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COMMENTARY: Facebook Pearls Of Wisdom

CHARLESTON CHRONICLE — Recently I saw something about voter suppression on Facebook. The subject’s been on my mind a lot recently since viewing a CNN report on voter suppression in America.

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By Barney Blakeney

I started a Facebook account a few years ago thinking I would be another source for information. That’s worked out better sometimes than others. I’ve seen some crazy stuff on Facebook, but also have found some real pearls of wisdom.

Recently I saw something about voter suppression on Facebook. The subject’s been on my mind a lot recently since viewing a CNN report on voter suppression in America. The subject’s also been in the forefront of national news coverage of elections in Florida, Georgia and Mississippi. I also read an op-ed piece by Atlanta, Ga. journalist Heather Gray who focused on the late Fannie Lou Hamer’s fight against voter suppression in Mississippi.

I’ve always been fascinated by Fannie Lou Hamer. Born in 1917, the same year as my mother, that Mississippi cotton picker who stopped school at age 12 was one of the most courageous, steadfast and determined women I’ve ever heard about. She died in 1977 at age 59, but before she did that hefty woman from Montgomery County, Mississippi stood on the world stage and struck fear in the hearts of some of the most powerful men on earth.

Hamer led Mississippi’s Freedom Democratic Party founded after white Democrats in Mississippi continuously disenfranchised Blacks. She spoke at the Democratic National Convention held in Atlantic City, N.J. in 1964. By then she had gained renown as an advocate for Black voters’ rights. She’d been kicked off the plantation where she and her husband share cropped for trying to register to vote, had been shot at 16 times during a drive-by shooting. She had been arrested, beaten and molested.

President Lyndon B. Johnson was so terrified of what Hamer would say at the DNC – which was to be nationally televised – he concocted a ruse to pre-empt her address. Hamer and the MFDP, which had sought to be seated at the convention instead of the all-white contingent from her state was not successful, but they squeezed victory from defeat. The next year Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which provided protection for voters. I think of Fannie Lou Hamer when I see Black folks today shy away from the fight for civil rights using their need to keep their jobs as rationale. Today, Mississippi has more Black legislators than any other state.

Earlier I saw something on Facebook about controversy at the Charleston Rifle Club. It seems a Black man applied for membership, but was denied by the all-white voters. According to a news report, 14 people applied including the one Black guy. Only the Black guy was denied.

The club is 155 years old and never has had a Black member. I don’t find that so unusual considering rifle clubs in South Carolina were established to enforce the segregation and subjugation of Black people. I used to live near the rifle club and would look out my window at Black folks who seemed oblivious to that history, party and have a good ole time at the joint which could be rented for festive events.

Reading the news report of the apparent membership discrimination I got the sense that some progressive-thinking folks hope to change the history of the rifle club going forward. Here we are in 2018 trying to change the racist history of an organization that for over 155 years has not welcomed a Black member. And if I’m to consider any of what I see on Facebook and other medium, it may take another 155 years before that happens.

They say those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. The history of discrimination manifested by the voter suppression Fannie Lou Hamer faced all the years of her life continues to affect our daily lives as demonstrated by the vote at the rifle club. One of the things that depress me is how that history is perpetuated.

At the Center for American Progress website I found this statement, “The United States has a troubled history of voter suppression. Prior to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many states used policies such as poll taxes and literacy tests to prevent African Americans from voting. Even after the voting barriers of the Jim Crow era were removed more than 50 years ago, some lawmakers continue to pursue policies that would undermine our nation’s progress.”

Fannie Lou Hamer died a fairly young woman after a life of hard struggle. I wonder what she’d think today about the battle for voting rights and civil rights, some 40 year after her death. An avid reader, I wonder what she’d think of the stuff that’s posted on Facebook – the pearls of wisdom and the crazy stuff.

This article originally appeared in the Charleston Chronicle

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Philadelphia Fires 13 Officers for Racist Facebook Posts

NNPA NEWSWIRE — In Philadelphia, several officers have been terminated while in St. Louis, prosecutors have barred a number of police personnel from bringing cases against suspects. “I continue to be very angered and disappointed by these posts,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross Jr., said on Thursday, July 18.

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Philadelphia Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. said the department terminated 13 officers who made “posts that advocated violence.” He said 17 other officers still face “severe disciplinary action,” while another four will receive 30-day suspensions. (Photo: YouTube)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Police officers in Philadelphia and St. Louis are paying a heavy price for their acts of racism.

Weeks after a scathing analysis by the nonprofit Plain View Project, the two departments have responded.

In Philadelphia, several officers have been terminated while in St. Louis, prosecutors have barred a number of police personnel from bringing cases against suspects.

“I continue to be very angered and disappointed by these posts,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross Jr., said on Thursday, July 18.

Ross said the department terminated 13 officers who made “posts that advocated violence.” He said 17 other officers still face “severe disciplinary action,” while another four will receive 30-day suspensions.

In St. Louis, Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner said she added 22 officers to her “exclusion list” of authorities banned from bringing cases to her office after the Facebook posts were made public.

In a letter sent to Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards and St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden, Gardner said seven of those 22 were “permanently banned.”

Hayden and Gardner have said they are still investigating the Facebook posts.

In June, the Plain View Project determined that at least 328 active-duty police officers in various cities, including Philadelphia and St. Louis, posted content that championed violence against Muslims, immigrants and African Americans.

