See comments from Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers about the issues brought up in this documentary by clicking here. [Commissioner Carruthers was traveling and unable to participate in a video interview.]

See the acceptance letter and application for the inclusion of the African Cemetery at Higgs Beach [including the area of the Little Dog Park] in the National Register of Historic Places by clicking here.

See the Higgs Beach Park Master Redevelopment Plan by clicking here.

Below is a follow-up comment from Corey Malcom, Director of Archaeology, Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society:




17 thoughts on “DO ALL GRAVES MATTER?

  1. Doesn’t “The Blue Paper” remember that Key West’s original name was Bone Island? The native Indians were buried here long before any African slaves. There are probably native Indians buried within 50 ft. of where you are now (assuming that you are reading this in Key West). Why are you getting all upset about the dog park? People are probably pissing and pooping on toilets that are rigth above dead native Indians every minute of every Key West day. Nevertheless, we don’t cry about that. Get over it.

    1. Ben Anders: The Small Dog Park is within the boundaries of a historic cemetery that is registered on the National Registry of Historic Places as the African Cemetery at Higgs Beach. There are 100 graves of young African boys (mostly aged 12-16, some even younger) in the part of the historic African Cemetery that is located in the area of the Small Dog Park. The adequacy of the science and historical research was not questioned by the County – in fact the application to the National Registry was made by Monroe County. The TDC and the City of Key West advertise the area as a nationally recognized African Cemetery. When the King of Ghana came (all the way) to Key West to honor the souls of those dead children he could not quite understand why the sign said, “Dog Park”. It is an international embarrassment to have a County Commissioner and a County administration that finds it “appropriate” to maintain this historic site as a dog toilet. It is incredibly disrespectful to the African American community. This is not just anywhere in Key West where “maybe” someone’s remains are buried. Many people in our community do not want to show disrespect to the souls of those boys or to the African and African American community and many people – including the federal government agents that helped register the area as a national historic place understand the need to honor this important space. Inviting all Key West dogs to pee and poo at that precise location does not fall under the definition of “honoring” the lost souls, our national heritage or the African Americans in our town and elsewhere who are very sensitive to the historic significance of this particular cemetery and its reminder of the cruel things that were done to their ancestors.

    2. So can we assume when you die and get place 6 feet under that you do not care if anyone pisses or shits on your grave ?

      Actually recently I am considering being cremated. This way I do not need worry about what happens to me 200 years after I die. Will say that in time the ground will be used up. After your dead 100 years very few people will care about your grave. My thinking is this is a money maker to sell such a small piece of ground for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. I do own and paid for 6 sites that have a deed. No not likely to be taken care of 100 years after gone.

      It is flat out disrespectful to piss on any grave. You do not want me to catch you doing that to any grave. What is really sad here is they seem to be graves of young black boys. We owe them some respect for the hell they had as a slave.

  2. Well, that sure was a warm fuzzy comfy video. County Commissioner Heather Carruthers, in her historical report, does not come across convinced there are any African slave bones under the little dog park.

    I look forward to attending the next Key West city commission meeting and watching our African-descent city commissioner in the blue paper video, Clayton Lopez, demand the small dog park be moved.

    If Lopez does not do that, I hope Amber is there to use her allotted 3 minutes of closing citizen comments to speak to any topic, to play the Lopez part of the blue paper video to Lopez and the other city commissioners and the mayor and city staff.

    Back in late 2008 and early 2009, I was a citizen member of a “friends of Higgs Beach Committee” co-chaired by a new county commissioner Heather Carruthers and city commissioner Teri Johnston. Heather ran the committee meetings.

    The African graves came up at one meeting. It was not then known for sure there were graves under the ground where the dog park ended up, but it was strongly suspected. One committee member said, so what? It’s only bones. I said, tell that to the blacks in Bahama Village and hear what they think of you. There was talk of using some kind of scanning technology to see what was in the ground.

    That committee was formed for one reason. To redesign all of Higgs Beach Park, the beach side, the upland side across Atlantic Blvd, so no homeless people would be in the park. The committee, including Heather and Teri, were fine spending millions on the redesign,to make it impossible for homeless people be there. That was discussed in the meetings.

    One committee member was outspoken and derogatory of homeless people, ongoing, and I kept telling Heather to check him. Heather seemed unfazed by his ranting, but Teri said enough of that. Yet the fellow kept doing it, I finally told him he reminded me of Nazi Germany.

    I grew tired of the meetings, I was all alone against what they were doing, which would cost millions, and I said in a meeting that I was resigning because I was running for mayor that year, 2009, and I might have a conflict of interest. Teri said I might.

    Just another of many times I first-hand saw how shallow and shape-shifting Key West’s One Human Family mantra really is.

  3. Sounds like a no brainer!!! Move the stinkin dog park or get rid of it! Fence off the burial area. It sounds like important history to me. I know I would like to see history there, not a bunch of dogs pissing all over it.

