Civil Rights

Thursday, December 17, 2015

New Orleans City Council votes to remove four Confederate statues

Posted By on Thu, Dec 17, 2015 at 4:05 PM

Members of Take 'Em Down NOLA and Stand With Dignity appeared at New Orleans City Council Dec. 17 supporting an ordinance to remove four Confederate monuments.
  • Members of Take 'Em Down NOLA and Stand With Dignity appeared at New Orleans City Council Dec. 17 supporting an ordinance to remove four Confederate monuments.

Monuments depicting Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis as well as a memorial marker to the Battle of Liberty Place are coming down.

"We have the power and the right to correct these historical wrongs," Mayor Mitch Landrieu told members of New Orleans City Council. "The monuments do not now nor did they ever reflect the history, strength, richness, diversity and soul" of New Orleans. The decision is among the most sweeping efforts in the U.S. to remove or replace Confederate iconography.

The City Council voted 6-1 to remove the four monuments under a "nuisance" ordinance that applies to any public display that "honors, praises, or fosters ideologies which are in conflict with the requirements of equal protection for citizens" or "suggests the supremacy of one ethnic, religious, or racial group over any other, or gives honor or praise to any violent actions taken wrongfully against citizens of the city to promote ethnic, religious, or racial supremacy of any group over another." Landrieu – who signed the ordinance this afternoon — called for the monuments to be moved to a park or museum or a "proper place of remembrance, not reverence."

The vote followed months of focused, fiery debate and passionate reflection on what the history of those symbols mean to New Orleanians today — and today's hearing was no exception. Several people were escorted out of the City Council Chambers by police and public speakers and elected officials were booed and roasted. But that kind of loud introspection — from the council and the public — promised an opportunity to face the truths of the past while, Landrieu and councilmembers hope, embracing our neighbors.

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Final public meeting on Confederate monuments ignites explosive debate

Posted By on Thu, Dec 10, 2015 at 9:55 PM

Police escort a speaker from the podium at another contentious meeting on the fate of Confederate monuments in New Orleans.
  • Police escort a speaker from the podium at another contentious meeting on the fate of Confederate monuments in New Orleans.

A final public hearing over a controversial ordinance to remove four Confederate monuments erupted in fiery debate and passionate reflection over the future of New Orleans and its relationship to the symbols those statues represent. 

Over nearly four hours, dozens of people approached the podium in a packed New Orleans City Council Chambers on Dec. 10 in support of the ordinance — which goes to a vote before the City Council on Dec. 17 — and against it, with many people wearing "All History Matters" stickers. Rev. Shawn Anglin of First United Methodist Church (which sits on Jefferson Davis Parkway) seemed to take the temperature of the room: "If there's one thing we learned today, it's that symbols have power."

Two people were removed by police — one, gallery owner George Schmidt, waved a middle finger to a crowd who were vocally upset with Schmidt comparing the monuments' removal to the actions of Muslims. Another man was removed after he shouted "We have to fight them" during another speaker supporting the monuments. He also blasted City Council President Jason WIlliams for pulling his turn to speak when the majority of monument supporters had left.

Williams — who had asked the crowd to respect one another's statements, despite disagreements — grew weary as the crowd remained unruly throughout nearly the entire meeting. Williams banged his gavel: "We are better than this!"

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Bicyclists ride to Angola to support families of Louisiana's prisoners

Posted By on Fri, Oct 16, 2015 at 2:45 PM

Bicyclists with Nola to Angola ride from New Orleans to Louisiana State Penitentiary to raise money for a bus program that lets riders visit incarcerated family members. - CARLTON MICKLE
  • Bicyclists with Nola to Angola ride from New Orleans to Louisiana State Penitentiary to raise money for a bus program that lets riders visit incarcerated family members.

At 8 a.m. today, more than 50 bicyclists pedaled from the steps of the New Orleans Police Department headquarters to make the nearly 200-mile trek to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. It's the fifth annual bike ride for Nola to Angola, which gathers riders to support the Cornerstone Builder's Bus Project — and it's the group's largest ride yet.

Since 2007, Cornerstone has provided free monthly 55-passenger bus rides to families of incarcerated people, keeping intact communication between people imprisoned throughout the state — which has the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world — and support on the outside. Making long trips to visit incarcerated family members often is cost prohibitive for many families in the state, and Cornerstone aims to ease that burden. Nola to Angola serves as a lifeline to help fund them. 

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

White supremacist from Welcome to Leith back in the news

Posted By on Tue, Oct 13, 2015 at 5:56 PM

Kynan Dutton, Craig Cobb and Deb Henderson walk the streets of Leith, North Dakota in Welcome to Leith. - GREGORY BRUCE
  • Kynan Dutton, Craig Cobb and Deb Henderson walk the streets of Leith, North Dakota in Welcome to Leith.

The documentary Welcome to Leith follows white supremacist Craig Cobb's 2013 attempt to create an Aryan enclave in Leith, North Dakota. He bought a dozen properties with the notion of having followers move in and also buy other homes, eventually enabling them to politically control the town of 24 people. The townspeople did not like the idea, and demonstrations followed, including by neo-Nazi groups and others. 

The movie is one of the documentaries screening in the New Orleans Film Festival this week, and it is a real-life thriller, as Cobb attempts to intimidate his neighbors, white supremacists descend on the town and neighbors fight back. The filmmakers followed the story from the early protests through the heated maneuvering to control the town's makeup, and they spent plenty of time with Cobb. Welcome to Leith and other festival documentaries are reviewed here

Cobb made news again last week. Spoiler alert: details after the jump.

