SHREVEPORT – Shortest summer ever. I report back to work Thursday with a series of workshops and on our new high school ELA curriculum and students report back to class August 2. When I first started teaching twenty years ago, my first report date was August 25; seems like it backs up every single year. I suppose year-round school is the ultimate goal but nobody is saying that.
At any rate, I’ve made the most of my summer with a couple of little trips and tending to some chores that get neglected during the school year. I’ve read some books – probably the one that has had the most profound effect on me was Beautiful Boy by David Scheff, which tells the story of his son’s battle against addiction. I can’t imagine what it took to write this book. Raw pain on every page, but such a beautiful story of love.
What I should have been reading is all of the new material in our new ELA curriculum. Most of the selections we are now required to teach are things I’ve never read or have not read in thirty years. I am now required to teach, for example, chapter one of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which is about the effect of pesticides on the environment; also on our required list is “Address to Congress on Women’s Suffrage” by Carrie Chapman Catt, excerpts from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, “Nothing but Death” by Pablo Neruda, countless speeches and essays, poems I haven’t read since college…and I’ve got to find a way to make this relevant and meaningful to 10th grade inner city students.
I’m a little concerned.
But, I like a good challenge, so I’m sure it will be fine.
What I find disturbing, as a teacher, is the scripted lessons that come with this new curriculum; I suppose this might be helpful to a brand new teacher, but for years we’ve been told that all students learn differently – I’ve been to countless workshops on various learning styles. Now, apparently all kids learn the same and from the same teacher script. Thank you, Common Core.
Well, I have three more days to procrastinate and I won’t worry about that now. For the next three days, it’s still summer.
SHREVEPORT – Now that the Confederate era monuments have come down in New Orleans, one would expect the crime rate to drop as well, at least that is the case if you subscribe to the Mitch Landrieu theory of crime control.
But of course that is not the case and residents and sick and tired of it. Last week surveillance cameras caught an attack on video of two Boston tourists in the French Quarter. The attack was brutal and hard to watch, but it serves to show us that it’s not just in the neighborhoods where we expect there to be crime that this happens. New Orleans is a city that is supported in large part by tourism and when tourists go there they go to the French Quarter. If you’re not safe there…
What is the mayor of the city doing about this rampant lawlessness in the city? Not a whole lot. He’s giving speeches in south Florida at the Conference of Mayors where he declared
“So let’s be honest. In these moments of uncertain, chaotic and sometimes frustrating times, the families we represent cannot look to Washington for answers,” Landrieu said. “In this political climate, we as mayors must fight to occupy the radical center, where idealism meets reality and where we put people over politics.”
The mayor restated his position that though the Civil War was a brief period in the city’s history, the monuments had lingered as symbols for too long and had no place on a contemporary New Orleans public thoroughfares. He called the former situation “absurd.” He put a finer point of the subject when he described the proximity of the now-removed Robert E. Lee statue to the Convention Center. “Just think about it for a moment,” he said, “having the Confederate monuments stand less than 300 yards from where the Essence Festival meets, that juxtaposition seems like it just doesn’t work.”
While Landrieu is positioning himself for a national bid of some sort when his term ends later this year, the city is in the grips of a terrible crime wave which is certain to affect tourism. This has nothing to do with monuments of course, but more with the fact that Landrieu has refused to pay police officers a decent wage and implemented a two year hiring freeze on police officers which dropped numbers by 400 officers, a 40-year low.
As of this writing, there have been 96 murders (many more shootings, muggings, robberies, rapes, etc.) in 2017 as compared with a total of 175 in 2016. The numbers are higher each month this year than in comparable months for 2016.
The French Quarter is safer, right? It’s the tourist area so it has extra protection. It has extra taxes to pay for State Police protection, because while Landrieu told NOPD he couldn’t pay them more or hire more of them, he simply added a tax to hire state officials – an inexplicable paradox. It’s the area that has barricades to prevent Nice- and London-style attacks on innocents. We’re supposed to be safe there, right?
No. We’re supposed to be safe everywhere.
Realistically, of course, that’s not possible. Crime happens, and it happens everywhere. What should not be happening, however, is that a city is so overrun with lawlessness that people are beaten nearly to death in the streets, that literally hundreds of people are shot – fatally or injuriously—or that children catch stray bullets while thugs roam free. What shouldn’t happen is that the leader of a relatively major city gives speeches 1,000 miles away in which he says that statues are “virtual murders,” that the Paris Accords are the responsibility of America’s cities now, that Russians interfered with the presidential election (and, therefore, with his appointment to a Cabinet post).