In the posts, officers from rookies to the highest of rank, said the viewed African Americans as “dogs,” and some wrote that they would arrive at work believing that, “it’s a good day for a chokehold.”

Still, others posted their beliefs that women in hijabs were tantamount to “trash bags.”

Plain View project officials counted more than 3,000 offensive posts from departments across the country, including Dallas, Tex.; Denison, Tex.; Lake County, Fla.; Philadelphia, Penn.; Phoenix, Ariz.; St. Louis, Mo.; Twin Falls, Idaho; and York, Penn.

“We found a very high and concerning number of posts that appear to endorse, celebrate or glorify violence and vigilantism,” said Philadelphia-based attorney Emily Baker-White, who heads the Plain View Project.

“We included posts that we thought could affect public trust and policing,” she said.

“We also included posts that seemed to emit some sort of bias against a group of people – whether if that’s a minority faith, a minority race, ethnicity, immigration status, whatever it is. We saw a number of posts that appeared to denigrate those groups of people,” Baker-White said.

Pennsylvania State. Rep. Chris Rabb said the move by the Philadelphia Police Department to fire the officers is the right thing to do.

“We rely on police officers to protect us, all of us, and to serve as an example of appropriate behavior in our community,” said Rabb, a Democrat who represents the Philadelphia area.

“Unethical, racist, inappropriate behavior or comments by police officers, like that exhibited by these officers from the Philadelphia Police Department, undermines the public’s trust in an institution that is supposed to serve us all,” Rabb said.

Further, Rabb said he agreed with sending the message that such behavior will not be tolerated in any police department.

“But it’s not enough if those police officers are able to find employment in another community that’s unsuspecting of their past behavior,” said Rabb, who has introduced legislation that would ensure that officers like those being terminated cannot simply be moved to another department without leadership and the community being aware of their past behavior.

He said his bill would prevent a department from hiring a police officer who separated from their last job after a pattern of allegations, complaints or charges for inappropriate behavior.

It would also ensure that the hiring departments are fully informed about whom they are hiring.

“This legislation would empower police chiefs and municipalities to make fully informed decisions about the officers who serve their communities,” Rabb said.

“Accountability and transparency, which this legislation would promote, are assets in agencies and departments that strive for integrity.”

Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 President John McNesby said the organization was “disappointed” in the decision to fire the officers in part because they were deprived of due process.

“The overwhelming majority of our members serve this city with integrity and professionalism,” McNesby said.

None of the terminated officers were named, but Philadelphia authorities confirmed that the highest-ranking officer fired is a sergeant.

“We have a duty to represent ourselves and our city,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said.

“We will not allow this incident to break down the progress we have made and we pledge to do better,” Kenney said.

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LeMoyne-Owen College looking for new president as college board ousts Dr. Andrea Miller

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The first woman appointed president of the then 153-year-old college, the city’s only historically black college/university (HBCU), Dr. Andrea Lewis Miller, a graduate of the college, learned in mid-June that the LeMoyne-Owen College Board of Trustees would not pick up her contract this September.

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Dr. Andrea Miller is out at LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis.
Dr. Andrea Miller is out at LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis.

By Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell, Special to the New Tri-State Defender

Dr. Andrea Lewis Miller, who was once deemed the right candidate at the right moment “for such a time as this” at LeMoyne-Owen College, will not get a second term as president.

The first woman appointed president of the then 153-year-old college, the city’s only historically black college/university (HBCU), Miller, a graduate of the college, learned in mid-June that the LeMoyne-Owen College Board of Trustees would not pick up her contract this September.

Amid considerable optimism, Miller became the 12th president on Sept. 1, 2015. She brought with her 20 years of experience in higher learning, exiting Baton Rouge Community College for the return to Memphis. She was the second LOC graduate to serve as president.

A statement released on Tuesday confirmed the rumblings that Dr. Miller was out. “(The) Board of Trustees is grateful for Dr. Miller’s service and commitment to LeMoyne-Owen for the past four years.”

Neither Miller nor Board of Trustee’s Chair Dr. Christopher Davis had returned calls by TSD press time. Davis did indicate that an interim would be named; no timetable was given.

Miller set an ambitious agenda for LeMoyne-Owen College. Initially established as a “teachers’ college” like many other HBCUs, the liberal arts institution was put on an overhaul course that included the goal of offering students more relevant courses of study.

Steps in the new direction garnered both supporters and adversaries of her proposed changes. During LOC’s 2016 commencement exercises, shipping giant FedEx gave the college $1 million for technology upgrades – and another $100,000 as a scholarship endowment.

Meanwhile, enrollment did not change significantly for the better. And in 2017, a vote of “no confidence by some faculty members added to Miller’s challenges.

Along the way came charges of nepotism and ineffective leadership by some student government leaders, who sought Miller’s removal.

In response, Miller assessed the charges by students as “a few, just a few who do not want to see me succeed.”

Alumni, who met with student leaders, joined the call to remove Miller. Several meetings over the past few months indicated that members of the Board of Trustees were split on whether to move forward with her.

The Faculty Senate at LeMoyne-Owen College issued a second vote of no confidence after accusing Miller of plagiarizing world-renowned pastor Joel Osteen’s sermon – entitled “I’m Still Standing – during her Oct. 2018 convocation address to incoming freshmen.

At the time, Michael Robinson, a professor and president of the college’s faculty organization, told reporters, “The president is the highest academic and administrative officer…and sets the standard for ethical and moral conduct at the college as well…These are some serious allegations, because it impacts the credibility of the college because the president is the face of the organization…and that’s a serious infraction.”

