Report from Louisiana: Teacheritis

Photo by Dan Dimmock on Unsplash

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I have about three months left in the classroom until I retire. I hope I can make it. It’s close…so close, yet seems so far away.

I have loved teaching; I’ve loved my kids, but I am so done with administrative decisions that devalue the human being in front of that classroom. I know every single job has its drawbacks and there are those ridiculous things that irritate a person everywhere they go. I’m not alone.

I am sure that part of my current negative attitude is more due to the fact that I’m about to be able to walk away than that my workplace is unbearable, because it is in no way unbearable. I love my admins in my school, my co-workers, my students, and my classroom itself.

And if this was a normal year, without Covid, it would certainly be better. But, y’all. I am exhausted just thinking about these next few weeks. This has been the most difficult year of my career.

Tell me if I’m being petty or ridiculous. It won’t hurt my feelings.

I have to be in my classroom or on duty to supervise kids at 6:55. I have first block planning, so I don’t have a class until 9:05, but that first block planning is often taken over by meetings, trainings, and on rare occasions covering another class. We will give the ACT test in two weeks and I won’t have a planning period then, but, mostly I have first-block planning.

My first class is at 9:05 and runs until 10:40. Next class, 10:45 – 12:15. At 12:15 students have lunch and beginning this week they will eat in my classroom as we attempt to make-up those snow days. I am required to have some instructional video or activity for them during this lunch period. And I must, of course, be in the room to supervise. Then my last class comes in at 12:40 – 2:15.

I have to go from 9:05-2:15 without a restroom break, unless I call someone, anyone, to come relieve me for a minute.

Not so bad, you think? Right? Hey, at least your day ends at 2:15, right?  No, not right.

Papers must be graded, lessons prepared, presentations done, copies made for the next day. Grades must be entered into the online gradebook, and then you have parent conferences or calls to make. There are the Behavior Tracking Forms to be filled out, emails to be read and responded to, and other random paperwork that comes across my desk. Time must be made to meet with or check on my mentor students. And don’t forget the cleaning and sanitizing because of Covid that needs to be done to the computers and desks.

Truly, I’m exhausted.

I honestly know on some level that it’s because I know the end is nigh, but really, it’s so easy to feel like the tasks just keep piling on. Nothing is ever taken away, just more piled on.

Okay, so I’m venting. 

I think it’s really best that I retire now, at 25 years, rather than go to 30 years for a little more money. I don’t think I have the tolerance or the energy to do all of this. I’m not sure I’m giving my students my very best anymore.

And that breaks my heart.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport, at Medium, and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: How the South was Crippled by a Snow Storm

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – As you are probably aware, the South was hit with a crippling snowstorm last week, something for which we are woefully unprepared.

In Shreveport it has been a “perfect storm” of catastrophe, and while I realize it could be so much worse (see: Lake Charles, LA where many still live in tents or gutted homes due to hurricanes), it has been mind boggling how less than a foot of snow can cripple a city for over a week.

Is it any coincidence that Shreveport’s infrastructure is crumbling, literally, and we have had three mayors since 2006, all Democrats?

Our water system is literally crumbling under the pothole ridden city streets. During this snow and ice event last week at least eight major water mains have broken and countless other leaks and breaks across Shreveport. As a result, some 10,000 people in town still do not have water, now into Day Seven. Most other water customers have very low water pressure. We have been under a boil advisory for a week and will be for at least five more days, minimum.

Other cities around us, I know, are also under boil advisories; we are not the only ones, to be fair.

But our Shreveport leadership had virtually no plan to address the aftermath of this storm. We do not have snowplows down here or stockpiles of salt for the roads. We don’t get this kind of thing very often, but when you have at least a week’s notice that a storm is coming, wouldn’t you expect leadership to have a plan for recovery?

Local volunteers are the ones who got out with tractors and other construction vehicles and on their own dime cleared the roads in the city.

Neighborhoods pulled together: those with water shared it with those who did not. No water distribution sites were set up by the City until seven days after the storm hit. Neighbors took care of each other.

If your water needed to be cut off at the meter because of a break, a neighbor was there to help you; if you called the City for help you either got a busy signal or a promise to come out in a day or two.

When the grocery stores were literally bare because trucks were stranded on the interstate for miles in both directions, neighbors shared their food and set up sites at local churches. The community donated meals to the veteran’s home who had no water and no food to feed the men.

