Civil Rights

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Xavier University's 11th annual Plessy Day is June 7

Posted By on Tue, Jun 5, 2018 at 3:22 PM

Xavier University's 11th annual Homer Plessy Day will focus on the 150th anniversary of the 1868 Constitutional convention and the state of the union in the early years of Reconstruction following the Civil War, during which New Orleanians of African and Creole heritage fought for full citizenship.

The event, which takes place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the university ballroom, features a keynote from Robin White of the National Park Service and a panel discussion, "150 Years: Still Separate and Unequal."

The event is free and open to the public with RSVP. For more information, visit the event's Facebook page.
Location Details Xavier University
Xavier University
1 Drexel Drive
New Orleans, LA
(504) 486-7411
University and Colleges and Universities

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Alanah Odoms Hebert named executive director of ACLU of Louisiana

Posted By on Wed, May 30, 2018 at 9:55 AM

Alanah Odoms Hebert for Gambit's 40 Under 40 in 2017. - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Alanah Odoms Hebert for Gambit's 40 Under 40 in 2017.
Former Louisiana Supreme Court counsel Alanah Odoms Hebert has been named executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, whose former director Marjorie Esman retired last year after a decade at the helm of the civil rights organization. Jane Johnson served as interim executive director.

Hebert was recently Director of the Division of Children and Families at the Louisiana Supreme Court, and for four years she served as the deputy general counsel for the court. She also is chair of a statewide program to reduce pretrial detention among youth offenders through the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. She moved to Louisiana to work at the New Orleans District Attorney's office after graduating from Rutgers School of Law-Newark in 2008.

In 2016, she was appointed as a liaison for the judicial arm of the state's Justice Reinvestment Task Force, which she says helped her see "firsthand how the justice system often harms the very communities it ought to protect — fueling a mass incarceration crisis with staggering human costs and stark racial disparities."

"So, for me, this is personal," she said. "Joining the team of dedicated freedom fighters at the ACLU is the opportunity of a lifetime to stand on the shoulders of giants and help build a more just and equitable future for all.”

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Friday, May 11, 2018

New Orleans organizers help bail out mothers from jail in time for Mother's Day

Posted By on Fri, May 11, 2018 at 4:10 PM


A national campaign to help release Black mothers from local jails arrives as Mother’s Day approaches.

Groups in 20 cities across the U.S. are participating in the second annual National Black Mamas Bail Out to raise funds to help bail out incarcerated women from local jails in time for the holiday — while raising awareness of the costs of incarcerating women simply because they’re unable to afford bail, from the costs of separating mothers from children and families and jobs to their heightened risk of trauma and abuse behind bars.

According to the Vera Institute of Justice, since 1970, the number of women in local jails in the the U.S. rocketed from fewer than 8,000 to nearly 110,000 in 2016 — nearly 80 percent are mothers, and nearly 60 percent are women of color. More than 18,500 people are in local jails around Louisiana; 7.6 percent are women, according to the Louisiana Department of Corrections.

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Friday, May 4, 2018

Assessing Mitch Landrieu's legacy

Posted By on Fri, May 4, 2018 at 1:32 PM

  • Mitch Landrieu.

Like mayors before him, Mitch Landrieu worries about his legacy. It’s understandable. Mayors spend much of their time saying “no,” either because there’s never enough money to do all that’s asked or because some things are just bad ideas. Then, at the end of their tenures, they get criticized for all they couldn’t or didn’t do — and for things that didn’t go very well.

Perhaps hoping to get in front of the inevitable evaluations, Hizzoner made the rounds of local media in recent weeks asking for “exit interviews.” He passed out slick reports touting his accomplishments. Fair enough. It’s beyond dispute that Landrieu left the city in far better shape than he found it — on many levels — and he has every right to crow about that.

On the other hand, Landrieu cannot deny that he could (and should) have done some things better — though, like most politicians, he offers a ready litany of excuses and explanations.

