted in the foundation and construction of this generation.
The Research Club and Anthropology class adopted the preservation and beautification project in 2006. Dr. Staten recently introduced “Adopt A Burial Site” as a service learning project for her classes.
The students were required to gather social data from monument, clean up debris, and replace old flowers with new ones.
Replaced flowers in good condition will be placed at the burial sites at rural Black church cemeteries. If you would like to give a monetary gift for the future brick/gated monument for the founder/family, please send donation to Grambling Social Research Club.