Civil Rights

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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Monday, June 29, 2015

Y@ Speak: nothing happened last week

Posted By on Mon, Jun 29, 2015 at 5:30 PM


Nothing happened last week. David Vitter ate a sandwich.

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OPINION: Louisiana joins the rest of the nation with today's same-sex marriage licensures

Posted By on Mon, Jun 29, 2015 at 4:26 PM

The 900 block of Bourbon Street, the day after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex marriages in every state. Two days later, Louisiana issued its first same-sex marriage licenses.
  • The 900 block of Bourbon Street, the day after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex marriages in every state. Two days later, Louisiana issued its first same-sex marriage licenses.


Last Friday, June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court made it clear that no state in the nation could deny the benefits (and responsibilities) of marriage to same-sex couples. So New Orleanians Michael Robinson and Earl Benjamin, who had been together 21 years, applied for a marriage license in Orleans Parish. They were denied, even as other opposite-sex couples got their licenses with no problem.

Several days after the Supreme Court decision, Louisiana was the only state in the union not to comply with the ruling. For that, you can thank Gov. Bobby Jindal and state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.

First Caldwell said the Supreme Court decision wasn’t clear as to when marriages could commence, adding he “found nothing in the decision that makes the court's order effective immediately.” The Louisiana Clerks of Court Association thus recommended a 25-day waiting period. Then Jindal claimed the state would comply — only “when the 5th Circuit Court orders the ruling into effect.” Possibly relying upon pendency of a ruling against same-sex marriages by U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, Jindal suggested a Supreme Court decision wasn’t truly final until a federal appellate court said so.

It was only a month ago that Jindal was sniping at President Barack Obama, saying that Harvard Law School’s “most famous graduate has a problem obeying the law.” This week, we saw that one of the nation’s most ambitious politicians really has a problem obeying the law — and doesn’t mind giving Louisiana yet another a black eye in the process.

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Jefferson Parish becomes first in the state to issue same-sex marriage licenses

Posted By and on Mon, Jun 29, 2015 at 11:15 AM

Celeste Autin and Alesia LeBoeuf, both employees of the Jefferson Parish Clerk of Courts office, applied for and received a marriage license in Jefferson Parish this morning. - ALEX WOODWARD
  • ALEX WOODWARD
  • Celeste Autin and Alesia LeBoeuf, both employees of the Jefferson Parish Clerk of Courts office, applied for and received a marriage license in Jefferson Parish this morning.

As of this morning, Jefferson Parish is issuing marriage licenses to any adult couple who applies, confirmed a spokeswoman for Jefferson Parish Clerk of Court Jon Gegenheimer.

One couple already has applied, she said. That couple is Celeste Autin and Alesia LeBoeuf, both employees of the clerk's office, who were wed at 10:32 a.m.

The couple is from Marrero and met in high school. They've been together 38 years.

"It's not so much about being the first one to get the license as it is just getting a license," LeBoeuf told Gambit.

Michael Robinson and Earl Benjamin, who were turned away from receiving a license in Orleans Parish on Friday, are now filling out paperwork for a Jefferson Parish license.

Earl Benjamin fills out a marriage license form in Jefferson Parish. - ALEX WOODWARD
  • ALEX WOODWARD
  • Earl Benjamin fills out a marriage license form in Jefferson Parish.

Earl Benjamin and Michael Robinson back in Orleans Parish with their Jefferson Parish-issued marriage license, awaiting Judge Paula Brown, who will perform their ceremony. - ALEX WOODWARD
  • ALEX WOODWARD
  • Earl Benjamin and Michael Robinson back in Orleans Parish with their Jefferson Parish-issued marriage license, awaiting Judge Paula Brown, who will perform their ceremony.

Orleans Parish, along with every other parish in the state, is still waiting on advice from Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the Louisiana Clerks of Court Association. As of yesterday, Gov. Bobby Jindal said the state would comply with Friday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling only after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its own ruling — a position that legal scholars said was unsupported. 

This is a developing story.

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Jindal: Louisiana will comply with Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage, but has no timetable

Posted By on Sun, Jun 28, 2015 at 2:05 PM

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Gov. Bobby Jindal said today on NBC's Meet the Press that Louisiana would soon be acting in accord with Friday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in America, but he didn't have a timetable.

Louisiana is now the only state in the union that hasn't issued a marriage license to two men or two women.

"Of course we're going to comply with the court order. We don't have a choice," Jindal told Meet the Press host Chuck Todd:

Jindal said he was waiting for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse that ruling based on the Supreme Court's decision Friday.