Herewith my “performance review” of his tenure.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Louisiana Senate to consider bill that would fortify policies against sexual harassment at state agencies

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2018 at 6:10 PM

Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, responding to questions at a Senate hearing on her bill that would fortify sexual harassment policies across the state - PHOTO BY TRYFON BOUKOUVIDIS/LSU MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, responding to questions at a Senate hearing on her bill that would fortify sexual harassment policies across the state

Louisiana senators agreed Wednesday to cooperate on a comprehensive compromise bill that would fortify Louisiana’s policies against sexual harassment in state agencies.

The Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee sent the bill to the Senate floor to be considered next week after senators negotiate changes in the language.

The bill would provide uniformity in sexual harassment policy across the state. It would shield sexual harassment victims from employer retaliation and provide training to public servants.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Morrell's bill to eliminate Louisiana's death penalty passes Senate judiciary committee

Posted By and on Tue, Apr 10, 2018 at 5:56 PM

State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, supported a bill Tuesday to ban the deal penalty in Louisiana. - SARAH GAMARD/LSU MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, supported a bill Tuesday to ban the deal penalty in Louisiana.

A Senate judiciary committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would eliminate the death penalty in Louisiana effective August 1. Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, authored the bill, reasoning that the death penalty is an outdated and costly means of punishment.

"The death penalty is an archaic holdover from a time where we were not as civilized as we are today," Morrell said.

Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, provided the only vocal opposition. He argued that abolishing the death penalty would have no effect on the state’s high rate of violent crime.

Morrell responded that “we have had the death penalty on the books since the founding of our state, and it has not deterred violent crime.

“Increasingly, we are finding individuals that commit these violent crimes are mentally unbalanced,” Morrell said. “Many of them are tortured, damaged people who do horrific things because they don’t value human life.”

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Sunday, April 8, 2018

Chickening out on criminal justice reform

Posted By on Sun, Apr 8, 2018 at 11:48 AM


Criminal justice reform was among the few bright spots in last year’s dispiriting legislative session. Lawmakers adopted far-reaching laws that traded “tough on crime” grandstanding for “smart on crime” policies that have been proven to work.

The Justice Reinvestment Task Force, a nonpartisan coalition of conservatives, liberals, clergy, judges, law enforcement, business people and civic leaders, spent a year developing legislation that streamlined Louisiana’s hodgepodge sentencing laws. The reforms were enacted with broad bipartisan support.

Many leading Republicans supported — and still support — criminal justice reform. A handful of ambitious demagogues are now attacking it with lies and scare tactics, not because they care about public safety (the reforms actually promote public safety) but because they hope to grab cheap headlines and run for another office. U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy, who can’t seem to stop running for something, is the most glaring (and shameless) example.

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Saturday, April 7, 2018

Sports-entertainment scholars unafraid to mix it up in the ring

Posted By on Sat, Apr 7, 2018 at 1:44 PM

The conference program
  • The conference program
There's never just one thing happening in New Orleans. At the same time WrestleMania week is slowly, multifariously unfolding across the region, beautiful wrestle-blossoms of different sizes and pay scales blooming in every available metro auditorium or high-school gym, the Southern Sociological Society is holding its annual meeting and conference at the Marriott across from WWE Axxess.

This year's conference theme is "Racial Theory, Analysis, and Politics in Trump's America." Digging into the program, I was gratified to discover multiple panels about pro wrestling, one of which I attended Friday morning.

Dr. Jack Karlis of Georgia College opened, detailing his research into how media framed (or failed to cover) the longstanding connections between President Donald Trump and WWE's owners, the McMahon family. I knew Trump and the McMahons were chummy; I hadn't known that Linda and Vince McMahon were the largest single contributor to the Trump Foundation, a gift Karlis estimates to be around $5,000,000.

JH Roberts
  • JH Roberts
Next up, the University of Georgia's J.H. Roberts discussed activism in pro wrestling during the Trump presidency. Usefully, or perhaps crushingly for some, she defined activism as "not just saying things on Twitter, but doing things." Roberts provided a survey of some forms this has taken, both outward-facing (WWE Superstar Sami Zayn bankrolling a mobile medical clinic in Syria, indy star Zack Sabre Jr. donating merchandise profits to a transgender law center) and inward-facing, which is activism focused on improving pro wrestling itself.

