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  • Writer's pictureKaren Brittingham-Edmond

Unethical Burial Service Disrespects Historic Black & 1st Nation Burial Sites In Tinton Falls, N.J.

Updated: Jan 23

On Jan 17, 2023, an all-White Tinton Falls City Council gathered to hear public concerns regarding the unethical operations of Louis Cicalese Burial Services during their routine city council meeting. Cicalese claims that the NJ Board of Cemeteries gave him authority over the property that rightfully belongs to descendants of freed Africans left to them by their Lenni Lenape & Cherokee ancestors. Cicalese utilized a "doctrine of latches," which is a Black code, to stop Gene Ruffin from contesting Cicalese from his false authority to make the cemetery a public cemetery when it is indeed a family-owned cemetery that Cicalese obtained underhandedly. Gene Ruffin was not knowledgeable of what Cicalese was up to. And Cicalese took advantage of the situation. At the opening of the Tinton Falls City Council Meeting, the council acknowledged Vito Perillo for being the oldest mayor in the country. For many, the Perillo name is directly associated with Vito Genovese, a crime boss for one of N.Y.'s and N.J.'s Mafia Crime Families.

Tinton Falls Mayor Vito Perillo pictured with Senator Vin Gopal

Historic Pine Brook Fire Department's oldest living fireman, Chief Donald Reevey Sr, was commended on his 75 years of service to the town and our nation. Chief Donald Reevey, Sr. of Pine Brook Community Hose Company No. 3 was warmly greeted by City Council, Mayor Vito Perillo, and Senator Vin Gopal despite their non-assistance in intervening on behalf of his direct descendant's sacred burial grounds by Cicalese and the N.J. Board of Cemeteries.

Above Fire Chief Donald Reevey

After acknowledgments, the city council turned its attention to routine topics and quickly invited the public to share their concerns. Mr. Paul Olivera of Tinton Falls shared his concern about Cicalese breaking the law because outside persons cannot sell a plot in a private cemetery. He reminded the council that they have jurisdiction to stop the encroachment issues at historic Pine Brook Cemetery. And Mr. Cicalese is in no way related to or represents 1st Nation or African descendants of Pine Brook, also known as Tinton Falls, NJ.

To be clear, the historic cemetery is under the umbrella of Pine Brook Church which is under the care and the authority of historic St Thomas A.M.E. Zion of Pine Brook/Tinton Falls, NJ, once called Macedonia. The three landmark cemeteries located at Pine Brook are:

  1. Shadow Rest when entering from Ruffin Court off of Squankum Rd.

  2. Pine Brook, located to the left further down the dirt road, is where direct descendants of 1st Nation Berrys, Powells, etc. rest.

  3. Ruffin Cemetary, located further back, has the oldest tombstone listed at the site of Abraham Rock, whose son Peter Rock acquired 1800 acres from his Grandfather, Mr. Fleming or Flemming. The Flemings are known in N.J. for their Indian Plantations. Other long-term names on historic land are the Schencks or Schancks, Richardsons, Revey, Foxes, Greens, Whites, Ruffins, Thompsons, Wheelers, and more.

Carrie Ruffin-Jones

Carrie Ruffin-Jones introduced herself and told the council that she is the direct descendant of Cynthia Ruffin and John Rock. John Rock is one of Peter Rocks' children. Carrie shared that family members since 2005 have been rejecting Mr. Louis Cicalese's attempts to obtain land illegally. And she has paperwork to prove it. Furthermore that Cicalese has unethically listed the historic Pine Brook Cemetary as his own property with the help of the N.J. State Board of Cemeteries, which is against church, and state laws. The grounds are private family-owned burial grounds with historical references that need to be protected.

Above Louis Cicalese Illegal Burial Service Operator Who's Family Owned The Haunted Mansion In Long Branch Before Somebody Burnt It Down.

The problem arose when Mr. Gene Ruffin attempted to hold ownership of the land while providing Cicalese with a small portion of land to operate on. Hence leaving said property still in the original descendant's ownership. But of course, when you make a deal with the devil and give that devil an inch, he then takes a mile. That's what unearned privilege is all about. (And boy, has Cicalese shown all of his ass.) Carrie shared that Gene's coerced decision with his small acre of land does not give the Cicalese N.Y. Burial Services the right to take the entire land bequeathed to her Grandmother Carrie Belle Ruffin -Jones nicknamed Indian Princess. Jones further stated that the direct descendants of the family have the right to reject the illegal and unethical proceedings of Cicalese. And that they can overrule the latch's Black codes that allow squatters on the land. Especially in the area of Black-owned cemeteries utilized per the N.J. Board of Cemeteries. Which are confederate policies.

