I went to Oak Lawn Cemetery on an early Friday morning, May 24th, 2019, with my father, Dennis, to place flags at the graves of veterans. It took about three hours, but we managed to place over one hundred flags, to help assist in the preparation for an event the following day. During the event on Saturday, a respected member of First Baptist Church Mahan, suggested we return to Oak Lawn on Monday, to see and speak with the families that would be there.
Every Memorial Day, we usually place flags at veteran graves in Richmond, Portsmouth, and Norfolk, Virginia, where the known veterans on the paternal side of our family tree rest. In alternate years, we visit the graves of the known veterans on the maternal side in Franklin, Hertford, and Warren counties, North Carolina. It’s always a meaningful endeavor, as the relatively simple act makes us remember that these brave men, as African American soldiers, were fighting battles on two fronts: the stated cause of the war in which they fought, and the ongoing battle against structural and systemic racism. In 2019, being relatively new residents of Suffolk, we decided to focus on Oak Lawn. In this post, I’ll share just a few of the photos I took in what turned out to be a great day for our family, and many African American descendants of Oak Lawn Cemetery.