Civil Rights

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Student zine, presentation March 30 highlight notable New Orleans black women

Posted By on Tue, Mar 28, 2017 at 11:10 AM

Mwende Katwiwa (center) and program participants.
  • Mwende Katwiwa (center) and program participants.

In a time when pop culture is finally amplifying the voices and stories of more black women, participants in a Young Women with a Vision after-school program are finding heroes closer to home.

At a New Orleans Public Library presentation Thursday, they'll present a zine-style sample of their work so far on a book that ultimately will profile as many as 30 notable black women from New Orleans. The book, created almost entirely by the program's middle and high school students, will be published when the program concludes this academic year.

"We're living in this era of black girl magic, and  if you're a millennial of my age it hits you at the perfect time, but I realized ... a lot of that has not actually trickled down to young people," says program coordinator Mwende Katwiwa. "I was getting a lot of feedback from [the students] in school that they don't have access to a lot of black women who look like them. ... A lot of the people people that they see in places that are not home don't look like them and don't share similar experiences."

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Judge says Liberty Place monument can come down

Posted By on Thu, Mar 9, 2017 at 9:40 AM

  • Photo by Kandace Power Graves
  • Liberty Monument.
A federal judge has ruled that New Orleans can remove a monument honoring a white supremacist uprising. It's likely the final thumbs up for city officials to begin removing four Confederate-era monuments after an appeals court ruling sided with the city to take down monuments to P.G.T. Beauregard, Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. The Liberty decision comes just two days after that ruling.

The Battle of Liberty Place monument originally honored a revolt from members of the Crescent City White League against Reconstruction efforts and the city's integrated police force in 1874.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Concerts for Indigent Defense to put spotlight on Louisiana's public defense crisis

Posted By on Wed, Mar 8, 2017 at 7:16 PM

New Orleans' Chief District Defender Derwyn Bunton. - CHERYL GERBER
  • New Orleans' Chief District Defender Derwyn Bunton.
March 18 is the 54th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, a landmark ruling guaranteeing the right to counsel for defendants who can't afford an attorney. But public defense for the indigent in Louisiana — which relies on fines and fees to fund its public defenders — has been at the center of a "constitutional crisis" in which caseloads overwhelm under-funded and under-staffed offices, halting many cases altogether while the state struggles with a perpetual budget mess. A recent lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center takes aim at the state's public defense services.

"Without adequate representation, there is no justice," New Orleans Chief Defender Derwyn Bunton said in a statement. "Our entire system fails and poor people are the ones hurt the most.”

New Orleans, appropriately, will host the first event in a planned series of national concerts to raise awareness of the right to counsel and the crises faced by public defenders offices nationwide. The New Orleans installment of Concerts for Indigent Defense features the Original Pinettes Brass Band, Zena Moses and Rue Fiya, Junko Beat (also featuring Orleans Public Defender Will Snowden), Caren Green, Mystic Beez, Casme, Britney Chaunte, Dedrick West, K.Levy, Justin Parker and others. In conjunction with the anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the concert begins 5 p.m. Saturday, March 18 at WonderLand Production Studios (3233 St. Bernard Ave.). The concert also will be streamed on its website.

"The Supreme Court says you have a fundamental constitutional right to have a lawyer, and yet state after state, if you're poor and accused of a crime, you often don't have access to a decent lawyer at all," says event founder Stephen Saloom. "If you do, it’s not in a timely fashion. When they represent you they are often overwhelmed by a caseload that nobody thinks is appropriate."

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Monday, March 6, 2017

Federal appeals court: Confederate monuments can come down

Posted By on Mon, Mar 6, 2017 at 6:13 PM

  • Photos by Derick Hingle & Kandace Power Graves

Nearly two years after Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced plans to remove controversial Confederate-era monuments in New Orleans, a March 6 ruling from a federal appeals court gave the city a green light to begin removing the statues..

In 2015
, the New Orleans City Council voted to take down monuments to P.G.T. Beauregard, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and the Battle of Liberty Place, but removal efforts stalled after a lawsuit from the Monumental Task Committee challenged the vote. Today's ruling from the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court's ruling against the suit.

“This win today will allow us to begin to turn a page on our divisive past and chart the course for a more inclusive future," Landrieu said in a statement. "Moving the location of these monuments — from prominent public places in our city where they are revered to a place where they can be remembered — changes only their geography, not our history. Symbols matter and should reflect who we are as a people. These monuments do not now, nor have they ever reflected the history, the strength, the richness, the diversity or the soul of New Orleans."

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

At "milk carton" protest, constituents clamor for absent senator's response

Posted By on Sun, Mar 5, 2017 at 5:46 PM


Senator John Neely Kennedy's photograph peered out sheepishly from the side of a super-sized cardboard milk carton in front of the Hale Boggs Federal Building Sunday afternoon. "MISSING," said the legend above the photo.

The milk carton was constructed by Step Up Louisiana, one of several progressive groups who co-organized the protest March 5 to highlight what they say has been a lack of communication and response from the just-elected senator, especially about his position on high-priority issues such as the protection of the Affordable Care Act and the Trump's administration's moves to restrict immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries.

"You are missing and you are making bad decisions while in office," Step Up Louisiana co-director Maria Harmon said, addressing the absent Kennedy. "We don't serve [legislators]. They serve us."

