A Candid Conversation with Roxann McCoy and Celena DiLullo

During the Antebellum period in America slaves were not allowed to freely pay homage to their deceased loved ones.  Funeral services were closely monitored and supervised by slave owners, if they were allowed to proceed at all.  However, the American Civil War completely changed the landscape by forcing black civilians and soldiers alike to tend to the bodies of the fallen.  Recovering, embalming, and burying the dead bodies taught these men a craft, which to this day remains in high demand.


Now, almost as if in response to their suppression, homegoing services for African Americans are often lavish affairs.  Altars adorned with flowers, live bands, and funeral processions led by marching bands with horse drawn carriages are common. 


When Nipsey Hussle (Ermias Joseph Asghedom, August 15, 1985 SUNRISE – March 31, 2019 SUNSET) was murdered in Los Angeles, his homegoing service took place in the Staples Center.  Marsha Ambrosias performed “Fly Like a Bird” and Jhene Aiko sang “Eternal Sunshine”.  He had once performed during the half-time of a basketball game in the very same venue, which was now used to celebrate a life cut short. Thousands of fans packed the arena to hear the accolades of such legends as Snoop Dogg and Stevie Wonder.


Even former President of the United States Barack Obama expressed his thoughts in a letter, which was read by Hussle’s business partner.  «After his passing, I had the chance to learn more about his transformation and his community work.  While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and only see gangs, bullets and despair, Nipsey saw potential. He saw hope. He saw a community that even through its flaws taught him to always keep going.»


Just less than a year after the services were performed for Nipsey another Los Angeles legend, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers died in a helicopter crash.  His celebration of life service was also held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles with remarkably similar pomp and circumstance.


While most of us do not anticipate having such lavish celebrations held in our honor, many of us have certain expectations about how we will ultimately be remembered by friends and family.  Unfortunately, far too often in our community, these wants, and desires are not accounted for in a financial sense during our lifetime.  As a result, our families are left to struggle to properly lay us to rest.


So today, we have brought together Roxann McCoy, President of the NAACP Branch #1111 | Las Vegas and Celena Dilullo, President of Palm Mortuaries & Cemeteries to sit down and have a candid discussion about providing for the funeral costs of loved ones prior to their passing.


JA:  Madam President when you initially asked for this meeting, I was somewhat reluctant as frankly this is a conversation many of us are not comfortable having.


RM: Which is precisely why we need to have the conversation!  Look, I am tired of scrolling my timeline and seeing “GoFundMe” campaigns seeking financial support to bury a loved one.  I am tired of driving through the Historic Westside and seeing members of our community soliciting donations to pay for a funeral service.  Church mothers should not have to hold a bake sale to make sure you can be laid to rest in an appropriate fashion.  When we know better, we do better, and I strongly feel as though this is a discussion that needs to be had.


CD: Most especially when there are so many affordable pre-planning options available to the community.  But perhaps even more important than providing for the costs associated with your homegoing service, pre-planning is the best way to ensure your wants and desires are considered regarding the ceremony.  Our team members work with you, to customize a service that reflects your legacy in a positive light.


JA: What types of services and goods are accounted for in pre-planning?


CD:  Quite literally every facet of the service can be planned, from the funeral home services to the purchase of a casket, selection of a burial plot to transportation, and any other goods and services required to lay you to rest.  In addition, the financial benefit of preplanning your service is you receive today’s price, as such the cost of your service is guarded against inflation.  Prayerfully, you live for many years to come during which you will have the peace of mind knowing your family will not be burdened with the expense of your funeral.


JA: I imagine the benefits of pre-planning extend well beyond the financial realm.


CD: For many, knowing their family will not have to be burdened with making funeral arrangements during their initial grief is absolutely the strongest incentive to preplan a funeral.  Additionally, there is the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you can control even the most minute detail of the service.  By pre-planning your funeral service, you know it will be exactly as you desire it to be.


RM: And at the end of the day, what we really want for our members is to have their affairs in good order, so as not to be a burden to their loved ones.  As a result, we will be sharing additional information from Palm Mortuaries during our March 2021 General Membership Meeting.  We would like to invite your readers to attend the meeting.  Moreover, we would like to encourage your readers to join the NAACP Branch #1111 | Las Vegas.  We have a team in place that is constantly advocating for our community and we could use their support.


JA: If someone would like more information about the March 2021 General Membership Meeting or perhaps becoming a member of the NAACP Branch #1111 | Las Vegas where can they go?  Who can they call?


RM: I am so glad you asked.  During our normal office hours, they can reach out directly to our staff by calling (702) 638-1300 or they can visit http://naacplv.org.  We are the biggest, the baddest, and the boldest civil rights organization in the world and we look forward to working closely with the Las Vegas community.