As Landrieu positions himself on the national stage in the coming months we need to know the kind of leader he is. Under his tenure a once beautiful, thriving, unique city is somewhat diminished. It will take more than Mitch Landrieu to kill New Orleans, but he certainly has done her no favors.
MIAMI, OK: As I mentioned last week, we are on the road this week and as of this writing find ourselves on Route 66 in Miami, OK.
One of our travel stops today was pretty fabulous and worth sharing with you. It may never have crossed your mind that a 311 foot, Balao class submarine could be found in the middle of Oklahoma, but sure enough, that’s where you can find the USS Batfish at the War Memorial Park in Muskogee.
The sub is open to the public and is lovingly tended and kept in tip-top shape through private donations; the state of Oklahoma doesn’t fund the project (and therefore there is no sign on the turnpike or highways alerting tourists to the park).
The Batfish was commissioned in 1942 and was in service for 26 years and is known primarily “for the remarkable feat of sinking three Imperial Japanese Navy submarines in a 76-hour period, in February 1945.”
The sub sits now in a depressed area of a large field at the War Memorial Park in a shallow basin of water. After touring the museum, visitors then can walk outside and go aboard the sub. The first thing that hits you is the smell of the oil and machinery of the sub, but once you descend the ladder into the Batfish, you can see the torpedo holds, banks of brass gauges, dials, and levers; you can see the bunks where the crew rotated sleep shifts, the officer and the enlisted mess, a couple of office areas, and all along the tour are either guides or video monitors with information.
If I lived closer to Muskogee, I’d take part in some of the cool events that the park offers like Bands on the Batfish, or the overnight stays that they do to raise funds to support this fascinating piece of history.
What impressed my husband almost as much as the USS Batfish was the large section of the mast of the USS Oklahoma which was destroyed at Pearl Harbor. It was sobering to stand next to that mast and realize its role in history.
Read more about the USS Batfish here, and about the park that has given her a home here. And if you find yourself in Oklahoma, go by and see it. If you want to donate to the upkeep and maintenance of the sub, go here. The park goes beyond just preserving the submarine, but also works to educate young people and to bring history alive.
For me, it was fascinating to walk through the submarine and think about the masterful engineering involved in putting so much equipment in such a small space. It is well worth the trip.
SHREVEPORT — It’s officially summertime and many of us are looking toward to vacations and hitting the great open road to discover America, or other parts of the world.
For us, we head to the Midwest. There’s some truth in the old adage about the grass being greener, and all that; the living is always better where you aren’t.
Every summer we travel to Iowa. Now I know there are some people in Iowa wondering why in the devil dog would anyone want to come to Iowa, but we love it. My husband’s family is there but it’s not just that. It’s the road trip along the way. We take the backroads whenever we can and avoid interstates.
One year we left for the Midwest from the Dallas area after attending my grandson’s birthday and we ended up on Route 66 in Oklahoma which we rode out as far as we could, stopping to see all the cool Americana, road stops, signage, that we could. It was one of our more memorable trips.
To me, it’s the things you discover by accident as you roam, it’s not having a fixed plan or a rigid time schedule. When I was a child my father would throw us in the car and we’d head for the beach, but there would be only one stop along the entire fourteen hour trip. Maybe two. And they were fast. Get it and go. Now I prefer to take things slower.
We love the Midwest, especially around the Fourth of July holiday because truly that’s where the heart of America can be found. The small town parades are the best. In Shreveport, where we live, the Fourth is celebrated with a huge fireworks extravaganza and massive crowds, traffic jams, in the hot, humid Louisiana night. Give me the small town tractor parades any day.
Maybe it doesn’t matter where you go, just that you go. Sometimes we all need to get away and recharge our batteries, have some real down time. What I’ll be doing next week is sitting in my sister-in-law’s backyard in the evenings while kids roast hotdogs over a fire pit, watching fireflies light up the dark corners of the yard…in the morning the tornado siren will go off at 7 a.m. for it’s daily test (and again at noon). The Amish buggies will clap down the streets and at the Sale Barn down the road the farmers that fill up America’s bread baskets will meet to solve the world’s problems over eggs and coffee. We will drive up to my husband’s family’s generational farm, breathing in gravel dust from the road as we traverse some of the prettiest rolling hills I’ve ever seen.
The biggest decision I will have to make all day is if we want to drive to the WalMart in the next county to pick up a few things.
The people are nice, friendly, and as down to earth as you’ll find anywhere. They want to know where you’re from, who your people are, and they’ll wish you a nice stay.
