In South LA, Professional Pallbearers Have an Uplifting Touch

Nita Lelyveld, Los Angeles Times, June 2, 2014

In the stucco church on South Vermont, the five rows of pews are packed. Kids wedge between parents. Space meant for one holds three. Church hats and suits mingle with T-shirts and jeans.

A woman has died–a wife, mother, grandmother. The program fills a page. Long-lost cousins clutch each other and cry. Fresh air seems to diminish in supply. Hungry eyes track the few foil-covered casseroles making their way to the kitchen.

In the midst of it all appear eight immaculately dressed figures. The mourners’ heads turn. They nudge others to look.

One is a teenager. The rest are men. They wear black top hats and tails and burnt-orange ties and vests. Their backs are straight. On their hands are white gloves.

In a slow, swinging dance synchronized to gospel music, they strut as they carry the casket shoulder-high down the center of the room. Then in rotating pairs they stand guard beside it, one at each end, throughout songs, sermons, viewing.

An hour in, the pair up front remain still, eyes fixed forward. The senior pastor sternly scans the sanctuary, then rests his gaze on them.

“When you all want to know how real men dress, how real men conduct themselves in an orderly fashion. . . . This is how you act! At attention!” he thunders.

“Ladies,” he adds, “don’t they look good?”

The men work for Boyd Funeral Home, just north of the church in this Westmont neighborhood, where the median household income is just over $31,500 and the homicide rate is one of the highest in Los Angeles County.

Where there is need, there is business, so some call this stretch of the avenue Funeral Home Row. Candy Boyd, who runs the business started in 1963, knows the importance of finding ways to stand out.

At many African American funerals, death is spoken of as “homegoing.” The crush of grief combines with celebration of that reunion with God.

This year, Boyd had her funeral home’s Cadillac hearse outfitted with exterior speakers to start what she calls the “celebration of life” early by blasting gospel music en route to services. She also introduced the professional pallbearers, free with any funeral package.

As they leave each church, the men lift the casket and dance it out, smiling and high-stepping to joyful songs.

“Oh happy day. Oh happy day, when Jesus washed, Oh when he washed, When Jesus washed my sins away.”


Professional pallbearers can be found at some African American funeral homes down South, where many of the elderly people who die in this part of the city were born.




Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • Puggg

    While we have to admit that they bring class to the affair, why must it be an affair that brings life to the death?

  • Adolf Verloc

    These guys do look pretty classy, and obviously approach what they do with pride. A refreshing change.

    • DNA Explains It All

      I will give them that, but I can’t escape feeling the neatness of dress and the bearing is just aped and not understood or reverently felt.

    • APaige

      That is true. But the male relatives of the decreased are either dead or in jail. Message to Blacks please stop adding ‘dance’ to every social activity.

    • MBlanc46

      Flashy, maybe. But not classy.

    • [Guest]

      Yes, but if they look “classy” it’s only because they wear clothing such as genteel white men wore in days long past.

    • IstvanIN

      Fred Astair was classy in a top hat, those guys just look silly. But then Fred Astair was class.

  • JackKrak

    With Them, everything is about how you look, even when they’re carrying you in a box.

    • TruthBeTold

      Blacks: all flash and no substance.

      • Einsatzgrenadier

        Whites care about what’s on the inside, whereas blacks only care about what’s on the outside. Unlike whites, blacks are absolutely not introspective and possess virtually no capacity for philosophical reflection.

  • r j p

    This year, Boyd had her funeral home’s Cadillac hearse outfitted with exterior speakers to start what she calls the “celebration of life” early by blasting gospel music en route to services.
    Did she install spinner rims and Christmas lights along the running boards, quarter panels, and bumpers too? Fuzzy dice on the rear view mirror? Hire drive-byers from a rival gang (to sho hows impotent he bees)?
    Those types of upgrades would definitely compliment her professional negroes.

    • DNA Explains It All

      I just love the damn chrome wire rims that stick out like a foot and a half, with what look like blades, I call them “Chariot Choppers” hahaha you know the driver is black when you see those things.

    • TL2014

      What’s the matter with fuzzy dice? They are soothing:)

  • Sue

    Probably the first thing they’ve carried this year. I was going to use the word “lifted” but that’s silly!

    • r j p

      I am sure they all “lifted” something this year. LOL.

  • Katherine McChesney

    Black churches… central.

    • Black churches hand out condoms & clean needles.

      • Ahnenerbe ᛟ

        I wish they gave out free abortions and dirty needles

    • IstvanIN

      I thought they were shooting ranges…..

  • Rhialto

    This is another example of the difference between the Black and White mind.

    • Usually Much Calmer

      I don’t know why this story was posted actually. Like the first few commenters, I was touched by the display of humanity. There is a funeral mass by Maurice Durufle with jubilation songs. The mass is comprised of motets, it is very Western.

      Everybody dies. If you’ve lived well, according to the mores of your culture, your death is something to celebrate.

      Whites should want to live well, rather than comfortably or long. We would have more heroes and maybe get out of this sticky wicket.

      I am not challenging you, just adding my two cents as a little counterpoint to your comment.

  • dd121

    This is just their normal mambo jumbo Voodoo.

  • This quaint black custom mirrors the New Orleans jazz funerals that insane white tourists come to town to see. Blacks have minds that operate way differently from white minds, a point I made on my site recently, which led to a libtard commenter as much as calling me racist. How anyone can deny their minds work differently is beyond my comprehension, but egalitarianism works that way.

  • IstvanIN

    I watched both President Reagan’s and The Queen Mother’s state funerals. Both appeared very solemn, serious, sad affairs. The above just looks foolish. I am not being mean. Top hats and tails at a funeral? It just doesn’t look right.

    • Tim_in_Indiana

      It kind of reminds me of how the most minor government officials in Haiti used to wear elaborate French military costumes.

      • IstvanIN

        They just don’t pull off “dignified” very well at all.

  • Stan D Mute

    Google “Maserati Rick Carter Casket” to see how they really go out with class.

    • IstvanIN

      That sho am fine….

    • [Guest]

      Ewwwwww, Lawdy! Daws of Heaven sho nuff gone open up wide when dat brotha roll up.

  • MBlanc46

    No one beats the American Negro when it comes to “Look at me! Look at me!”

  • IKUredux

    So, are these funerals covered by EBT? Section 8? SNAP? WIC? This is what Negroes do, ape the White man. If only…

  • M.Magog

    just goes to show you, the ol minstrel show has it’s genesis in black DNA.

  • M.Magog

    I have no interest in watching he vile creatures

  • jeffaral

    Christianity is sooo wierd…

  • ElComadreja

    A black funeral isn’t complete without at least one shooting or at least a brawl.

  • Katherine McChesney