The ribbon cutting was pretty standard—speeches by the mayor and other dignitaries, songs by a choir, a color-guard processional, the requisite coffee and cookies. But I wasn’t expecting to celebrate a monument to civil rights in a cemetery.
Rising from the manicured lawn of Palm Downtown Mortuary and Cemetery (just beyond a section of flower-marked graves), a giant granite torch is surrounded by palm trees and columnbariums for cremated remains, the words “dignity,” “equality,” “justice” and “freedom” adorning the structures. Palm Downtown General Manager Larry Davis explained that the cemetery’s latest expansion dovetails with the beautification of Las Vegas Boulevard and enrichment of the Downtown neighborhood. “We want visitors to the cemetery to experience something unique,” he said during the unveiling.
The monument plaza, named the Garden of Dreams, is a tribute to the equality movement and a symbol of Palm’s commitment to educating young people who demonstrate the ideals of civil rights heroes. A college scholarship will be awarded to one exemplary student each year, funded in part by the sale of pavers along the monument walk and burial and cremation plots surrounding it. Davis pointed out that 14 granite stars, representing the 14th Amendment, decorate the plaza, where an annual dedication will recognize “a significant contributor to the civil rights movement, locally or globally.”
Councilman Ricki Barlow said he looked forward to being laid to rest in such a place, where the efforts and sacrifices of those who enabled him to hold public office will be honored. Suddenly, the setting made perfect sense.