Non Profit | Fundraising

Home Non Profit | Fundraising

Inside the Effort To Restore Montrose’s Historic African-American Cemetery

By  | Montrose Management District

For decades, Houstonians driving down West Dallas Street between Dunlavy and South Shepherd might have noticed an overgrown, apparently vacant lot on the south side of the street. Neglected by an absentee owner, the 5.5-acre site had become a weed-choked dumping ground, and probably seemed like a prime candidate for development. Few passing motorists would have guessed that beneath the trash and the dense underbrush was one of Houston’s most historically significant burial places.

Founded in 1896, the College Park Cemetery is one of Houston’s three remaining Jim Crow-era African-American cemeteries. (The other two are Olivewood, founded in the 1870s, and Evergreen, established in 1900.) It’s the final resting place of around 4,400 black Houstonians, including Reverend John Henry (Jack) Yates, arguably the single most important black leader in post-Civil War Houston, and the namesake of Jack Yates High School.

As fate would have it, Robert O. Robertson, the man who has spent the past 20 years leading the campaign to restore and beautify College Park, has a personal connection to Yates. Robertson is the pastor of Houston’s Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, which was founded by Yates in 1891 in historic Freedman’s Town (now the Fourth Ward). In the late 1990s Robertson was running a community service program for teenagers on probation. His office was on West Dallas, right across from an overgrown lot, so he decided to put his young charges to work cleaning up the property.

MMD_CMPCementery-21-300x199 Inside the Effort To Restore Montrose’s Historic African-American CemeteryWhen the teenagers began hacking through the weeds, they noticed a tombstone. Then another one. And another one. “When I came across the marker that said Reverend Jack Yates, I got a chill up my spine,” Robertson remembered. “I knew God had led me to that site.” Robertson began taking his probationers to the cemetery every weekend to clear brush and trash, and he started researching the cemetery’s history.

He learned that the cemetery was named for its location across from the Houston Central College for Negroes, Houston’s first black school of higher education. He also learned that interred within its grounds was the president of that college, I. M. Terrell, who went on to serve as president of Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College (now Prairie View A&M) and administrator of the Houston Negro Hospital. Also buried on the grounds is a black Texas state legislator from the Reconstruction era—one of the last black legislators, it would turn out, until Barbara Jordan in the 1960s.

Not long after he began his cleanup efforts, Robertson had to fend off an attempt by developers to deconsecrate and sell a portion of the cemetery. With help from the city of Houston, Bethel purchased the land from its owner in 1998 and later established the College Park Cemetery Association, a non-profit organization that raises money to restore and maintain the property. Thanks to the church’s efforts, in 2002 the cemetery was designated a Texas State Historical Cemetery, which guarantees it can’t be torn down.

MMD_CMPCementery-4-300x199 Inside the Effort To Restore Montrose’s Historic African-American CemeteryToday, the cemetery looks nothing like the trash-strewn lot it used to be. There’s a handsome iron fence dividing it from the street and a shell-paved road winding through the grounds; most of the overturned tombstones have been set upright, and several historical markers provide information about the cemetery. More remains to be done—the cemetery needs a new drainage system, the grounds need to be mowed twice a month, and there are plans for a small prayer garden. The association is also trying to build an endowment to ensure the cemetery is cared for in perpetuity.

More than anything else, Rev. Robertson said he wants Houston to begin giving the cemetery its proper respect. “February is Black History Month, and everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon, but we don’t pay attention to the place where these people are buried,” he said. “We say we honor Jack Yates, but we don’t honor his burial place. Martin Luther King has a beautiful place in Atlanta where he’s buried. But there were civil rights leaders before him—why not Jack Yates?”

College Park Cemetery, 3525 West Dallas Street

Tax-deductible donations to the College Park Cemetery Association can be made at collegeparkcemetery.net or mailed to College Park Cemetery Association, P.O. Box 130037, Houston, Texas 77219

GLAAD Announces Media Awards Nominees

Glaad Media Awards 2016 Nominees

(CNN)GLAAD announced the nominees for the 27th annual GLAAD Media Awards on Wednesday, and for the first time, more than 50% of the English-language nominations are trans-inclusive.

Nominees include Oscar-nominated films like “Carol” and popular TV shows such as “Empire” and “Orange is the New Black.” Streaming services earned a record seven nominations (up from three last year), with Netflix bagging five of those.

The nominees for outstanding film (wide release) are “Carol,” “The Danish Girl,” “Dope,” “Freeheld” and “Grandma.” “Arrow,” “Black Sails,” “Empire,” “The Fosters,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” “Nashville,” “Orphan Black,” “Sense8” and “Shameless” are nominated for outstanding drama series.

Outstanding reality program nominees are “I Am Cait,” “I Am Jazz,” “New Girls on the Block,” “The Prancing Elites Project” and “Transcendent.”

GLAAD — the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization — announced 101 nominees in 20 English-language categories and 46 Spanish-language nominees in 11 categories. Cable networks earned 27 nominations while broadcast networks garnered 18.

“For nearly three decades, the GLAAD Media Awards have propelled inclusion in media and driven LGBT acceptance forward,” GLAAD Chief Executive Officer and President Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “This year’s nominees have raised the bar for creating thoughtful and diverse LGBT images and storylines, deepening audiences’ understanding of LGBT people and accelerating acceptance across the world.”

GLAAD Media Awards ceremonies will be April 2 at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles and May 14 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. For the first time in a decade, the ceremony will be aired on Logo in April.

Houston LGBT+ ‘GAYMER’ Group Wants To Buy You A Drink!

Houston Gaymers- About Magazine

The Houston Gaymers, (one of the communities fastest growing LGBT+ organizations) are in a race and they plan to win it!

Considered the top organization, and the only LGBT+ out of the four competing at OKRA Charity Saloon to take home the bar’s monthly profit.

What’s OKRA you ask? OKRA is made up of a group of restaurant and bar owners in Houston that stand for Organized Kollaboration on Restaurant Affairs. The group is a charitable organization with very specific views on how the industry should operate and engage local communities.

Houston Gaymers are inviting the Greater Houston LGBT+ Community and Organizations, for a gathering at OKRA Charity Saloon this Saturday, January 30th, starting at 4:00 pm!

If the Houston Gaymers win they will use the winnings to keep events free for its nearly 2,000 person membership, as well as to realize its new charity initiative, ‘Project Blue Shell’. This initiative hopes to put games in the hands of sick and bedridden kids at local hospitals (starting at Texas Children’s Hospital) to aid them in their healing and give them comfort in a difficult time.

How does OKRA work?

  • Buy any bar item (Drinks, food, and soda are all valid!)
  • Receive a ticket from the bartender with your item
  • Drop your ticket into the charity bucket of your choice
  • The charity with the most votes at the end of the month wins the bars profits!!

As a bonus, the Houston Gaymers will be offering the first drink FREE to the FIRST 50 attendees! How cool is that? Just find a ‘Gaymer’ in their flashing blue wristband and they’ll get you set up!

Happy Hour runs 4:00PM – 6:30PM, with $3 drafts, $4 wells, and 1/2 price wine by the glass!