Compton woman tries to save abandoned cemetery

A woman in Compton is attempting to save an abandoned cemetery with sentimental value and shares her story. 

"At times when you want to go to your momma, I come to my momma and for some reason, I feel better when I do," says Celestina Bishop during a visit to her mother’s gravesite.

Bishop has several family members buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Compton.

"My family was bludgeoned to death. They found me two days later, I opened the door for my grandmother and she later discovered the four dead bodies," says Bishop.

She was just two years old at the time of the murders. Since then, her grandmother has also been buried at Woodlawn. It’s a place where Bishop feels a connection to her family.

It’s the reason why she took it upon herself to clean up the place which had been abandoned by its owner.

Bishop says, "For the last two years, you would have to hop over the fence or break a lock to get in."

Photos show the grass dry and the weeds up to five feet tall, blocking the tombstones.

"It’s disrespectful to the family members, it’s disrespectful to the deceased," says Bishop.

During the clean-ups, Bishop posted videos on Facebook. 

She says, "People started watching my videos and they started donating rakes and bringing water and trash bags. During our first clean-up, we had like 150 people."

Feeling empowered, Bishop created a nonprofit called, One Section At A Time, which is dedicated to rebuilding Woodlawn. Bishop then contacted the owner of the cemetery who told her, he couldn’t afford to maintain that property.

"I thought they were going to transfer the property over to our nonprofit, me and my husband kept investing money into the property," says Bishop.

They used their savings, more than $120,000 to install an irrigation system. What Bishop didn’t know is that Woodlawn Cemetery Corporation has been suspended since 2013. Therefore, the property can not be transferred and more than $820,0000 is owed in back taxes.

Bishop does not have that kind of money. She started a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising it. 

Bishop says she’s trying to save Woodlawn for more than just her family.

"You have veterans, like how can you leave the people who fought for our country, for our rights, in these conditions? That alone is devastating," says Bishop. 

Woodlawn Cemetery was established in 1871. There are 26,800 people buried there, some quite prominent like Frances Townsend, who initiated the Social Security Act and Alprentice "Bunchy" Carter, a founding member of the Southern California Black Panther Party.

If Bishop doesn’t come up with a solution fast, she could lose everything she’s invested in Woodlawn. 

She says, "Honestly, I believe that I will probably pass from a broken heart, this will break my heart." 

Those looking to help Bishop can click here for more information.

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