In a written statement released after the plagiarism assertion, Miller defended her use of Osteen’s remarks, also implying that it was an “oversight” not to credit him. The matter, she said, did not “constitute a serious breach of academic standards that would rise to a level of review for faculty or students.”

Miller also has defended her tenure as president, saying that LeMoyne-Owen must evolve its curriculum to properly serve students in a changing world and job market. She has said criticism of her leadership stems mostly from resistance to what she believes is necessary change.

“It is no secret that organizational changes, the pace of change and our new direction at LeMoyne-Owen College has caused consternation among some faculty members,” Miller said in a prepared statement issued after the plagiarism assertion.

“Still, I am committed to ensuring this 156-year-old institution achieves new heights in outcomes for the students and families we serve.”

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Unrest over Brandon Webber shooting leaves many questions, few answers

NNPA NEWSWIRE — It’s exposure to violence like this incident that Tennessee State Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) attributed to his poor, and sometimes violent decision making as a youth. It’s also one of the reasons he spearheaded a mental health initiative for those affected by the recent shooting death of Brandon Webber a father of two. The 20-year-old was killed by U.S. Marshals June 12th while they were trying to arrest him.

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The vigil held for Brandon Webber was in stark contrast to the violence that erupted after he was fatally shot by U.S. Marshals.
The vigil held for Brandon Webber was in stark contrast to the violence that erupted after he was fatally shot by U.S. Marshals.

By Erica R. Williams, Special to The New Tri-State Defender

Tennessee State Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) recalled the grim day that he witnessed violence outside of his apartment as a 4-year-old growing up in Los Angeles.

“I remember seeing a man lying outside on the steps, and he was bleeding out,” Parkinson recounted. “My mother told us to walk around him and don’t touch him. I remember just looking back in shock.”

It’s exposure to violence like this incident that Parkinson attributed to his poor, and sometimes violent decision making as a youth. It’s also one of the reasons he spearheaded a mental health initiative for those affected by the recent shooting death of Brandon Webber, a father of two. The 20-year-old was killed by U.S. Marshals June 12 while they were trying to arrest him.

To kick off the initiative, Parkinson enlisted the assistance of local pastors in Frayser, the area where Webber’s shooting death occurred. It’s also part of the district Parkinson serves as state representative. Through the free counseling sessions, Parkinson said he hopes to address the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) related to the aftermath of Webber’s death and other rampant acts of violence that children and families have witnessed within their homes and communities.

A rotation of local counselors is dedicating two hours of their time to help with the initiative that kicked off June 16. Parkinson said it’s something that’s needed in communities plagued with violence.

A vigil for Brandon Webber, who was shot by U.S. Marshals in Frayser, drew a crowd carrying candles and balloons last Friday evening (June 14). (Photo: Johnathan Martin)

A vigil for Brandon Webber, who was shot by U.S. Marshals in Frayser, drew a crowd carrying candles and balloons last Friday evening (June 14). (Photo: Johnathan Martin)

“Those seeds get deposited into the psyche of kids. The first time it’s shocking, and over time it gets less and less shocking. And after repeatedly seeing incidents of violence in their communities and households, it becomes their norm,” he said “Eventually, those seeds begin to sprout and bear fruit. So, my intent in coming up with this strategy is to kill those seeds so that the kids and families get the help that they need.”

Parkinson’s analysis is backed up by research from myriad health and education advocacy organizations. According to one study conducted by the Violence Policy Center, exposure to community violence appears to represent a unique form of trauma that is particularly associated with the development of PTSD symptoms, especially among children and adolescents. The study also concludes that repeated trauma can lead to anger, despair, and severe psychic numbing, resulting in major changes in personality and behavior.

Parkinson linked the aftermath of Webber’s death to this type of trauma. After the father of two was killed, protests erupted in Frayser. Dozens of Memphis police officers were injured during the unrest.

“I saw people who were just angry and scared. Many of them just didn’t know what to do with those emotions,” Parkinson stated. “It’s not normal to live in a space where violence is all around you.

Pastor Ricky Floyd of Pursuit of God Transformation Center joined Parkinson in the initiative, allowing his church to serve as one of the participating locations where residents could come to seek counseling. According to Floyd, it only made sense to join forces with Parkinson, because it’s something his church already does in collaboration with Agape.

“The good thing about a crisis is that it gives an opportunity to make people aware of the systems we already have in place,” Floyd mentioned. His church also offers a grief class each Wednesday night.

Despite the need, both Parkinson and Floyd said that it’s not easy to get people to participate, mainly because of the stigma attached to counseling within many black communities.

“There is still a stigma on mental health counseling in our communities, so there are barriers for us to even seek the counseling that’s readily available because of this stigma,” Parkinson said.

Floyd agreed, citing a familiar adage.

“You can take a horse to water, but can’t make him drink,” he said before adding, “I’ve been praying to God to give me an anointing so that I can make people thirsty.”

Although the mental health initiative wrapped up June 21, Parkinson hopes resources and participation will allow an extension.

“Our goal is to continue on with this counseling in partnership with churches in our community. And I hope statewide we will adopt this strategy to make mental health counseling as assessable in as many communities as possible.