SHREVEPORT — Let me open this week by apologizing for missing my post last week; a friend of mine died suddenly and the funeral was Monday. It all happened so quickly that I never even thought about my post here until Wednesday. Note: if you are a diabetic, please take care of yourself and do not ignore symptoms or skip medications. That disease is serious business. Take care of yourself.
Meanwhile, here in Louisiana, local and state government continues to be the hot mess that it has been for decades and an issue for which Louisiana has become famous. I’ve documented pretty thoroughly the ineptitude that is local government in New Orleans: Mayor Mitch Landrieu continues to attempt to reinvent his legacy and image in the face of daily shootings and murders in the city while he was spending millions to remove four Confederate era monuments.
The city says about $2.1 million was spent to remove the three Confederate monuments in May and the Battle of Liberty Place monument in April, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in security costs Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration had not anticipated.
My question: how could Landrieu have been so clueless as to not realize security would be needed? Did he really not think people would protest this? Ineptitude at its finest.
The city said $1.04 million of the monument-removal costs came from budgeted city funds, with $1.07 million coming from private donations through the Foundation for Louisiana, which is keeping the names of donors secret.
Secret? Seriously? I would love to know who is funding cultural genocide in New Orleans. FOIA, anyone? Be sure to read this post from The Hayride for more about Landrieu and his friends at Foundation for Louisiana.
Deputy Mayor Ryan Berni said “racial extremists” forced the city to spend $710,000 on a safety and intelligence contractor named Trident Response Group. Invoices show that Trident, a Dallas-based company, provided advice developing operational plans with consultants charging up to $425 an hour.
Trident also provided two security advisers, listed on invoices only as “Bob” and “Gary,” at $275 and $250 per hour, respectively. About a half dozen other security analysts monitored threats on social media and other sources as known white supremacy groups and opposing Antifas encouraged online followers to amass in New Orleans, Berni said.
Again, this wasn’t anticipated? And “racial extremeists” forced the city to spend this money? This is incredible. I would suggest Landrieu would be more to blame than “racial extremeists.” As for Trident Security, they are self-described as “elite risk and threat solutions firm of Veterans and Special Ops to anticipate and solve problems for influential decision-makers.”
This is serious secret-agent stuff, isn’t it?! And all for what? What was accomplished?
Mayor Mitch Landrieu had said there would be no city funds used the remove the Liberty Place monument and statues of Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis.
Berni emphasized no city funds were used on actual removal work, only logistics, security and storage. For example, the city was forced to spend about $52,000 building a shed for the monuments — and another $12,000 in security there — after they were moved to a storage yard because of attempts to vandalize them when they were left outside, Berni said.
Semantics. Word-play. Of course city funds were used in this demolition. And again with this “forced” business – the city “was forced to spend…”. When did this shed get built because last time I saw photos of the monuments they were outside in a maintenance yard. Perhaps Landrieu should have left them where they were until he had a plan to place them someplace else – then he could have saved $52K on “a shed.”
And by the way, there is still no plan for the monuments that anyone knows about.
After WWL-TV reported earlier this week that the city spent $173,000 deploying 221 NOPD officers to the three Confederate leaders’ statues, the full amount paid for all four removals and the protests was released Friday. The total NOPD cost was nearly $220,000. Fire Department personnel were paid $20,000 and EMS employees made about $5,500 to be stationed at the monuments.
The Regional Transit Authority also spent about $7,500 to remove and reinstall overhead streetcar lines at Lee Circle to clear the way for the especially challenging removal of the Robert E. Lee statue.
The graphic from The Advocate breaks down regular and overtime hours. All could have been avoided. Trident received $710K for this gig. Would anyone say that Mitch Landrieu has been a good steward of the city’s money? I don’t think so.
I feel certain at some point the Democrats are going to attempt to put Landrieu’s name out there for the next presidential election and it’s incumbent on all of us to know what you’re getting with that.
Meanwhile, New Orleans continues with daily shootings and murders, potholes go unfixed, the city’s infrastructure declines, tourism declines and problems amass. The city is more racially divided than ever – a city that was once known for its acceptance of diversity and tolerance.
But at least there are four less pieces of public art. There’s that. At least now nobody will have to drive by a statue of Robert E. Lee and feel the trauma of remembering that our country was once divided by a civil war over issues much more complex than just slavery. At least nobody will have to walk past a Jefferson Davis monument (even though they will still have to travel of Jefferson Davis Boulevard).
He has protected us from that trauma. Now if he could figure out how to protect us from the violence in the streets of New Orleans that would be something.