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Saturday, March 4, 2017

Tales of the Cocktail co-founder steps down over blackface furor

Posted By on Sat, Mar 4, 2017 at 7:55 PM

When is blackface appropriate — if ever?

That's the question raised by a widely circulated image of a New Orleans entrepreneur — a white woman — being painted up to ride in the Krewe of Zulu parade, whose members (mostly African Americans) traditionally parade in blackface.

Ann and Paul Tuennerman — known in their professional roles as "Mr. and Mrs. Cocktail" for their founding of the New Orleans-based Tales of the Cocktail festival — were swept into a social media storm this week after Paul Tuennerman posted a photo of Ann in blackface as she prepared to ride in Tuesday's Zulu parade.

Since then, Paul Tuennerman has stepped down from the festival, and Ann Tuennerman has issued a formal apology and agreed to appear in a Facebook Live chat on Monday afternoon with Ashtin Berry, a bartender at the Ace Hotel New Orleans who had objected both to the image and to Ann Tuennerman's comment on the photo:
Paul G Tuennerman, interviewing me on Mardi Gras Morning from the Zulu Den. As he said "Throw a little Black Face on and you lose all your media skills." He did his best as the interviewer.

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Town hall on transgender violence follows recent murders in Louisiana

Posted By on Fri, Mar 3, 2017 at 6:00 PM

A memorial during 2016's Transgender Day of Remembrance and Resilience in Armstrong Park.
  • A memorial during 2016's Transgender Day of Remembrance and Resilience in Armstrong Park.

Following the deaths of Ciara McElveen and Chyna Gibson in New Orleans and Jaquarrius Holland in Monroe, advocacy group Transitions Louisiana will host a town hall on transgender violence next week. The meeting is 3 p.m.-5 p.m. Friday, March 10 at First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans (2903 Jefferson Ave.). NOPD's LGBT liaison Sgt.​ Frank Robertson and At-Large City Councilmember Jason Williams also will be present. The violence in 2017 follows two of the deadliest years for transgender people in the U.S., including several deaths in Louisiana.

"This is a crucial moment in New Orleans and ​in ​the country itself," Transitions Louisiana Executive Director J. Mercedes Cardona told Gambit.

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

"Rock Against Racism" concert to benefit SPLC

Posted By on Sat, Feb 18, 2017 at 9:00 AM

More than a dozen New Orleans artists join a Rock Against Racism concert to benefit the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization focused on civil rights protections and classifying hate groups.

The event is 7 p.m. Sunday, March 5 at The Willow (8200 Willow St.). Performers include the Bad Hombre Band, The Tom Worrell House Band feat. Joe Cabral, and Doug Garrison, Alex McMurray, Leslie Smith, JD Hill, Claude Bryant and the AllStars, Carlo Nuccio, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, Joe Krown, Mason Ruffner, Michael O'Hara (The Sheik), Brad Orgeron and David Treadaway, Chuck Perkins, The Jerk Offisers, Da Truth Brass Band, Rockin' Dopsie Jr. and others.

The concert is organized by The Willow's Jimmy Anselmo and Nuccio and Worrell and co-sponsored by WHIV-FM. Rob Steinberg is the emcee. Tickets are $20; organizers expect to donate at least 95 percent of ticket sales to the SPLC.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

New Orleans businesses close in solidarity with Day Without Immigrants

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 12:45 PM

  • Photo by Cheryl Gerber
  • Ideal Market.

New Orleans businesses and residents joined a national Day Without Immigrants demonstration against anti-immigration efforts from President Donald Trump, who has battled courts over his ban on refugee entry and on immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries while expanding policing operations that target immigrant communities and proposing a "wall" sealing the U.S.-Mexico border, estimated to cost nearly $22 billion.

As WWL-TV reports, Ideal Market has closed its nine locations in the New Orleans area and Baton Rouge "in an effort to show the contribution that immigrant workers give to 'Make America Great!'," a message in solidarity with "el dia sin latinos, immigrantes y refugiados" ("a day without Latinos, immigrants and refugees"). In a message on social media, the market announced the closures are "in support of the day without immigrants: as always committed to serve and support the Latino community and public in general." Ideal will pay its employees during its closure.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

New Orleans to update inaccessible bus stops by 2031

Posted By on Tue, Feb 14, 2017 at 5:45 PM


Nearly 94 percent of New Orleans bus stops fail to meet the needs of disabled riders, and the city has until 2031 to update them. On Feb. 10, the city, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and its owner Transdev Services settled a lawsuit filed by three wheelchair users arguing the city's transit stops are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), with stops riddled with too-steep slopes, broken landing pads or no landing pads at all.

Plaintiffs Francis Falls, Mitchell Miraglia and Thad Tatum with attorney Andrew Bizer of Bizer & DeReus filed the suit after Bizer sent a public records request to examine the state of the RTA'S ADA compliance. In 2015, Manning Architects released its report, which surveyed the city's 2,218 bus stops. The report found that only 5.7 percent (126) had a compliant transit stop area and pedestrian access route, while the remaining 2,092 stops need to be updated; 336 of those stops had a compliant stop but still required sidewalk or curb ramp construction.

"We sent a second request saying, 'Hey, what are you doing about it?' They didn’t respond," Bizer said. The plaintiffs then filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court. Eleven months later, the parties settled.

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