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IN MEMORIAM: Community honors Sadie Roberts-Joseph

NNPA NEWSWIRE — BATON ROUGE (The Drum/NNPA)—For more than three decades, Sadie Roberts-Joseph was an exceptional force of civic and cultural life in Baton Rouge. Often called an activist, matriarch, and a ‘tireless advocate of peace,’ the 75-year-old founder of the city’s African-American history museum was found dead in the trunk of a car on Friday, July 12, about 3 miles from her home. Police did not explain what led them to the car where they found her body.

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For more than three decades, Sadie Roberts-Joseph was an exceptional force of civic and cultural life in Baton Rouge.
For more than three decades, Sadie Roberts-Joseph was an exceptional force of civic and cultural life in Baton Rouge.

By Candace J. Semien, Jozef Syndicate reporter, The Drum Newspaper
@JozefSyndicate

BATON ROUGE (The Drum/NNPA)—For more than three decades, Sadie Roberts-Joseph was an exceptional force of civic and cultural life in Baton Rouge. Often called an activist, matriarch, and a ‘tireless advocate of peace,’ the 75-year-old founder of the city’s African-American history museum was found dead in the trunk of a car on Friday, July 12, about 3 miles from her home. Police did not explain what led them to the car where they found her body.

Investigators believe she was suffocated before her body was found. Within days, Baton Rouge Police arrested and charged a male tenant from one of Roberts-Joseph’s rent houses with her murder. He was allegedly $1,200 behind in his rent.

While leaning from the historic bus, archivist Sadie Roberts-Joseph delivers a presentation on the 1953 Baton Rouge Bus Boycott to tourist visiting the museum. Photo by James Terry III.

While leaning from the historic bus, archivist Sadie Roberts-Joseph delivers a presentation on the 1953 Baton Rouge Bus Boycott to tourist visiting the museum. Photo by James Terry III.

“You stole light,” said her son Jason Roberts. “You stole a warm, loving, giving and caring woman and it wasn’t just for her family. She cared for the city. She cared for you. Her life should not have ended that way. She did not deserve that, but she would want forgiveness for you.”

In 2001, Roberts-Joseph founded the Odell S. Williams Now & Then African American Museum, which features exhibits of African art and tells the stories of minority inventors. It also includes displays of historical artifacts from the civil rights era, including a 1963 bus used during the Baton Rouge boycotts.

Leading up to this year’s Juneteenth Celebration, she’d begun rebranding the museum as the Baton Rouge African American History Museum, which some recognized as an astute move to market it as the city’s museum and to connect it to other Black museums in Southeast Louisiana.

“She was one of the standout matriarchs of Baton Rouge,” said Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, who knew and worked with Roberts-Joseph for 30 years. “We will make her legacy a priority because of what she gave to so many here.”

Roberts-Joseph was also the founder of the nonprofit organization Community Against Drugs and Violence, and she organized the state’s recognition of Juneteenth in Baton Rouge.

Roberts-Joseph grew up in Woodville, Mississippi. Her family later moved to Baton Rouge, where she studied education and speech pathology. She consistently called for unity and togetherness, often explaining how the city and nation needed to heal from the legacy of slavery. “What my mother wanted in life came to fruition — ironically — in death,” said Angela R. Machen, Ph.D., “and that was inclusiveness, togetherness and diversity.”

Machen challenged the community to keep her mother’s legacy by living “a better life. Give a little more effort to make the whole better.” She said her mother was committed to community service and excellence, “Whatever you believe in, work hard in it. Give your dead-level best.”

Sadie Roberts-Joseph speaks at the 2019 Juneteenth Celebration on the banks of the Mississippi River. The archivist and founder of the Baton Rouge African American Museum (formerly the Odell S Williams Now and Then African American Museum) was murdered July 12, 2019. Photo by Yulani Semien.

Sadie Roberts-Joseph speaks at the 2019 Juneteenth Celebration on the banks of the Mississippi River. The archivist and founder of the Baton Rouge African American Museum (formerly the Odell S Williams Now and Then African American Museum) was murdered July 12, 2019. Photo by Yulani Semien.

The family has created The Sadie Roberts-Joseph Memorial Fund at Hancock Whitney Bank and is hoping to raise funds that will go toward museum operations.

The Southern University System Board of Supervisors presented a resolution to the family. The resolution outlined the commitment of Roberts Joseph to both her family and the city of Baton Rouge. These commitments included founding the museum. She was an alumna of Southern University.

“Our love for Sadie Roberts-Joseph will continue. We will demonstrate it in very tangible ways,” said Broome. For starts, the Mayor’s Youth Workforce Experience participants, led by The Walls Project and Build Baton Rouge, will paint a mural of the revered activist at 2065 Plank Road — the corner of Plank Road and Pawnee Street, in North Baton Rouge.

The community shares their memories and tributes:

Gov. John bel Edwards: I am heartbroken and sickened by the disturbing death of Sadie Roberts-Joseph. @FirstLadyOfLA and I are praying for her family and the members of the Baton Rouge community who, like us, are struggling to understand this senseless act of violence.

Many knew Sadie as the founder of Baton Rouge’s African-American History Museum and for her annual Juneteenth celebrations, but she was equally known for her kindness, vibrant spirit, and passion for promoting peace. Sadie was a storyteller, and I believe we have the responsibility of keeping those stories alive and working to, as she once said, “build a better state and a better nation.”

Mayor Sharon Weston Broome: In the midst of managing a major weather event in our parish, I was hit with some devastating news — the murder of a dear friend and a mother of the community, Sadie Roberts Joseph. I’ve deliberately waited to comment because of the level of love and respect I had for Sadie and because it was such shocking news.