SHREVEPORT — On this Memorial Day 2017, I am re-posting my traditional Memorial Day post about a local family that lost three sons in World War II. The story of the Kelley family always gives me pause and causes me to be thankful for the freedoms and blessings we have today. They were truly The Greatest Generation. I started researching this family years ago when my husband and I began visiting a local veterans cemetery — one of the oldest cemeteries in Shreveport, and we saw these two brothers buried side by side, one of whom died on D-Day. Their graves are always tended with fresh flowers (well, artificial but never faded and always in time with the season). I became curious about them and about the person who was still paying honor to their graves. I found a couple of family members, one in particular, who was very generous about sharing their story.
So today, I’m remembering the Kelley brothers:
It’s probably safe to say that Saving Private Ryan is all over your television menu this Memorial Day weekend. It’s difficult to escape the endless rebroadcasts of the moving story of Private First Class James Francis Ryan lost behind enemy lines after the Normandy D-Day invasion and the ensuing quest to save him.
The film is fiction but there is a real life version of this story right here in Shreveport. In fact, this sort of scenario existed across the nation for multiple families during that turbulent time. As we observe Memorial Day today, let me share with you the story of the Kelley family who lost three sons in less than two years.
Like all of America, Shreveport watched the unfolding events at Pearl Harbor in 1941 with horror. In February 1942, William G. Kelley (his friends and family called him “Bob”) felt the call to service and enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He had graduated from the local high school, attended Louisiana College, and was attending seminary. He was ordained at the First Baptist Church in Shreveport by Dr. M. E. Dodd. When he enlisted, Bob was preaching at the Evangeline Mission, a new church in town that he helped build with the assistance of the Queensborough Baptist Church.
Bob Kelley went to officers’ school and became a bombardier; he went with the Eighth Air Force to England. Lt. Kelley had been overseas only six weeks when his plane crashed near Fontainebleau, France and claimed his life on November 10, 1944. He was twenty-four years old.
The Evangeline Mission, where Bob was a preacher, was renamed for him as Kelley Memorial Baptist Church.
A second Kelley son, Bose, Jr., died in the D-Day invasion. Al McIntosh, writing for the Rock County Star Herald, wrote on June 8, 1944, after learning that the expected invasion of France had finally taken place:
“This is no time for any premature rejoicing or cockiness because the coming weeks are going to bring grim news. This struggle is far from over – it has only started – and if anyone thinks that a gain of ten miles means that the next three hundred are going to go as fast or easy he is only an ostrich.”
He was correct: the grim news was only beginning.
Bose Kelly, Jr. enlisted in May 1942. Bose graduated from Fair Park High School in Shreveport. He was married to Betty Miller and working as a mechanic at Central Motor Company, a car dealership. Bose volunteered for the Army Airborne, went to jump school and became a paratrooper. Bose was part of the 507 PIR which became attached to the 82ndAirborne in 1943. The 507 PIR was activated at Fort Benning, Georgia on July 20, 1942 and trained there and in Alliance, Nebraska. In 1943, the 507th PIR shipped out to Northern Ireland, then England, and it was in Nottingham where they prepared for the coming Allied invasion of France. They studied sand tables, drop zones, and were given Hershey’s chocolates and a carton of cigarettes.
Bose was on a C-47, number 13 in his stick, as the plane lumbered through the fog banks toward Drop Zone T, near the west bank of the Merderet River. Because of the fog and the incoming German flak, the C-47s flew faster and higher than anticipated which caused almost all of the paratroopers to miss the drop zone. They were scattered over a 15 mile area. The 507th was the last regiment to jump and by the time Bose Kelley’s C-47 was over the Cotentin peninsula the entire area was stirred up with flak coming from every direction. There were sixteen men in Bose Kelley’s stick and at least eight of them were killed that night. The Germans had flooded the valley as a defensive tactic and some paratroopers, weighted down by equipment and unable to swim, drowned. Bose Kelley was killed by a direct hit from an artillery shell.
“This regiment unquestionably received the worst drop of the six US parachute regiments dropped that night.”
Howard Huebner, who was number 3 in Bose’s stick, survived that drop. He wrote:
I am a Paratrooper! I was 21 yrs old when we jumped into Normandy.
We knew the area where we were supposed to land, because we had studied it on sand tables, and then had to draw it on paper by memory, but that all faded as our regiment was the last to jump, and things had changed on the ground. Most of us missed our drop zone by miles. As we were over our drop zone there was a downed burning plane. Later I found out it was one of ours. The flack was hitting our plane and everything from the ground coming our way looked like the Fourth of July.
When I hit the ground in Normandy, I looked at my watch. It was 2:32 AM, June 6, 1944. I cut myself out of my chute, and the first thing I heard was shooting and some Germans hollering in German, “mucksnell toot sweet Americanos”.