On Saturday, six days after the storm and two days after the volunteer network cleared the roads, Mayor Adrian Perkins showed up for a photo op on social media praising the National Guard who just rolled into town to clear roads. I’m not throwing shade on the National Guard, but I have to wonder why a photo op is more important to Adrian Perkins than actually taking care of his people.

Three days ago, our City Council had “an emergency” meeting on Zoom to address overtime pay for city workers in this crisis and other issues. There were representatives from the water department and homeland security there as well. Shreveport’s Chief Administrative Officer, Henry Whitehorn (appointed by Mayor Perkins last year), told residents without water that they could call 211 and the city would pick them up and take them to a safe shelter until the crisis was over. People began calling 211 and nobody there knew anything about that, but they could provide the phone number to the food pantry.

Yesterday, seven days after the storm, the city set up a handful of water distribution sites that would open at noon. By 12:01 the site nearest to me was out of water (they started early) with lines of cars backed up for miles, waiting. There is no water in the stores to buy. The National Guard brought in water and people sat in these lines all day and got a case of water. The effort continues today, primarily by local volunteers and nonprofits.

All in all, this has been a mess and an utter failure of City leadership. From the power grid failures, to water failures, to leadership and communication failures, what has kept people going has been each other. Neighbors helping neighbors.

If this event has taught me anything, it is perhaps that sometimes we need to slow down, quit staring at screens, and become more involved in our communities. Appreciate the little things, like a toilet flushing without having to manually fill up the tank because there is no water pressure. Don’t take things for granted, like clean water coming out of your faucet. Help those among us that might need lifting up.

And hey, I’m ready for spring, y’all. Snow is pretty for a minute, but this girl is ready for spring.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Snowpacolypse 2021

One of the most attractive reasons to live in the Deep South is the winter. Seldom do we suffer the frigid, biting cold that the more northern states endure. In Louisiana, if we have three or four days below freezing, that is considered winter. Those subzero days need not be consecutive.

This week our weather forecasters have been alternately giddy and panic-stricken at the prospect of an incoming “polar vortex” that is expected to bring single-digit temperatures for most of next week. Even better, we also anticipate snow and ice, they tell us.

This means almost certain power outages.

As you can imagine, this has caused a flurry of activity as people rush to the grocery store for bread, milk, bottled water, and batteries. Not many of us in northern Louisiana have a generator; those are more common in southern Louisiana where hurricanes cause power outages for extended periods of time. My neighbor does have a portable generator which he cranks up the moment the power goes out, however.

Some of us old-timers remember when the Red River froze back in 1983 after a week of subfreezing temperatures. It hasn’t been that cold for that long since but people still talk about the river freezing as a benchmark of record-setting cold weather.

People in different parts of the country tend to scoff at our inability to deal with cold weather. I have a niece in Iowa who howls with laughter when we close the schools for less than an inch of snow or ice, but as I said, we aren’t accustomed to this phenomenon and we don’t know how to drive in it. We don’t have salt trucks or snowplows.

So, instead, we go to the grocery store and buy bread.

The weather forecasters have been telling everyone for several days to wrap pipes and cover plants. I have a friend who has directed her husband to cover each of their sixteen peach trees in an attempt to protect the fragile blooms and the peach crop.

Soon the three local television stations will dispatch their intrepid reporters out to stand along the interstate to report on live local road conditions. They will breathlessly interview local officials about running sand trucks along overpasses and news websites will post a running list of Weather-Related Closures long before anything actually closes. Every school kid in town will religiously monitor this list. So will their teachers.

What does it say about us that we react this way to extreme weather? Is it the change that draws us in? Do we feed off misery and suffering? Whether it is a hurricane or a polar vortex, the weather forecasters give us days and days of this advanced information and ever-changing, uncertain news. Sometimes the storm materializes and sometimes it doesn’t, but we are always prepared, I suppose.

At least we always have bread and milk.

Report from Louisiana: Loose Thoughts

By: Pat Austin

Some loose, random thoughts this week:

Books: Finally, The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles comes out this week!  I had the privilege of receiving an Advance Reader’s Copy (ARC) las year and I just loved this book. If you enjoy historical fiction at all, put this one on your list.

Navigating dual timelines, Miss Charles weaves an engaging plot between two characters, Odile and Lily. Set in both WWII Paris and 1980s Froid, Montana, we are drawn into both their stories knowing they will soon combine, and they do in a beautiful way.