She loved this city and its people. Her commitment to the cultural and educational fabric of our community is beyond description. The development of The Odell S. Williams African American Museum is a testament of her visionary and pioneering leadership. In the days to come, I look forward to offering a more comprehensive tribute.

Erica Williams Mitchell, Phyllis, and Owusu Bandele, Ph.D. sing along with the crowd gathering at Sadie Roberts-Joseph vigil at the Baton Rouge African-American History Museum. Photo by Antione GHOST Mitchell @the_art_alchemist

Erica Williams Mitchell, Phyllis, and Owusu Bandele, Ph.D. sing along with the crowd gathering at Sadie Roberts-Joseph vigil at the Baton Rouge African-American History Museum. Photo by Antione GHOST Mitchell @the_art_alchemist

State Rep. C. Denise Marcelle: My heart is empty… as I learned last night that Ms. Sadie Roberts Joseph was found murdered! This woman was amazing and loved her history. She never bothered anyone, just wanted to expand her African American Museum downtown, where she continually hosted the Juneteenth Celebration yearly. I loved working with her and am saddened by her death.

Judge John Michael Guidry: My friend Sadie Roberts-Joseph often had me as her Speaker for her Juneteenth Celebrations in South Baton Rouge or her Veterans Observance at Port Hudson. We bonded over 25 years ago when, as a State Senator, I worked with the community group CADAV which she led in the Banks community.

Her life was one of sacrificial service to others. She gave herself away so that God could use her. She reminded us of our history and has earned her place in the history of our community. Her death was tragic, but her life was a treasure. I choose to focus my thoughts not on how she died, but on how she lived. My condolences and prayers are with her family.

State Rep. Patricia Haynes Smith: As I sit remembering my dear dear friend Sadie I know the tears I’ve shed do no more than help relieve my emotions. A lot of people knew or knew of Sadie but really didn’t know her. For those of us who did, who grew up in her time we knew a bit more. Sadie’s death isn’t an opportunity for news sound bites without knowing her family or involving her family.

I am disappointed. This is indeed a time for ALL who knew her and really want her legacy to be enshrined AND the perpetrators brought to justice to come together in unity. NO MAN IS AN ISLAND and we should be embracing her family and referring news outlets to them.

Some may not like this post, but I respect her family and for as much time as she and I spent together dealing with the museum issues I could never politicize her death and there are others who feel as I do. I LOVED SADIE FOR WHO SHE WAS AND ADMIRED ALL SHE WAS TRYING TO DO FOR OUR COMMUNITY. UNIFY FOR THE LOVE OF Sadie L. Roberts-Joseph!

Donna Collins Lewis: My heart is aching. I have known Ms. Sadie for over 30 years. A wonderful, sweet and quiet soul. Soft-spoken with a passion for the community and African American History and Art. I pray for a quick resolution in bringing the person responsible to justice. I pray God’s strength and peace for her family and the many lives who are saddened by her death.

May her legacy and work continue to live through the African American Museum and the many efforts she championed in the community. She leaves her footprint on the entire parish and far beyond.

NAACP Baton Rouge Branch: We lost a Cultural Legend Yesterday! #RIP Sadie Roberts Joseph. From reviving Juneteenth, to the Culture preserved at Her Museum, she was a trendsetter and icon in this City.

The King Center: We mourn. Sadie Roberts-Joseph was the founder and curator of the Baton Rouge African-American Museum, which she started in 2001. She was a tireless advocate of peace.

Baton Rouge Police Department: The Baton Rouge Police Department joins the community in mourning the loss of Ms. Sadie Roberts-Joseph. Ms. Sadie was a tireless advocate of peace in the community. We had opportunities to work with her on so many levels. From assisting with her bicycle give away at the African American Museum to working with the organization she started called CADAV (Community Against Drugs and Violence). Ms. Sadie is a treasure to our community, she will be missed by BRPD and her loss will be felt in the community she served.

Broderick Bagert: Shocked & saddened by the death of Ms. Sadie L. Roberts-Joseph. She founded the Now & Then Museum of African American History in Baton Rouge on a shoestring as part of her life-long project to teach Black history & civil rights. She was part of Together Baton Rouge from its earliest days. Ms. Sadie was a calm presence. And a fierce presence in every fiber of her being. May she rest in peace. And may the rest of us live up to her legacy, STARTING by supporting her vision for the Then & Now Museum.

Paula Johnson-Hutchinson: On this day, Ms. Sadie told me that writing books of our lives and culture ensures the sustainability of us and that we wouldn’t be forgotten. She also said that sharing knowledge and being true teachers of our children will provide a pathway that will long outlive us.

LSU Office of Diversity: Ms. Sadie Roberts-Joseph founded the Baton Rouge African-American Museum which tells the stories of African-Americans in Louisiana throughout history from the cotton grown in the museum’s garden to artifacts like a 1953 bus from the year of the city’s public bus boycott protesting racial segregation. Ms. Roberts-Joseph gave away bicycles at the museum and started a community organization to fight drugs and violence. She was known as a quiet leader and tireless advocate of peace in the community. Our LSU family mourns her tragic loss.

Res-Brother Stanley: We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

David Modeste: Much respect to Sister Sadie for her tireless efforts to uplift the community in every way she knew how. We especially appreciate her active contribution and participation in the Baton Rouge Kwanzaa Celebrations sponsored by Afrocentric Focus Group of Baton Rouge.

