Carolyn Jacobi was the CEO of Eternal Justice. She relentlessly battled the death care industry -- particularly cemeteries -- to guarantee that people found the rest they deserved. Her battle began at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland, where her father was buried. Appalled by the conditions at the cemetery, she led the fight to establish an Office of Cemetery Oversight in the State of Maryland -- at one point pushing a wheelbarrow full of human remains found above the ground at Mount Auburn into the State House in Annapolis and dumping them on the floor. She was a woman who would stop at nothing to fight injustice. She later became a national advocate for cemetery reform throughout the United States and Canada.
I met Carolyn during the making of the film "Sacred Ground: The Battle For Mount Auburn Cemetery." The film follows the struggles of family activist Lu Moorman, as she battles Sharp Street Memorial Church and the Baltimore Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church for control of the historic but desecrated African American landmark. Carolyn was one of Lu's mentors and advisors and I met with her many times during the shooting of the film.
Carolyn was a strong, opinionated and principled woman who always proceeded in her own time and in her own way. She did not suffer fools gladly. Initially, I believe Carolyn was a little suspicious of director David Butler and myself. As documentarians, we always endeavored to get the perspectives of all of the people involved, and she didn't particularly like us interviewing and talking with the leadership of Sharp Street Church and the Baltimore Washington Conference on our own. I, for my part, thought she was unnecessarily cynical when the Conference offered to meet with Lu and her team. However, Carolyn had been down that road before and her cynicism proved to be justified in the end.
I think we finally won Carolyn's respect when we discovered a casket mangled by a backhoe hidden in the weeds in the back of the cemetery. It was obvious evidence of grave recycling, and it led to a very public fight on Fox45 news between Lu and Carolyn and Reverend Dell Hinton, the pastor of Sharp Street Memorial Church. She was happy that David and I had discovered and photographed a century old document that proved, despite the church's often repeated claims to the contrary, that a fund was established to maintain the cemetery. It gave her ammunition in her arguments that the church had mismanaged the cemetery financially.
In the end, I believe Carolyn came to respect our commitment to helping Mount Auburn Cemetery. We spoke on the phone when events at the cemetery warranted discussion. I am not sure if she saw the final, completed film, but I know she was quite happy with the trailer. When I last spoke with her, she wanted arrange a screening of the film for the new head of the Maryland Office of Cemetery Oversight. We were happy to comply. Sadly, it never happened. It is a pity, I'm sure she would have enjoyed the film and it certainly would have reiterated the points she wanted to make about the cemetery.
Below is a little tribute I put together from an interview with Carolyn about her history and accomplishments shot at Mount Auburn. Some of the footage in found in the feature. Some can only be seen here:
Here is trailer to the film, which will soon be available to the public.
Rest in peace, Carolyn. You will be missed, and, hopefully, our film will carry on your legacy.
Be sure to check out my book The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God. It is available in paperback and on Kindle courtesy of TouchPoint Press.