As of Sunday afternoon, Louisiana was the only state in the nation that had not issued any marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

"As soon as [the courts] issue their ruling, I suspect it will be a matter of days. I don't know how quickly they will move," Jindal said when asked how soon he will comply with the law.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Bobby Jindal on SCOTUS ruling: "Words have no meaning ... the Constitution is irrelevant"

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2015 at 4:08 PM

Attendees at a same-sex marriage rally at the U.S. Supreme Court in March. After today's 5-4 ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, Gov. Bobby Jindal blasted the court, saying, ""If I were a cynic, I’d tell the Supreme Court to stand for election, since they have now taken to making law rather than interpreting it. Or, we could simply eliminate the Court altogether, and just make all decisions with an online opinion poll." - CREATIVE COMMONS/ELVERT BARNES
  • CREATIVE COMMONS/ELVERT BARNES
  • Attendees at a same-sex marriage rally at the U.S. Supreme Court in March. After today's 5-4 ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, Gov. Bobby Jindal blasted the court, saying, ""If I were a cynic, I’d tell the Supreme Court to stand for election, since they have now taken to making law rather than interpreting it. Or, we could simply eliminate the Court altogether, and just make all decisions with an online opinion poll."


Gov. Bobby Jindal — currently on the presidential campaign trail in Iowa — sent out an email this morning decrying the U.S. Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage: "The Supreme Court decision today conveniently and not surprisingly follows public opinion polls. It tramples on rights that were once protected by the 10th Amendment of the Constitution," Jindal wrote, adding, "Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that."  He concluded with a request for donations.

Later in the day, Jindal gave full voice to his objections in a POLITICO article in which he declared:

If you’re keeping score at home, here’s where we stand:
· Words have no meaning;
· The Constitution is irrelevant;
· The First Amendment is under assault; and
· The Tenth Amendment is a relic to be ignored.

Jindal also suggested, sarcastically, "If I were a cynic, I’d tell the Supreme Court to stand for election, since they have now taken to making law rather than interpreting it. Or, we could simply eliminate the Court altogether, and just make all decisions with an online opinion poll. That would be cheaper for taxpayers." 

Meanwhile, the Forum for Equality Louisiana, which is planning a 6:30 p.m. rally tonight in Jackson Square, issued a statement from chair Chris Otten:

“We are very disappointed to announce that as of right now, we are unaware of any Clerks of Court issuing marriage licenses. The Attorney General and the Louisiana Clerks of Court Association have both advised that they do not believe the Supreme Court ruling yet applies to the State of Louisiana as a technical matter. We believe that this advice ignores the clear command of the Supreme Court of the United States, and it is further evidence of the discrimination and continued harm we have fought for more than twenty-six years to correct,” said Chris Otten, chair of the Forum for Equality Louisiana, the organization that filed Louisiana’s same-sex marriage case.

“We are currently exploring all options with our legal team, and we will update you as soon as we have more information. The great news: the question is no longer if Louisiana will get marriage equality; the question is now WHEN. And we will not stop fighting until all sixty-four parishes obtain real equality under the law, as promised by the Supreme Court’s decision today.”

“We hope Gov. Jindal does not continue to be a roadblock on the road to equality that 37 states have already traveled. Louisiana’s same-sex couples have waited long enough, often at considerable expense to protect their relationships and families."

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Watch a group of New Orleanians talk openly about race

Posted By on Tue, Jun 23, 2015 at 6:26 PM

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Over a year ago, the City of New Orleans began working on a public project for racial reconciliation. Tomorrow, just a week after the racially motivated attack of an all black church in Charleston left nine people dead, participants of that citywide effort will present the culmination of a year's worth of work to better understand one of the most difficult subjects in American society today: race. 

Members of Welcome Table New Orleans, a branch of the William Winters Institute for Racial Reconciliation, will present projects and reflect on the program tomorrow, June 24, at 10 a.m. at the Mahalia Jackson Theatre. The event is free and open to the public, and in addition to presentations by participants, attendees can expect to hear from Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Deputy Mayor of Citywide Initiatives Judy Reese Morse and representatives from the Urban League, the Winters Institute and the Kellogg Foundation, which has helped fund the initiative. 

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Y@ Speak: mentally competent

Posted By on Mon, Jun 22, 2015 at 12:38 PM


While Sports Overlord Tom Benson celebrates with wine and ice cream, New Orleans demands change in the wake of the Charleston shooting. Plus: more from Gov. Bobby Jindal and the poetry of Fletcher Mackel.

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Talking with the editors of Mixed Company

Posted By on Mon, Jun 15, 2015 at 9:00 AM

mixed-co-cover.jpg
The recently released book Mixed Company is a self-published collection of writing and visual art from New Orleans women of color. A compelling read on its artistic and literary merits, it also repeatedly defied my expectations, hitting from multiple unexpected angles. This is a book that will startle, enrich and engage its readers, challenging assumptions and sticking in the memory.

I spoke with Jeri Hilt and Kristina Kay Robinson, Mixed Company's editors, about the book and the approach it represents.



How did this collection come together? What was the impulse or idea behind Mixed Company?

ROBINSON: The idea to do the collection was kind of a co-project with the New Orleans Loving Festival wanting to put out a publication, and us being in relationship with them, and reaching out to others who we knew would be willing to be contribute something to an independent publication. We all knew each other in different capacities— whether we go to school together or participate in other writing communities together.

HILT: The impulse was very much the want and need for an independent, unfiltered voice from communities of color, and an acknowledgement that it wasn't always happening in ways that were inclusive or in ways where we showed up in multiplicity as opposed to in isolation. So the community was formed quite organically with the Loving Festival... and the impulse was independent black art, on our own terms.

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