  4. Desecrating the remains of any human being is an inherent violation of the “species spirit” abiding within our Nature. Not once did the many combat warriors, war weary, hardened and emotionally numbed US Marines under my watch defile a dead body. We searched, went through clothing, pockets, pouches and wallets; looked at pictures and documents; but it was done with a sense of poise, calm and respect to the “spirit”, which had given life to that body only moments before.

    I believe the veil between life and death was extremely thin. And a connection and bond was formed between the living and the dead. To a degree, many saw what might become of them in the mangled and destroyed human forms that laid before them. There were a lot of emotions. One of them was a palpable reverence for the soldiers killed.

    The “hallowed ground” that has been turned into a dog park is a sacrilege. It debases and defiles the Creator, which saw fit to “Birth those Lives into the World”.

    After the Oglala Sioux Chief Crazy Horse was captured and mockingly question by the Army: “Where is your land now”; Crazy Horse pointed to his tribal nation and defiantly replied: “My Land is where my dead lie buried”.

    It’s very simple and it can be no other way; the “dog park land” belongs to the dead men, women and children buried there.

    Crazy Horse might suggest standing and securing that which belongs to your “People”. The ancestors of many present day African-Americans living in Key West are buried beneath the dog park. Everyone knows the appropriate course of action to take. A new and better “dog park” can be located, immediately, for the pet owners.

    I’ve found throughout my life, in all that I’ve done, I must first stand in the good graces of the God of my understanding. After that, for the most part, people were smart enough to get out of my way. For both they and I knew: “If God is with me; who can be against him”.

    “The Lord helps those who help themselves”. Let anyone who makes the mistake of standing in your way; feel what there’re up against.

  5. Borrowing your logic, Ben Anders, Key West should be evacuated, officially declared a burial ground for the real Americans, totally off limits to anyone but real Americans. I nominate you, Ben, and the people who “liked” your comment at the blue paper’s Facebook page, to lead that movement. To aid you and your “likers” getting even more inspired, I suggest you and they take in “Wind River” now playing at Regal Cinema, and get a crash course refresher in what white people did to real Americans and how real Americans deal with bad white people who harm real Americans. Then, take in “Detroit” showing at Tropic Cinema, and get a crash course refresher in what bad white people, including quite a few of our “Founding Fathers” and their descendents, did to African people and their descendents. Looks to me the answer to your penetrating question, Blue Paper Editor, and thanks for this politically blue blazes nuclear report, is the Key West Cemetery is full of bones of dead mostly white people, who were born here or lived a long time here.

  6. Throughout Europe, where land and burial space is also at a premium, people only lease a grave. I visited a cemetery in Salzburg, Austria where after 60 years whatever bones that may remain in a grave are dug up and placed in a pile on the side with thousands of others, and another body is placed in that spot. What about the millions whose bones are stored in the Paris catacombs? Has anyone else also been to the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini in Rome? We already have one tourist attraction devoted to dead slaves. is this all about making another? Let’s not forget the dead, but let’s worry more about the living and not purposely go out of our way to look for new ways to be offended.

  7. I don’t believe in burial. I think occupying a space on this earth after death is selfish. There many ways to Memorial the dead. Remains should be exhumed and housed elsewhere or left with a tribute. Like the military grave site, I find it is a waste of valuable land that could be put to good use.

    1. Do you believe that perception is important and that when there are three cemeteries in the same small town and two strictly forbid the presence of dogs while the third – an African Cemetery- is DESIGNATED as a place for dogs to defecate – that the perception of many – especially those in the black community – is, of course, that this is very disrespectful and that the discrimination is unjustified and hurtful?

      The facts: The area where the “Little Dog Park” is situated has been officially classified by the federal government (since 2012) as a Cemetery of national historic importance. There is evidence that 100 graves lie beneath the ground there. How can our County justify continuing to designate that same area as a place specifically set aside to bring dogs to defecate? Especially when there is a huge empty space just feet away where the same activity could occur without being disrespectful? Did you hear Corey Malcom in the video tell us that a King (from Ghana) had come all the way to Key West to honor those dead children’s souls and that he asked, “Why does that sign say Dog Park?” Are you ready to stand behind your convictions and ask the City and federal government to turn the Peary Court Cemetery into a Little Dog Park? Would that be appropriate while some human remains are still located there? Until such time as all the human remains are exhumed from the site (as you state should happen) is it appropriate to designate the Peary Court Cemetery as a Little Dog Park?

  8. I can deal with unknown misuse of a grave but this seems to be known or very likely to be a grave and should be locked and closed. Perhaps get about 200 people to take turns in blocking the entrance with shifts of about 10 at a time. That will get attention and likely put chief Lee in a very awkward situation.

    First lock it. If the county won’t then please someone buy a lock and do it.

    It either is or is not a grave site and till known Chief Lee is required to stop illegal use.

    Or is this another case of money and corruption.

    Perhaps some don’t care because they were black.

    Remember this when election comes again.

