The economic woes in the city of Detroit have extended past the grave, as more than 60 bodies have remained unclaimed in the Wayne County morgue due to the next of kin being unable to pay for funeral arrangements.
That painful reality is now being remedied thanks to music industry veteran Shanti Das, whose non-profit May We Rest in Peace is working towards giving every unclaimed body a dignified burial.
Das, a former executive with LaFace, Arista, and Universal Motown, created her organization after watching a news piece that showed all the bodies crammed into a holding freezer. According to a Wayne County morgue representative, some of the bodies had been there for years.
“They were stacked up like my shoes in the closet. It was a lot of things that hit home for me,” Das explained to CNN, recalling his own family’s financial struggle to bury her father. “I just wanted to immediately take action. I thought oh my God, we have to try to restore some dignity to these families.”
Through the help of industry connections like Akon and Busta Rhymes, Das’ organization has raised $6000 in less than a month, and successfully completed the burials of six people.
Many of the next of kin were forced to sign off on the deceased loved ones, and simply hoped that the city would eventually secure the funds for a proper burial.
Along with a burial, a ceremony takes place where volunteers gather to pay their final respects.
“We’re a city known for abandoned houses. We’re certainly not going to let them know us as abandoning our people,” stated construction worker and funeral organizer Paul Betts to CNN.
Having worked with Outkast, Toni Braxton, TLC, Jermain Dupri, and many others, Shanti Das explained that her new passion simply comes from caring for her fellow man, regardless of their backgrounds.
“It’s going to take one person like me and a million others to start shedding lights on these problems. But just because I’m a country girl from Atlanta doesn’t mean I can’t help someone in Detroit,” she offered.
At press time, the city of Detroit has allocated $22,000 in their 2010 fiscal budget for unclaimed burials.
Donations for Shanti Das’ May We Rest in Peace non-profit can be made at http://maywerestinpeace.org/