Walter Geno McLaughlin: We’ve all posted about it and reacted to the news locally. And now we see the lens of national news outlets focused on the death of Miss Sadie. Fitting, yet unexpected.

It’s strange how in death we seek to honor those who have done so much to uplift our community on a daily basis. But this video shows how she lived; with a smile on her face, a quiet force of nature, motivated by the need to narrate & curate our own stories.

One of the last times I saw Miss Sadie, she was hopeful that with all the renewed energy towards investment in underserved neighborhoods, her little museum would not be forgotten and would receive the resources to make it sustainable.

This woman did so much with so little. And like many others who do this work, probably never knew the full weight of her impact. It is why it’s important to clap for people while they are here and give them the fuel to keep moving forward. I’m left to wonder who would do such a thing to someone we all loved, and at this tender age?

There is speculation beyond the normal motives, and we must ask tough questions. But as we all prepared for the coming storm, I believe she was likely still helping people, not fully aware of the dangers, whatever they were. What I do know is that her funeral will be full of dashiki wearing brothers and sisters emulating the look she was synonymous for. Rest in Power Queen. We will take it from here.

Niles B. Haymer: This morning I visited the African American Museum that was so loved by her and I could feel her spirit and presence throughout along with her love of displaying African American History in Baton Rouge.

I got a chance to speak with Ms. Sadie this past February at a Black History Program sponsored by Councilwoman Erika Green where I promised Ms. Sadie that my kids would soon visit her museum for a photo op with her. My oldest son even wondered loudly why I’ve never taken him to the museum in front of Ms. Sadie. Of course, I was embarrassed and gave him that look of “I’ll deal with you later.”

Unbeknownst to my son, he was right, many families of all races should have supported this historic museum and still have time to do so. Sadly, that day never came for my kids, Ms. Sadie and that well-anticipated photo op.

Violent crime in Baton Rouge is an unspeakable epidemic that’s stealing the soul of this City. I know that the candlelight vigil this evening will be well-attended, and I wanted to just take in her life’s work without disruption.

Rep. C. Denise Marcelle has assisted the family in setting up the Sadie Roberts Joseph Memorial Fund at Hancock Whitney Bank. This is our chance to give to a worthy cause by keeping this museum open and well funded. #JusticeforSadie

Councilwoman Erika Green: Today, I speak Ms. Sadie Roberts-Joseph’s name! Though her life was taken by a heartless person in this city yesterday, I am comforted in remembering the community and the African-American history she carried in her soul. She loved and told the story of our people.

Shenena Armstrong Merchant: Aunty Sadie was a light to the Armstrong family, she taught me through her actions how to smile through it. So, in spite of my tears, I’m smiling because her legacy lives on; bigger, stronger, and more loving.

Jeremy L. Blunt: My heart mourns today at the loss of such a pillar of our community. I met Mrs. Sadie L. Roberts-Joseph as a teenager and can still remember our conversations where she encouraged me to keep striving for others. She told me that one day, I too would be one of those on her wall. We have to not just seek justice for her but seek betterment in our community by how we treat one another. Love is a universal language that does not discriminate. Remember what she lived for and carry that message on.

Lloyd Benson II: Thank you, Queen, for always inspiring and encouraging us to learn, respect, and appreciate our heritage.

Tiffany Littlejohn: My Aunt Sadie L. Roberts-Joseph always wanted to be famous. Her story is breaking twitter, being shared by CNN, CBS, ABC, ESSENCE magazine, BET, Instagram, US News, New York Times, Perez Hilton, New York Daily News, and the list goes on and on… TAKE YOUR PLACE QUEEN, TAKE YOUR PLACE.

LaNeir Roberts: Aunt Sadie L. Roberts-Joseph was beautiful, smart, truly a phenomenal woman, and loved the Lord. I will never forget our Christmas light adventure. Never saw the Christmas lights but we managed to find the railroad tracks (lol).

When we asked to listen to the radio Aunt Sadie turns it to the politics station; and we expressed to her that we wanted to listen to rap music… she started banging on the steering wheel lol. Aunt Sadie was definitely a character, but she was also an educator and loved by so many.

I still can’t believe she’s gone. Please please please continue to pray for my family as we support each other through this difficult time. Rest in paradise Auntie, until we meet again.

Quentin Anthony Anderson Sr.: So, it was great to see everyone at Ms. Sadie’s vigil last night. But many of y’all admitted that it was the first time you had ever stepped foot on the campus of that museum. That’s fine, a lot of people hadn’t, and it speaks volumes to how big of an impact Ms. Sadie left on Baton Rouge that so many people were touched by her and hadn’t even see her in her purest element as a historian and curator. But that museum is our history, Black Baton Rouge. And it’s her legacy.

If you were willing to come out in the heat and endure an entire church service and 4 closing prayers for Ms. Sadie yesterday, the least you can do is support the museum-going forward.

Visit the museum. Take your kids. Volunteer (Ms. Sadie really wanted to maintain those column murals and the maps on the ground, hint hint). Donate monthly to keep the museum open.

Sharon Weston Broome, designate the museum as a local historical landmark and protect it from greedy developers. We all have a part we can play as a community. As my friend Myra Richardson says, make this a movement, not a moment. Make this important to you beyond just today, beyond it trending on your favorite timeline. If you truly care about Ms. Sadie and her legacy, let’s protect and preserve it by supporting her crown jewel.

Myra Richardson: Last summer, Byron Washington and Ms. Sadie asked me work with the museum because she said she needed some “youthful energy”. I’m eternally grateful for both of those relationships.

