Chesapeake, VA
English & Journalism


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About Me

East End Cemetery

March 26, 2017

For our community service project this semester, Dr. Cade arranged for my fellow Oliver Hill Scholars and I to spend part of our day helping restore East End Cemetery, a historically African American burial ground here in Richmond. It’s been in use since the late nineteenth century. Attributable at least in part to racial discrimination, the cemetery was neglected by city authorities, and is overgrown with brambles and weeds and vines, so many headstones are completely hidden. Restoration efforts began in earnest only four years ago.

I can personally attest to the importance of tidying up the cemetery. As someone obsessed with his own family history (if you ever get to know me, I will eventually bring it up), I’ve visited quite a few cemeteries in Chesapeake and southwest Virginia in order to find the final resting places of my relatives. Headstones can provide details such as date of birth and spouse name that’ll help a dabbling genealogist dig up more facts. And it’s simply worthwhile, I think, to know at least a little bit about someone so indispensable to your being as a great-great-grandmother. Volunteers upload photos and transcriptions of headstones to FindAGrave.com, which is an incredible resource for people who want to research their family but can’t hoof it to the actual location. Further, I can’t help but ponder how much I would like my name to be remembered in some capacity — such is the right of all people, isn’t it?

We had to be up early for breakfast at 8 AM, during which we were briefed about exactly how the service would go.

Next, we drove over to the cemetery in a couple of buses. We donned gloves, picked up shovels and shears, and set to work. Our task was demanding. The plants had been free to cover the graves for decades, and they were stubborn. Much of it was poison ivy so thick it had to be cut instead of yanked out of the ground. We had to especially careful not to let that touch our skin. As we labored, we dumped the detritus into bins or onto a wide tarp, which we then folded and carried a ways to dump into a huge pile.

Taxing though it was, clearing our spot of the cemetery was very satisfying. Kind of like when you tidy up your room, you know? Some of the others hit the jackpot — they actually uncovered a headstone that had been hidden under the brush for God knows how long.

I’m immensely grateful to have been part of the effort to restore East End Cemetery, and I’m considering returning to help out a bit when I can find the time. It’s very rewarding and constructive work.

Call me Hunter, or the chosen one, or Chuck Norris, or the Lone Wanderer from Vault 101, or anything else that's awesome because it would really boost my self-esteem. However you choose to style me, know that my intention is to give you a firsthand impression of life here at the University of Richmond. Late study nights, Saturday evening shindigs, extracurriculars, that sort of thing.

And yes, it has occurred to me that this is an About Me and I've neglected to tell you much about me. So I'm from Chesapeake, Virginia, a place just south of Norfolk that's large enough to be a county but isn't because reasons. There's not much to do in Chesapeake other than going for a dip in the Great Dismal Swamp (ill-advised) or head to a neigboring town to hit the beach, and I think that's part of the reason I spent most of my earlier childhood holed up in my room reading books or playing Playstation. 

I branched out in my high school years, though, and I've developed affinites for genealogy, running, film, and photography. I am not a man of many talents, though among them include the remarkable power to turn my thumb all the way backwards, the ablility to tell you almost everything you'd ever want to know about the Star Wars Expanded Universe (which unfortunately has been declared non-canon, thanks to J.J. Abrams), and the astonishing skill to cook Minute Rice in 58 seconds. My playlist includes mostly oldies, and my favorite movies all came out before I was born. So you might say I'm a bit of a hipster. I've even got my own snazzy red Polaroid camera, which is practically a license to hipster in this day and age, right?

So, yeah, that's me. In conclusion, read on! Hope you enjoy my blog posts!

Why UR?

I'm not a very decisive person. During my senior year of high school, I envied the kids who were certain straight from the get-go where they wanted to go to college. I had applied to several great schools that I thought could offer me a great education, but I had trouble picking which one was the best fit for me. I constantly held debates against myself, weighing the pros and the cons of each school in my head and occasionally and occasionally audibly voicing my concerns a la Gollum: "How about this one?" "No, no, too big. And too far away. Going back and forth to home could prove to be a real bummer." "Good point, but look at their alumni network! They could hook you up with a job fresh out of graduation!" "Ah, true, but check out these student reviews online. You really want to go to a place with this reputation?" "Do you believe everything you read in those reviews?" "Of course I do. They can't put anything on the internet that isn't true." And so on and so on. I still hadn't made a decision by mid-April, so the jury was still out on where I was going just two weeks before the deadline. Pressure from my parents and peers to choose just kept piling on heavier and heavier. Around this time I went to a Richmond Scholars visit, which afforded prospective students who'd been offered scholarships from the University the chance to get a glimpse of life as a student here. The visit was really what sealed the deal for me. The beautiful campus was a joy to explore even in the surprisingly sweltering spring heat. I had the opportunity to sit in on a class, which wasn't very big. Richmond's small class sizes allow for intimate discussions as opposed to drawling lectures and make it rather easy to develop close relationships with professors. I've found that most of them encourage you to meet with them in their spare time, something that might be more difficult to do at a larger institution. While at the Scholars visit, I talked with my host for hours. He gave me a bare bones, down-to-earth explanation of what he thought of Richmond. And I know it's a total cliche, but there's one thing he told me that I really think rings true here at Richmond and life in general: It can be a great and rewarding experience, but only if you put in the effort to make it one. Bottom line, I think Richmond gives students the resources needed to make their college years more than worthwhile, moreso than any other school I checked out. We've got top-notch academics to satisfy any hungry mind, we've got a plethora of extracurriculars to enjoy, tons of chances to broaden our horizons (literally and figuratively), and of course, we've got the chow at D-Hall. All that's really what made me want to spend the next four years of my life here.