We the 507th, was supposed to land fifteen miles inland, but I landed three or four miles from Utah Beach by the little town of Pouppeville. I wound up about 1000 yards from a French farm house that the Germans were using for a barracks, and about 200 feet from a river, an area that the Germans had flooded. If I would have landed in the water, I may not be here today as I can’t swim. A lot of paratroopers drowned because of the flooded area.
Local writer Gary Hines spoke to Bose’s widow, Betty, for an article he wrote for the August 2000 issue of SB Magazine. She told him, “He was going to win the war and come back home.” Betty was married at 18 and a widow at 20. She told Mr. Hines “We were both young enough to feel that he was coming home. He wasn’t going to be one of the ones who was lost.”
A third Kelley son, Edgar Rew, was drafted into the Army in 1943. He was sent to Camp McCain in Mississippi where he died five weeks later from an outbreak of spinal meningitis. He never made it out of basic training. He was 27 years old; he left behind a wife of five years.
The remaining Kelley brother was Jack. Jack Richard Kelley was serving in the medical corps in Washington at Fort Lewis. His father, Bose Kelley, Sr., wrote to U.S. Representative Overton Brooks and pleaded with him to prevent his oldest son from going overseas. It is reminiscent of the scene in Saving Private Ryanwhere General Marshall reads the Bixby letter to his officers. In this case, in a letter dated December 8, 1944, Mr. Kelley received word that his son Jack would remain stateside for the duration of the war. Jack Kelley died in 1998.
The bodies of Bose Kelley, Jr. and his brother William (Bob) were buried in separate military funerals in France but were returned to the United States in September 1948. Bose and his brother now rest side by side in the veterans section of Greenwood Cemetery in Shreveport. Their brother, Edgar Rew Kelley, is in a civilian cemetery across town, the Jewella Cemetery on Greenwood Road. Their father, who pleaded for his fourth son to be spared, died just one month after Bose and William’s bodies were buried in Greenwood Cemetery. It’s as if he was just waiting for them to come home.
For sixty-five years their sister, Ruby, tended the graves of her brothers. There has never been a time that I visited the graves that there was not a crisp American flag flying over each and flowers. Ruby died last year and the graves are now tended by Ruby’s daughter. I visited the graves of Bose and William last week and sure enough, there were two new flags and flowers steadfastly in place.
As we observe Memorial Day today, we remember the sacrifices of young men like the Kelleys all across the country. Their name belongs alongside the Sullivan brothers, the Borgstrum brothers, the Niland brothers, and the Wright brothers. It is their heroism and their sacrifice, along with that of so many others, that we remember and honor each Memorial Day.
SHREVEPORT – Now that Mitch Landrieu has removed four Confederate era monuments in New Orleans, supposedly we can expect two things as stated by the mayor himself:
Crime will drop and the city will unify.
New Orleans population will swell to pre-Katrina numbers.
Over the past few weeks Landrieu has used the city’s firefighters and police force to work, masked and in the dark of night, to remove these four landmarks which are now in an unsecured maintenance trash yard in NOLA.
Various local media polls in New Orleans showed a majority supported leaving the monuments in place. The monument opponents, however, were more vocal.
Mitch Landrieu credits former NOLA resident Wynton Marsalis with the impetus to remove the monuments. Marsalis, who lives in New York, penned an OpEd for the Times-Picayune in December 2015 in which he stated:
“When one surveys the accomplishments of our local heroes across time from Iberville and Bienville, to Andrew Jackson, from Mahalia Jackson, to Anne Rice and Fats Domino, from Wendell Pierce, to John Besh and Jonathan Batiste, what did Robert E. Lee do to merit his distinguished position? He fought for the enslavement of a people against our national army fighting for their freedom; killed more Americans than any opposing general in history; made no attempt to defend or protect this city; and even more absurdly, he never even set foot in Louisiana.”
Mitch Landrieu has displayed an astounding lack of transparency on the removal process. Landrieu promised the courts that qualified contractors would be used in removal. This was a lie. Landrieu used city firefighters to remove the monuments and live feeds of the removal of each monument was evidence enough of their ineptness and inexperience with removal of priceless works of public art as the statues twirled perilously at the end of straps rigged around them supported by bubble wrap and while removal cranes burned rubber trying to get closer to their targets and leaked hydraulic fluid everywhere.
“I will say this for the people that are interested in the costs. The cultural, economic, and spiritual loss to the city for having those statues up that have run people out of the city. The great migration that sent some of our best and brightest to place across the country that we don’t have the benefit of has been incredible.” said Landrieu.
It’s as if it never crossed his mind that high crime, pot-hole ridden streets, corrupt government, failing schools, no jobs, and high taxes might be a contributing factor to the problems in New Orleans.