  9. Corey Malcom, from this report, to me it seems close to but not entirely conclusive the remains of African slaves are in the dog park. Certainly, those remains were nearby at one time. This is all so shrouded in antiquity, to borrow from the letter from the Florida Attorney General regarding the US Navy Dockmaster’s letter stating the Navy had dominion over what today is called Wisteria Island, that I do not believe the historical record can be ignored, and given the enormous and very understandable emotional component deeply felt by the city’s African-descent community, if not also by much of the city’s remaining community, I feel the little dog park needs to be moved.

    I saw the new Bruce Lee movie yesterday at Regal Cinema: “Birth of the Dragon”. The dragons were internal, and external. The deep respect for ancestors in old China is a strong current in this film. Another deep current is the western view of martial arts, “kick ass”, was not the view of the old Kung Fu and Tai Chi masters. For them, the discipline was internal development, which sometimes resulted in external combat, but only as a last resort, and even then the mission was to try to transform the adversary, failing at that, the Kung Fu or Tai Chi master had failed.

    The tension in the film centers between Bruce Lee and a Shaolin monk, a true Kung Fu master, who had dishonored himself and his temple by losing his cool in a demonstration fight with a Tai Chi master, who put the monk on the ground, and then the monk got up and launched a potentially lethal kick into the Tai Chi master’s liver, it seemed, and nearly killed him and ended this Tai Chi fighting. There was supposed to be no contact. So, to the States the monk came by boat, to wash dishes in a Chinese restaurant for however long that took to balance his troubled soul.

    Lee thinks the monk has come to rebuke Lee for taking Kung Fu to the west and making himself a big shot on TV and in movies. Lee wants a show down to put it to rest one way or another. The monk wants no part of that. But then, that was in the stars, I suppose, since something like it may have actually happened, and nobody would have gone to see the movie otherwise, to watch the unexpected coming together of Lee and the monk against something both men viewed as greater than themselves needing transformation. That’s the end of my movie review.

    Ben Anders, you say you would like to piss on all the dead Conch graves. I suppose you meant that as metaphor, but perhaps not. Actually pissing on their graves could get you seriously messed up, if you got caught ?. And the karma would get you in any event. I feel from all I have read that you have written in this FB thread that you are sincere. But I also feel this is bigger than you, bigger than me, bigger than anyone in this FB thread.

    The city’s elected mayor and commissioners were elected to govern the city and make the tough calls. Yet, Higgs Beach is county land, and this particular tough call falls on the 5 county commissioners, is my recollection of how it works, after running 3 times for county commission and attending I lost count of how many county commission meetings.

    Even so, I feel it is incumbent on the city’s mayor and elected officials to decide where the city stands, and to do that in a duly advertised commission meeting. And then the mayor and commissioners pass their decision and wishes on to the county commission, who then, at a duly advertised county commission meeting, make the tough call that is theirs to make.

    I had several dreams last night, and a friend of mine had a dream, all pointing me toward taking a different tact in his discussion. We the people can argue this matter until the manatees come home, and still nothing will be resolved. The blue paper did this community a great service by airing this highly-charged situation that’s been smoldering a long time. Smoldering tends to erupt in some way into more than smoldering. Molten lava now is flowing as the result of the blue paper doing its job as journalists are supposed to do. Now let the city and county officials do what they were elected to do.

    Maybe we can speak privately, Ben Anders, about your sentiments involving pissing on Conch graves. I have similar situational but not across the board sentiments, as I have had good dealings with Conchs, as well as not so good dealings. Likewise with non-Conchs. No doubt many in both “species” would like to piss on my grave, but I fixed that by putting into my will that my body be cremated and the ashes spread in places I love in the Keys. Off White Street Pier is one of those places. It’s one of two places I can go on Key West where I feel “outside the dome”. The other is Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.

    The devil in me hopes my ashes going into the sea off of White Street Pier will concoct a “Sloan” homeopathic remedy that will haunt Key West for a long time.

    As for the “little dog park,” there really is such a thing as karma, and this fracas is fraught with it, and when it comes and how it plays out is never known in advance, and what we do here with this, we the people, the city and county commissions, will have consequences for Key West and the Florida Keys for some time to come.

  10. Matters of the soul, which the African slave cemetery is, cannot be quantified in the way how many actually affordable rental housing units are needed, far more than this city and its residents can build, or reducing traffic congestion and parking problems, which seems impossible, for but two real problems the city has. Whereas, it looks like this highly-charged turmoil can be resolved by moving the little dog park into the larger dog park or elsewhere in that part of Higgs Beach, and that will be a win-win. The decision, however, belongs to the 5 county commissioners, and since Higgs Beach lies in Heather Carruthers’ voting district, I hope she will lead the way to making the needed change, even if it means altering, again, the entire remake of that part of Higgs Beach, which was spawned out of the Friends of Higgs Beach Committee Heather chaired starting 2009. It’s time for Heather to put this needed change onto a duly advertised county commission agenda, and for the county commissioners to instruct county staff to move the little dog park to a different part of Higgs Beach.

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