African Caribbean Funeral Services (May 1992)- Collin Carter
My road to being a Funeral Director took such a path. It was a question posed to me and the questioner didn’t let up.
It was a simple enough question: “Mr. Carter, do you ship bodies?” I believe I simply replied: “No”. But the questioner was determined and, sometime later, she returned asking the same question. When I gave the same answer, she simply asked me another question: “Why not?”
This “why not?” became a turning point in my life and set me on a career path I would never have imagined: me, Collin Leroy Carter, a Funeral Director? I started to think about it and, when I couldn’t come up with a good ‘why not?’, I started to formulate a plan that would lead me to a road where, if I were asked this question again, this time my answer would be ‘yes’. After all, we Black people were losing loved ones like everyone else and, like everyone else, we should have dignity in death. There weren’t any funeral homes being owned and operated by Black people, which meant that we had to rely on others during our time of bereavement.
As I pondered the possibility of entering into the funeral business, I went to those persons I respected and ‘bounced’ the idea off them. Some who were supportive of me in other business ventures were not as supportive as I’d hoped they should or would have been. But I was not deterred. On one visit to Barbados I decided to have a discussion with a friend of mine who was a Funeral Director, Owen Sealy of Belmont Funeral Home. I told Owen what I was considering. He assailed my fears and persuaded me to look beyond the criticisms of those who had tried to discourage me from entering what they saw as a morbid line of work. Owen went a step further and told me that, if I needed any assistance, advice or anything he would be there for me. To this end, he introduced me to his funerary connections in the USA; the assistance given, in particular that of Barry Birdsall, was invaluable.
So that was it: I was even more determined to establish myself as a Funeral Director. As you can imagine one doesn’t just get up one morning and decide that they will be a Funeral Director and hang a sign on a door saying, “I’m Open For Business — Bring Your Dearly Departed To Me.” There was the need for requisite training before African-Caribbean Funeral Services could become a viable independent Funeral Service. At the time, African-Caribbean Funeral Services were the first and only Black-owned funeral service in the United Kingdom and I knew that, just as with my other businesses, there would be no turning back.