As we reflect over the travesty of the Landrieu administration, one has to consider his motives in all of this. There have been rumors of a job offer from Al Sharpton for Landrieu, there have been rumors of the mayor having national political ambitions, and there have been rumors of motivations in Landrieu’s personal life for removal of these monuments.
Water under the bridge.
What is left in the wake of all this is a once beautiful city now more racially divided than ever. A city that came together in unity after Hurricane Katrina that is now ripped and torn at the seams. A city with a crime rate that makes it the most dangerous city in the country.
As I have documented this story on this blog through the past months, it has been with the purpose to acknowledge that this can happen in any city in any state in the country. As a people we must find a way to live together and to reconcile ourselves with our differing opinions and perspectives. States all across the South are struggling with this Civil War monument issue – some choosing to protect their monuments and some not. Some choose to add other monuments to appease the opponents (they call it ”balancing the story” but it is appeasement). Some choose to add “interpretive plaques” that retell the story in a more politically correct light.
The ignorance of our society, and the willingness to too many to avoid the study of history, is where this emanates from. Had Mitch Landrieu done one iota of research, for example, he would have known that Robert E. Lee had been in New Orleans. That was never the point.
As for the crime issue, the city has 76 murders this year so far, well above the rate last year. And on Saturday night, for example, with all four monuments now gone, the shootings and violence continue. Two men were shot in downtown New Orleans Saturday night and another stabbed with a screwdriver.
SHREVEPORT – Another week, another Confederate era monument gone. In the early morning hours Thursday morning, the twenty-five foot bronze statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis was ripped from its granite pedestal by city crews (which one again included city firefighters) hiding behind masks as monument supporters who had stood vigil all night long quietly sang “Dixie.” Some stood and solemnly saluted the desecrated statue of Davis as the statue was lowered onto a rented flatbed truck..
Crews gathered around the statue just after midnight, partially wrapped the statue’s mid-section in green bubble wrap, tied a thick yellow strap around the torso, and lifted the statue, Davis’s arm pointing at both demonstrators and supporters as the statue twirled in mid-air. A makeshift crate was placed around Davis and crews lowered the statue onto the back of a flatbed truck and hauled it off to an undisclosed warehouse.
The pedestal is another matter – it took the untrained city contractors several more hours to figure out how to remove the heavy granite pedestal which sat most of the morning with a limp strap around it while engineers phoned into television stations warning that if it was lifted it would probably tip the truck over. It is as if Jefferson Davis himself was mocking them, declaring his right to be there as the inscription on the pedestal reads, “His name is enshrined in the hearts of the people for whom he suffered, and his deeds are forever wedded to immortality.”
Arlene Barnum was there. She came to New Orleans as soon as Mayor Landrieu had Liberty Place monument removed three weeks ago; she’s been standing guard at the Jefferson Davis monument day in and day out with a growing crowd of supporters. Arlene is a 63-year old black woman from Oklahoma, an Army veteran, and a woman with Confederate ancestors from north Louisiana. She felt that as “the one and only president of the Confederacy,” she was obligated to stand with Davis. As she stood at the monument, Arlene has been called a variety of racial slurs: “Aunt Jemima” seems to have been the most offensive to her. Her truck tires were slashed, her cell phone was knocked from her hand as she tried to live stream, and she has gone without much sleep.
Arlene has been dubbed “General Arlene” by some of the other monument supporters standing guard with her, and they have followed her lead. She has encouraged peaceful protest and non-violence. “Fly those flags high,” she would shout, “Keep ‘em up! Don’t let that flag touch the ground!” Pastor Larry Beane from Salem Lutheran Church led the crowd in a prayer service before the city workers came to dismantle the monument.
Mitch Landrieu spent the evening hobnobbing with donors at the home of Mary Matalin and James Carville for Mitch Landrieu’s NOLA Pac.
After nearly two years of planning and court battles, City officials began the process today of removing the three remaining monuments that prominently celebrate the “Lost Cause of the Confederacy.” The statues that are being removed were erected decades after the Civil War to celebrate the “Cult of the Lost Cause,” a movement recognized across the South as celebrating and promoting white supremacy.
There are four prominent monuments in question. The Battle of Liberty Place monument, which was removed three weeks ago, was erected by the Crescent City White League to remember the deadly insurrection led by white supremacists against the City’s racially integrated police department and government. The statue coming down today is the Jefferson Davis statue on Jefferson Davis Parkway. The statues slated to come down next include the Robert E. Lee statue at Lee Circle and the P.G.T. Beauregard equestrian statue on Esplanade Avenue at the entrance to City Park.