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Monday, August 31, 2015

Y@ Speak: 10 years and some days later

Posted By on Mon, Aug 31, 2015 at 12:30 PM

If Twitter was around 10 years ago, what would New Orleans look like today? (I got in touch with friends and family through, um, Livejournal back then; Facebook wasn't really helpful.) Last week was most definitely a week. We talked about it, listened, goofed around, then Lil Wayne came home, we walked a lot, then cried a lot, then Thomas Morstead ended it appropriately by puking in a trash can.

Because I can't fit it all on here: read Michael Grunwald's tweets on the frustrations of reporting on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, all of the updates from Rising Tide X, and the story behind @skooks, in his words.

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Memorials and second lines in New Orleans commemorate Katrina's 10th anniversary

Posted By on Sat, Aug 29, 2015 at 4:40 PM

Several social aid and pleasure clubs led a march and second line from the Lower 9th Ward.
  • Several social aid and pleasure clubs led a march and second line from the Lower 9th Ward.

Before he led a procession of city, state and U.S. officials, all carrying wreaths, clarinetist Dr. Michael White performed "Amazing Grace" to a crowd gathered under a white tent nearby.

In marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee failures, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and elected officials held a somber memorial for the lives lost in the floods, particularly the dozens of people interred at the memorial.

"They are not unclaimed, because we claim them," Landrieu said.

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Friday, August 28, 2015

#BlackLivesMatter co-founder Alicia Garza delivers keynote at Katrina memorial

Posted By on Fri, Aug 28, 2015 at 10:57 AM


#BlackLivesMatter co-founder Alicia Garza told a packed audience at the Ashe Cultural Arts Center that despite the city’s largely positive message of recovery during the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures, there exists a “tale of two cities.”

Garza helped coin the hashtag and phrase, which has gained traction worldwide, in the wake of the George Zimmerman trial for the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012. She delivered the keynote speech for “Katrina 10 Year Memorial: Equity, Justice and Black Leadership for New Orleans” on Aug. 27.

Garza, special projects director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, said Katrina and the levee failures were another chapter in the country’s “storm of structural racism and violence.” The government’s failure to protect black lives as infrastructure crumbled and levees collapsed, as well as its failure “to bring people home,” are among the “most defining moments of my generation,” she said.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

DeRay Mckesson to deliver keynote speech at Rising Tide X

Posted By on Tue, Aug 4, 2015 at 10:00 AM


Rising Tide
, the annual bloggers' "conference on the history of New Orleans," will feature a keynote speech by civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson when it holds its 10th session Aug. 29 at Xavier University.  

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Friday, July 24, 2015

'Nuisance' or history?

Posted By on Fri, Jul 24, 2015 at 8:51 AM

The debate over New Orleans Confederate monuments could become a teaching moment about slavery and the fight for freedom.
  • The debate over New Orleans' Confederate monuments could become a 'teaching moment' about slavery and the fight for freedom.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu did not attend a forum on the fate of local Confederate monuments last Thursday at the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. That’s too bad. He might have learned something.

Of course, that’s no guarantee that Hizzoner would have changed his mind on the question of what to do with statues of Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis, along with the monument to the White League riot of 1874. He asked the City Council on July 9 to begin a process that would declare the monuments “nuisances,” ostensibly precipitating their removal.

At the same council meeting, Landrieu gave the appearance of offering the monuments their day in court, even if it was a Judge Roy Bean sort of court. He asked council members to hold public hearings and to get comments from various city agencies (all of which answer to Hizzoner) — before drafting an ordinance declaring them nuisances. The council unanimously adopted a resolution putting that process in motion.

In the wake of the Charleston massacre, there’s little sympathy for the Lost Cause, but at last Thursday’s LEH forum there was quite a bit of interest in history. A panel of distinguished local historians discussed the origins of the White League, efforts to enforce “white supremacy” post-Reconstruction, and the lasting impact of these and other events on African-Americans. The historians were not exactly Confederate sympathizers, but none said take the statues down. Instead, they added much-needed context to the debate over the statues’ future.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Mayor Mitch Landrieu talks racial violence with Ta-Nehisi Coates

Posted By on Wed, Jul 1, 2015 at 1:15 PM

Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
  • Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Following recent racial violence across the country, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates were asked, "Is violence a function of our culture?"

Yesterday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Landrieu and Coates — one a mayor who has pledged efforts toward racial reconciliation by apologizing for slavery and considering removing Confederate landmarks, the other whose writings on race and culture have become essential works in the wake of recent violence, protests and debate — both acknowledged the obvious problem of violence in America. 

"Is your city safe?" Landrieu said. "It depends. If you are a tourist coming into town ... and you're coming to my city and you want to come enjoy it, you're as safe in my city as any place in the world. But if you're a young African-American man, and you have had a problem getting a job, and you've had some interaction with the criminal justice system, and you live in one of four neighborhoods, you're an endangered species. And by the way, this is an epidemic. All over America, in every city, in five-six-seven neighborhoods, you get into an issue where you have a huge problem — and that's the essential problem I'm trying to solve."

But Coates said that simply calling that violence in black communities "black-on-black crime" ignores how it got there. He recalled his daily rituals growing up in Baltimore — from what to wear, how to walk to school, where to sit — and how they were largely about "negotiating" violence, or how to avoid it, as a mode of self-preservation. Following generations of slavery, Jim Crow and institutionalized racism, "Why are you shocked?" he asked of responses to consistently high murder rates among blacks. "It's ... to be expected if you read an honest rendering of American history. It horrifies me, but it doesn't shock me."

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