The third panelist, Chris Maverick of Duquesne University, talked about models of performative masculinity in leadership, comparing Trump to Lincoln, an accomplished amateur wrestler, and then to various comic book villains and pro-wrestling characters. The highlight, for me, was the connection Maverick drew between Trump's compelling, crowd-pleasing yet contradictory or semantically incoherent rhetoric and the promos of Dusty Rhodes and the Ultimate Warrior.

Perhaps defying assumptions about those that do vs. those that teach, I discovered both Roberts and Maverick are or have been wrestlers themselves. Roberts is actively training as a pro wrestler, and is part of a collective she describes as "a pro wrestling promotion dedicated to exploring within the boundaries of pro wrestling what you can do with feminist and gender performance."

"For example," Roberts told me, "within pro wrestling there's Ultimo Dragon, Dragon Dragon, Super Dragon ... Drago, in Lucha Underground ... but [in our promotion] we have potentially the first-ever female dragon character. In her storylines she addresses things a female dragon would have to deal with that male dragons wouldn't — aspects of reproduction and female bodily autonomy."
Chris Maverick
  • Chris Maverick

Wrestling is brutal. "I'm in pain pretty much all the time," Roberts says of her training. "At the same time, it's nice to do something so purely physical because it lets me turn my brain off. It's also exciting to push myself in new ways and confront things I'm terrified of, like front flips— since if you don't do those you can't wrestle."

Chris Maverick is on the other side, having retired from in-ring competition. "I did it for six years," he told me. "My last match was maybe eight years ago. I wrestled exactly 50 matches in my career and mostly jobbed," meaning he lost to more prominent wrestlers.

Maverick, a lifelong wrestling fan, joined a wrestling school and started training at age 29. His overwhelmingly younger classmates all dreamed of getting to WWE. "My goal was a little different. I said to myself, 'I'm going to wrestle one match, maybe write a paper about it.' There were 15 of us in the class and only three of us finished because it was so grueling." Maverick's wrestling career did include a stint as a tag-team champ in a West Virginia promotion; it so happened I'd just seen his erstwhile tag-team partner, DJ Z, wrestle at Evolve 102 the night before.

"I wasn't great," Maverick said. "I was older and had bad knees when I started, so I knew my time was limited. I dislocated my shoulder four times... it's hard. It's a very rough sport."

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Four mayors of New Orleans reflected, joked at Loyola University tonight

Posted By on Thu, Apr 5, 2018 at 8:30 PM

Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, former Mayor Sidney Barthelemy, former Mayor Moon Landrieu and Gambit political editor Clancy DuBos discussed the state of the city at tonight's Ed Renwick Lecture Series at Loyola University.
  • Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, former Mayor Sidney Barthelemy, former Mayor Moon Landrieu and Gambit political editor Clancy DuBos discussed the state of the city at tonight's Ed Renwick Lecture Series at Loyola University.

Three of New Orleans' five living mayors, as well as Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell, appeared
tonight at Loyola University's Roussel Hall to discuss "One New Orleans: Five Perspectives" with Gambit political editor Clancy DuBos.

Mayor Moon Landrieu (1970-1978), Mayor Sidney Barthelemy (1986-1994), Mayor Mitch Landrieu (2008-2016) and Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell (Marc Morial, mayor from 1994 to 2002 and now president of the National Urban League, had to cancel his appearance; DuBos joked he was visiting former Mayor Ray Nagin, who is serving a sentence in a Texas federal prison.)

The first question for the former mayors: What piece of advice would you give to Cantrell that you wish someone had given you?

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Landrieu to receive the 2018 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award

Posted By on Tue, Mar 27, 2018 at 2:52 PM

Mayor Mitch Landrieu, seen here on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, will receive the 2018 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award at a ceremony in May.
  • Mayor Mitch Landrieu, seen here on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, will receive the 2018 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award at a ceremony in May.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu has been named the recipient of the 2018 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award "for his leadership in relocating four of the Confederate monuments in New Orleans while offering candid, clear and compassionate reflections on the moment and its place in history," the Kennedy committee announced this morning.

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