However, one of the things that struck me was when she told me the Museum was an extension of her. Every piece collected in that museum passed through her delicate fingers, every tour was different as she would recount how she got a different artifact. I thought I was an intense person but spend a few days a week on a hot bus with that women and she’ll learn you a thing or two.

She made me read endlessly but she talked to me more about how important oral history is and passing down stories. She was a walking book and just wanted to share the museum with the world. She dreamed of renovating the building and connecting it to the building behind it, even thought of renaming it once.

The last piece of literature she had me read was about Oscar Dunn. In 1868, Dunn became the first elected Black lieutenant governor of a U.S. state. His sentiments were written during reconstruction hailing from the great State of Louisiana, but Ms. Sadie wanted me to draw parallels that he was essentially asking for the same thing 151 years ago that we’re asking for today.

She viewed knowledge of history as an equalizer, she wanted me and youth across Louisiana to have access to that museum purely because knowledge is more than power … it’s a labor of love.

That museum is Ms. Sadie, that museum is more than a legacy … it’s a living breathing organism birthed from her dreams, travels, relationships and love for all of us. That museum is my chief priority and should be yours as well.

Byron Washington: Many people will rightly so build memorials and vigils. I think the best way to Honor Sadie is to honor her legacy. Honor what she put her heart and soul in. Donate, find funding sources, and promote the museum. Make it so the doors will never close and we will never lose its memory.

Learn your local history and embrace your local culture. It is unique and should be celebrated from the mountain tops. So instead of buying a bunch of flowers, although you certainly are within you right and in many cases should let’s put that money into the facility. Let’s put our energy into the grants. Let’s put our focus into promotion.

Stephanie Anthony: She was a fellow worker in the vineyard, a kind, sweet lady I can’t wrap my mind around what our city has become capable of these days. What a great loss. Prayers for her family.

Johnny Anderson: The recent murder of my dear and sweet 75-year-old friend Sadie Roberts-Joseph has greatly disturbed me, personally, and Baton Rouge, collectively!! I have so many questions but, I know my friend, Baton Rouge Chief of Police Murphy Paul will do his all to find and appropriately charge the person or persons who committed such a horrific crime!! What is on the mind(s) of anybody to kill a 75-year-old Christian, mother, grandmother, humanitarian, community Activist, human and civil rights activist, African-American historian and protector of the culture, lover of arts, fighter for the people’s cause…! Not only kill her but, stuff her in the trunk of a car!!?

So many times, when I was in government, at the state or federal level, Sadie had no problem making her way there to my office and express her opinion on issues or to advocate for help for the least! I never knew her children, grandchildren or relatives because she never came asking for help for them, it was always about helping others!

One of my more recent memories of her was she coming to my office to express concerns with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) where she had taken upstate property for her Museum expansion, painting African-American heroes on State post and was NOT moving it! Then on another occasion to have me as her guest speaker at the Museum!

I was so hot that day, looks like it was 90+ degrees but, she thought that my removing my jacket, on the OUTSIDE, where I was speaking, would lower the dignity of her activity/event…and I was crazy enough to listen to her and kept my coat though they got a shorter version of my speech!!

She was always soft-spoken but, very forcefull about her position, that was not easily changed! Sadie had a small voice but, strong convictions about her causes! She hardly shouted at anyone but, she never stopped coming to the “gate” to help others!

She often reminded me of the woman in the Bible that came night and day to “bother” the one in authority until she ultimately got what she wanted!! Sounds familiar LA DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson and Attorney Joshua G. Hollins?!

Sadie Roberts-Joseph was persistent! She knew how to ask you for financial support for the Annual Juneteenth Celebration without ever asking you for a penny, which by the way, should now be appropriately entitled the “Sadie Roberts-Joseph Juneteenth Celebration!”

I want her murderer(s) to be brought to justice!! Did they even know what this woman embodied…who she was…what she meant…who she fought for…her commitment…her love…did they know?!!! Rest well my friend…you wrought well while here!!

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Dr. Patrice Harris Sworn-In as the American Medical Association’s First Black Female President

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “And I hope to be tangible evidence for young girls and young boys and girls from communities of color that you can aspire to be a physician. Not only that, you can aspire to be a leader in organized medicine,” said Dr. Patrice A. Harris, a psychiatrist from Atlanta, was sworn-in as the 174th president of the American Medical Association (AMA).

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“We are no longer at a place where we can tolerate the disparities that plague communities of color, women, and the LGBTQ community. But we are not yet at a place where health equity is achieved in those communities,” she said. (Photo by Reginald Duncan)
“We are no longer at a place where we can tolerate the disparities that plague communities of color, women, and the LGBTQ community. But we are not yet at a place where health equity is achieved in those communities,” she said. (Photo by Reginald Duncan)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

In June, Dr. Patrice A. Harris, a psychiatrist from Atlanta, was sworn-in as the 174th president of the American Medical Association (AMA). She is the first African-American woman to hold the position.

During her inauguration ceremony in Chicago, Dr. Harris said she plans to implement effective strategies to improve healthcare education and training, combat the crisis surrounding chronic diseases, and eliminate barriers to quality patient care.

She also promised to lead conversations on mental health and diversity in the medical field.

“We face big challenges in health care today, and the decisions we make now will move us forward in a future we help create,” Dr. Harris said in a statement.

