The Iris Caretakers project was a collaboration with the Coral Gables Museum along with the Miami Herald, to tell the story of one of Lincoln Memorial Park.
As Miami’s main black cemetery during the era of Jim Crow, the Civil Rights movement, and the emergence of a black elite and leadership in Miami, Lincoln Memorial Park is the resting place not just of the laborers who gave shape to the segregated dream community of Coral Gables, but also Miami’s first black millionaire, Dana Albert Dorsey, and first black state legislator, Gwen Sawyer Cherry. The cemetery’s founding by Dr. Kelsey Pharr and its almost-100-year story, is an integral part of Miami’s history. But this story was being forgotten. Upon Pharr’s death, the cemetery passed to his niece, and upon her death to her niece, Jessica Williams, whose financial and personal circumstances have made it impossible to keep the cemetery from falling into disrepair.
The Miami Herald had written about the deteriorating conditions at the cemetery — in fact, we published a piece earlier in the year that detailed the ways in which the cemetery was being vandalized, including grave desecration — but had never tackled it as a visual storytelling project that more deeply delved into the historical significance of the cemetery and story of its caretakers.
The Herald published full coverage on the story including in-depth writing from Leonard Pitts, Jr., Andres Viglucci and Ellis Rua.