What is a Black code?

The goals of Black codes are to strategically prevent African Americans from achieving political and economic autonomy. Autonomy, defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, states that "Individual autonomy is an idea that is generally understood to refer to the capacity to be one's own person, to live one's life according to reasons and motives that are taken as one's own and not the product of manipulative or distorting external forces, to be in this way independent."

More and more neighbors shared their grievances regarding the illegal activity of Cicalese. Some crying. Others are just dammit angry about witnessing the outright injustice of land encroachment, and the environmental risk factors Cicalese and the N.J. Board of Cemeteries have introduced by placing over 700 bodies from N.Y. in a historic cemetery located on wetlands. Scott Cassidy of Tinton Falls/Pine Brook shared that Cicalese burying 500 cremated remains totals approximately two tons of ash that could percolate into aqueduct areas. Micheal DeMarco of Tinton Falls/Pine Brook demanded the Tinton Falls Council "immediately restrict any further development on the land until a hearing." And he reiterated that "we are all responsible for being good stewards of the land." And to show respect to 1st nation and African burial ground!

Cari Fais, Member of the Hispanic Bar Association & Acting Director of The NJ Cemetary Board since 2022.

Mr. Stanton shared an appalling story of when Cicalease began showing up to encroach upon land. Mr. Stanton and his wife resided at their home in Pine Brook for 30 years. He confirmed the historical history of Pine Brook, Shadow Rest, and Ruffin cemeteries. He also acknowledged that all the historic cemeteries were established in 1852 and that these descendants of 1st nations' ancestors utilized said land longer than that. And that has noticeable or face validity of why the site is sacred ground. He further shared that he confronted Cicalese when he began encroaching on land in 2005. The neighborhood brought a complaint before the N.J. Commission of Cemeteries, and the illegal activity stopped. Stanton shared that Cicalese began burying people at the historic family cemetery again a decade later. He thanked Carrie Ruffin Jones for taking a stand against the illegal activity and said her family needs to show up and support her.

Tinton Falls Council President interjected and shared that they have been discussing the historic Pine Brook Cemetary issue for the past few days. He gave the floor to attorney Kevin Starks. Kevin Stark, the council lawyer for Tinton Falls, claimed he could do nothing because Mary Ann Ruffin filed a certificate of authority w/the state. She confirmed that the family was the legal owner of the family cemetery. And she filed her status per ownership as privately owned property in 1976. Grandfathered in. But Cicalese submitted paperwork that the property was public in 2005, which is unethical. And the NJ Board of Cemeteraries allowed him. Can someone say structural racism?

The town's attorney, Kevin Starks, who sat next to Mayor Vito Perrillo, claimed there was nothing the city could do but file a complaint with the N.J. Board of Cemeteries. The crowd rebuked him publicly. Carrie Ruffin Jones stood up and asked the public to calm down, and she then told the council how all of her family members, both enslaved Africans and indentured natives, rose up in 1823 and demanded that they be made free! And that her Great Great Great Grandfather Peter Rock received 1,800 acres of land and that now because of land encroachment issues, the land had dwindled down to just eight acres. She further shared that Cicalese repeatedly lied about her plus her family to Ellen Green of the N.J. Cemetary Board plus told her that he spoke to Rock family members, and they told him "they did not care about the burial grounds where their family members are buried." Carrie did not believe him because she grew up with her cousins Karen and Karla Brittingham and knew they loved her. And that she and her family will fight against this stupid decision by the N.J. Board of Cemeteries to relinquish Cicalese authority over black historic cemeteries plus collect damages.

On a side note: The Cicalese even accused Jones of trying to get money out of him while he and his stakeholders are underhandedly repping profit on land that does not belong to them! In closing, Mr. Cicalese and the N.J. Board of Cemeteries owe Black descendants big. And the fight has just begun.

On Sunday, Jan 22, at 1:00 P.M., we will meet on Bowles Ave (cross street Squankum Rd) in Tinton Falls /Pine Brook, NJ, to do a walk-through with the N.A.A.C.P., Urban League, and direct family members. You are encouraged to attend if you are a direct descendant or a concerned environmentalist. We will seek damages regarding the confederate Black code usage per the N.J. Board of Cemeteries that allow criminals like Cicalese to trespass on historic Black church burial grounds.


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