“We are no longer at a place where we can tolerate the disparities that plague communities of color, women, and the LGBTQ community. But we are not yet at a place where health equity is achieved in those communities,” she said.

According to her biography on the AMA’s website, Dr. Harris has long been a mentor, role model and an advocate.

She served on the AMA Board of Trustees since 2011, and as chair from 2016 to 2017.

Prior to that, Dr. Harris served in various leadership roles which included task forces on topics like health information technology, payment and delivery reform, and private contracting.

Dr. Harris also held leadership positions with the American Psychiatric Association, the Georgia Psychiatric Physicians Association, the Medical Association of Georgia, and The Big Cities Health Coalition, where she chaired this forum composed of leaders from America’s largest metropolitan health departments.

Growing up in Bluefield, West Virginia, Dr. Harris dreamt of entering medicine at a time when few women of color were encouraged to become physicians, according to her bio.

She spent her formative years at West Virginia University, earning a BA in psychology, an MA in counseling psychology and ultimately, a medical degree in 1992.

It was during this time that her passion for helping children emerged, and she completed her psychiatry residency and fellowships in child and adolescent psychiatry and forensic psychiatry at the Emory University School of Medicine, according to her bio.

“The saying ‘if you can see it, you can believe it’ is true,” Dr. Harris said during her swearing-in ceremony.

“And I hope to be tangible evidence for young girls and young boys and girls from communities of color that you can aspire to be a physician. Not only that, you can aspire to be a leader in organized medicine,” she said.

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If You’re Poor in America, Debtor’s Prison is Real

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The people who are jailed or threatened with jail often are the most vulnerable Americans living paycheck to paycheck, one emergency away from financial catastrophe, according to a 2018 report from the American Civil Liberties Union.

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Few tools are as coercive or as effective as the threat of incarceration, ACLU report authors said. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
Few tools are as coercive or as effective as the threat of incarceration, ACLU report authors said. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Despite a centuries-old Supreme Court ruling that outlawed the practice, debtor’s prison remains very much alive in America, experts told NNPA Newswire. Being poor is challenging enough, but some states, like Missouri, have continued to punish those of lesser means.

A federal class-action suit claims thousands of those living in Missouri were jailed because they couldn’t pay off fines – essentially, a debtor’s prison and conundrum for the poor.

Pro Publica reported that four years after the suit was filed, the plaintiffs are still waiting, and wondering if the deck is stacked against them.

The report details the plight of Tonya DeBerry, who, in January 2014, was driving through an unincorporated area of St. Louis County, Missouri, when a police officer pulled her over for having expired license plates.

“After discovering that DeBerry, 51, had several outstanding traffic tickets from three jurisdictions, the officer handcuffed her and took her to jail,” according to Pro Publica.

“To be released, she was told, she would have to pay hundreds of dollars in fines she owed the county, according to her account in a federal lawsuit. However, even after her family came up with the money, DeBerry wasn’t released from custody.

Because DeBerry still owed fines and fees to the cities in Ferguson and Jennings, she remained jailed and her attorney likened it to “being held for ransom.”

“The crisis that is going on in Missouri is taking place all around the country. It is a rising issue amongst people who cannot afford to pay court fees and, or fines,” said Attorney Dameka L. Davis of the Davis Legal Center in Hollywood, Fla.

“I believe the more appropriate action is to implement programs and services that are free or offer a person to do community service in lieu of paying fines or fees,” Davis said.

“Our system is perpetuating a money-based system, which in turn systematically affects minorities and people of color,” she said.

Matt C. Pinsker, an adjunct professor of Homeland Security and Criminal Justice in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University, said the problem runs deeper than in Missouri.

“The American people would be horrified if they knew of just how many laws still exist which send poor people to prison over their inability to pay fines, court costs, and related expenses,” Pinsker said.

“It is a tragedy and absurdity that we will essentially have debtors’ prisons here in the United States of America,” he said.

In DeBerry’s case, Pro Publica reported that after the Michael Brown killing, “the city slowly stopped jailing people for not being able to pay fines as the news media showed the victims were primarily black and the Justice Department made clear that what Ferguson had been doing was wrong.”

Still, the lawsuit remains unresolved with the city seeking dismissal.

In 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union detailed more than 1,000 cases in 26 states in which judges, acting on the request of a collection company, issued warrants for people they claimed owed money for “ordinary debts, such as student loans, medical expenses, unpaid rent and utility bills.”

The ACLU said it’s a system that breeds coercion and abuse.

The report concluded that, “with little government oversight, debt collectors, backed by arrest warrants and wielding bounced check demand letters, can frighten people into paying money that may not even be owed.”

Few tools are as coercive or as effective as the threat of incarceration, ACLU report authors said.

As an example, one 75-year-old woman subsisting on $800 monthly Social Security checks, went without her medications in order to pay the fees she believed were required to avoid jail time for bouncing a check.

And as one lawyer in Texas, who has sought arrests of student loan borrowers who are in arrears, said, “It’s easier to settle when the debtor is under arrest,” the report’s authors found.

The people who are jailed or threatened with jail often are the most vulnerable Americans living paycheck to paycheck, one emergency away from financial catastrophe, the report said.

Many were struggling to recover after the loss of a job, mounting medical bills, the death of a family member, a divorce, or an illness.

“They included retirees or people with disabilities who are unable to work. Some were subsisting solely on Social Security, unemployment insurance, disability benefits, or veterans’ benefits – income that is legally protected from outstanding debt judgments,” the report’s authors wrote.

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