“Three weeks ago, we began a challenging but long overdue process of removing four statues that honor the ‘Lost Cause of the Confederacy.’ Today we continue the mission,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “These monuments have stood not as historic or educational markers of our legacy of slavery and segregation, but in celebration of it. I believe we must remember all of our history, but we need not revere it. To literally put the Confederacy on a pedestal in some of our most prominent public places is not only an inaccurate reflection of our past, it is an affront to our present, and a bad prescription for our future. We should not be afraid to confront and reconcile our past.”
There is much about this statement that I personally find disturbing. Mayor Landrieu shows his gross gap of historical knowledge and research when he contends that the monument were erected to celebrate and promote white supremacy. That could not be more wrong.
The majority of the Confederate era monuments across the South were funded by memorial associations and by the Daughters of the Confederacy to honor their war dead. They wanted to honor the sons and husbands that would never come home, many of whom were buried in places unknown. Additionally, the monuments were intended to be instructional and to serve as historical reminders of that war, to teach future generations. For Landrieu to slant their intent in such a way is flatly irresponsible.
Landrieu’s statement goes on to say that “we must remember all of our history, but we need not revere it.” Who is he to tell us what we can and can not revere? Who made him the moral judge of society?
And when he calls the Confederacy “an inaccurate reflection of our past,” what is he saying about my ancestors that fought in that war? About the thousands of other men and boys who fought in that war on both sides?
Finally, when Landrieu says, “we should not be afraid to confront and reconcile our past,” let me just suggest that he is MOST afraid of it or he wouldn’t have our past crated up in the dark of night and hauled off to some undisclosed warehouse.
Rumors are that he will sell the monuments to Whitney Plantation where they will be mocked and derided as relics of men who defended slavery. So much for presenting an accurate representation of history.
Still to come down in New Orleans is the P.G.T. Beauregard monument and the Robert E. Lee monument. The protests and violence will continue, and the rift between groups grows wider.
As New Orleans scrapes away everything that once made it unique and historic, it will soon become just like any other city in America and there will be no reason to go visit. It is being turned over to the Antifa liberals and now has a higher homicide rate than Chicago, but please, let’s worry about monuments instead.
SHREVEPORT – If Hurricane Katrina united New Orleans in the common cause of “love thy neighbor,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu has successfully decimated all remnants of civility and has created a cultural divide that has ripped the city apart and has cast New Orleans in a negative light in the eyes of the national lens.
As Landrieu continues to staunchly defend his decision to remove the city’s Confederate monuments, supporters (both black and white) have taken positions days and night at the monuments to protect them. Two weeks ago Landrieu removed one of the four, the Liberty Place monument, in the dead of night using a team of city firefighters wearing masks and protective armor.
Even as monument supporters had a large measure of victory this week with the passage of HB71 from committee, tension about the monuments rose. This bill would presumably protect the monuments:
House Bill 71 would forbid the removal, renaming or alteration of any military monument of any war, including the “War Between the States,” that is situated on public property. The measure was amended to require the support of a majority of voters in a public election before any monuments could be removed.
TAKE EM DOWN NOLA CALLS FOR PEOPLES CELEBRATION & SECOND LINE TO BURY WHITE SUPREMACY
While white supremacists gather from many states around confederate monuments in OUR CITY, the mayor nor council has still not publicly called for its own ceremony to honor the historic occasion of 4 monuments to slavery coming down. Even the conservative governor of S.C. had a public ceremony to remove the confederate flag.
Cowering in darkness offers no safety or protection, it is shameful and being questioned by world wide media.
What does this say to Black youth? What does this teach white youth?
All eyes are on New Orleans. It is fitting that during Jazz Fest the people have our voices heard. Not just on the monuments, but for racial equality and economic justice for those who built New Orleans, whose heritage is leveraged for profit and who are being displaced.
In the name of the good people of New Orleans, in honor of our civil rights veterans who fought for decades for their removal, in appreciation of the Black community, elders and youth Take Em Down NOLA is issuing this call for everyone to come out!
Meet at Congo Square at 1:30pm.
March to Lee Circle.
Make History! Take down Robert E. Lee and ALL symbols of White Supremacy!
By noon Sunday protesters were gathering on both sides. Monument supporters were getting information and security, how to handle pepper spray attacks, and cautionary information about Antifa. New Orleans police began installing barricades around Lee Circle; the Jefferson Davis monument has been blocked off all week after violent clashes last weekend between both sides.
Large black busses with blacked out windows were moving into the city in the morning filled with Antifa protestors.
But, through the day, for the most part things remained non-violent. Tense, but non-violent. There were a couple of fights and skirmishes that were quickly put down, but by early evening crowds had dispersed and traffic lanes were reopened.
The focus then moved to the Jefferson Davis monument where reports were that a large Antifa group was congregating to harass supporters there. But other than the exchange of hot words, everything was calm.
Overall, thankfully the protests did not end in the free-for-all that was anticipated but what did come out of it all was a clarification that contrary to Governor John Bel Edwards’s stance that the monuments “are a local issue,” clearly it has surpassed that. Mitch Landrieu made it NOT a local issue when he called in State and Federal Law Enforcement from all over the state to New Orleans using Department of Homeland Security emergency measures. This makes is a national issue, being paid for with state and federal tax dollars.
And this means John Bel Edwards now has to get off the fence.
SHREVEPORT – Arlene Barnum is a 63-year old Army veteran, a black woman, and is on the front lines in New Orleans standing guard at the Jefferson Davis monument.
Arlene lives in Sulpher, Oklahoma but had been in north Louisiana in the small community of Keachi in DeSoto parish to attend an annual Confederate memorial service where her ancestors who fought for the Confederacy are buried. Arlene attends the ceremony every year and maintains her family’s graves there. She was raised in north Louisiana and takes great pride in her Confederate ancestry.
The day after the memorial service Mitch Landrieu removed one of the four targeted Confederate monuments in New Orleans in the dead of night, using firefighters working undercover, behind masks and flak jackets. Arlene decided to drive to NOLA rather than return to Oklahoma and there she has been, standing guard every night at the feet of Jefferson Davis. There has been a growing crowd around her each night of fellow supporters, most of them with the various flags of the Confederacy, including the much maligned battle flag.
No stranger to racial violence, Arlene live streams her vigil every night. She has now posted hours of video on Facebook. She doesn’t engage those that attempt to challenge her or debate her right to defend the monument. “They don’t care about education,” she says. “They come up to me and ask me to tell them about the Confederacy, I tell them to look it up. They don’t care what I have to say.” She just wants to stand guard peacefully.
Yet Saturday night things got heated. Saturday night a millennial liberal assaulted Arlene, hurling racial insults at her and then swatting Arlene’s phone to the ground. It was all captured on video. Arlene has filed a police report and obviously there are excellent pictures of the woman, but will she be found? Will the police even look for her?
Also on video from Saturday night are New Orleans police officers called to the scene who said they have been told to “stand down” by the mayor’s office. They are not to enforce peace at these demonstrations that are now ripping New Orleans apart. They are not to act. While Arlene Barnum did insist they make a report on her assault, it is doubtful much will come of it.
“The bottom line is with these Confederate monuments, it’s not really something we deal with as firefighters,” New Orleans Fire Fighters Associations President Nick Felton said, addressing reporters after almost an hour inside City Hall speaking with Landrieu’s team. “We should not be in riot gear. We should not be doing police-type work and we are absolutely concerned, you know, that that type of thing is going on.”
During the lengthy litigation as the monument issue made its way through the court system, all the way to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Landrieu assured the courts that monument removal would be done safely by contractors trained in monument removal. Obviously this was not the case.
Landrieu had only one contractor submit a bid to remove the monuments and it was far and above the money he had collected “from private donations” to fund removal, so apparently he decided to use city resources. He is now using a private non-profit group (exempt from public scrutiny) to fund removal.
Landrieu’s decision to have police officers stand down is a clear attempt to further his cause to remove these monuments to history. He has stated that the monuments are “nuisances” and contribute to the racial divide in the city. If there are now protests, violence, and assaults of 63-year old women, this serves to support his position. Arlene Barnum is smart enough to know that engaging the opposing side only supports Landrieu and provokes more heated confrontations and she has tried to protest quietly and without conflict.
Monument supporters standing guard at the P.G.T. Beauregard monument have been assaulted with paintball guns, had bottles and rocks thrown at them, and endure a barrage of verbal insults. Still the police stand down. Like Arlene Barnum, Andrew Duncomb, (aka The Black Rebel), streams live on Facebook from his position at Beauregard. Duncomb is less reticent than Arlene Barnum in verbal engagement and things at Beauregard have been heated as well.
It seems at this point Mayor Landrieu has been successful in removing one of his four targeted monuments, created a terrible racial divide in an already troubled city, compromised the position of the New Orleans Fire Department, and probably broken a few laws in having them remove Liberty Place monument, and he has created an ocean of ill will.
The intensity escalates and we can only wait to see what the coming days will bring. We can only hope that there are no more physical attacks on people like Arlene Barnum who are peacefully executing their rights to free speech.