Odile begins a new job as a librarian at The American Library in Paris at the onset of WWII, and her narrative is peppered with Dewey Decimal references which could have been very odd and distracting but is in fact absolutely charming. As the employees of the library work to protect their books, and themselves, during the Nazi occupation of Paris, it is interesting to note that many of the characters in this novel are real people and many of the events also all to real.

This is a novel for all book lovers, library lovers, history lovers, and anyone who wants to get lost between the pages of an interesting story for a few hours.

Also out this month, but I have not yet read, is Kristen Hannah’s The Four Winds, set in the dustbowl. I have it on hold at the library.

Covid Recovery: I’ve done a lot of reading over the past ten days because I’m too fatigued to do anything else. Steve and I are both moving past our Covid symptoms but the ongoing fatigue is staggering. I feel lucky and grateful that neither of us has the terrible congestion and lung symptoms, no high fever either, but man this fatigue….I can’t get past it. I’m still off work; planning to return to the classroom on Wednesday, but it will be very low energy for the time being.

Mardi Gras:  As you probably know, there are no parades or big celebrations for Mardi Gras this year which is really strange. But, have you seen the float houses in New Orleans!? They are so cool…people are putting the floats artists to work making props and decorations for their homes, dressing their houses up like giant floats! Some of them even play music like the real floats. Go online and check those out if you get a chance!

In New Orleans, Mayor LaToya Cantrell is doubling down on the Covid restrictions in these last two weeks of Mardi Gras season. She’s closing all bars and certain streets. Large gatherings are strictly forbidden. Tourists are discouraged.

Strange times.

Super Bowl: did you watch? We just had it on for background noise. I watched the Puppy Bowl. I’m just ready for baseball season.

Y’all have a good week!

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Our turn with Covid

By: Pat Austin

Well, it was really just a matter of time, but here we are with Covid.

Last week my husband felt really fatigued and felt “sinusy.” It didn’t get any better so he went down for a Covid test; in twenty-four hours his negative results came back. Thinking he just had a cold, and that the incessant rain and damp weather might be part of the problem, he went on about his routine.

This past Tuesday, I was at school when I noticed a dry, non-productive cough come up. I was tired. No fever. I decided to take Wednesday off and rest; but then fever started. I went to Urgent Care and got a rapid test. 

Positive.

I’ve got to say, the fella at Oschner Urgent Care was wonderful; his enthusiasm for his job was great! He was so pleasant and he asked if it was my first Covid test. 

“Yes…” I said. He could sense my panic as he held this very long swab in his gloved hand.

He explained exactly what would happen; I said okay and he did the test. 

He sent me back out to my car and said he’d call in ten minutes.

In five he called.  “You are POSITIVE for Covid-19!” like I’d won the lottery. 

“You’re kidding…” I said.

“I would NOT kid about something like that!” He gave me the stay at home directions, told me Oschner would be reaching out to check on me, and that was it.

Once my positive results came back, my husband went to Urgent Care and did a rapid test; Positive.

My son is also positive. So, here we are.

I feel like he should be on the tail end of his Covid because we both feel like he was positive last week but just tested too soon. An article in the Washington Post explains:

Early in an infection, the virus may not have reproduced enough to be detectable. The false negative rate of PCR tests on the day of exposure is 100 percent, but falls to about 38 percent five days later as symptoms usually set in, according to an analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The rate decreases further, to about 20 percent, after three more days.


My husband’s PCR test last week may have been too soon.

Our symptoms have been manageable, if certainly uncomfortable. Initially, I felt like I had a mild cold although there is a tightness or light pressure in my chest, and behind my ribs in the back. It’s weird. We are both very fatigued. I have low fever in the evening, around 99. No cough right now. I have headache but that’s not all that uncommon for me. I have unbreakable chills every night.

This is not like any flu I ever had. It is weird in that there is some odd new symptom every day. You feel okay one day and the next like a bus hit you. We lost two more people we know to Covid this week. They were otherwise both perfectly healthy. Not. The. Flu.

Neither one of us knows where we got this. I assume I got it from my husband which is crazy because I was always so certain I would get it from my classroom. There is certainly Covid in the schools. My classes are full and we are only two feet apart. I am very grateful that my students were probably not exposed. Monday and Tuesday they were working on Chromebooks writing narratives and I was able to monitor and assist from my own computer through Google classroom. I was not within six feet of any of them and I stay masked all the time.


Going forward in our quarantine, I’m trying to take it easy and let my body fight the virus. It is so hard for me to sit still, so I have to make myself leave the laundry alone, not clean out a closet or drawer, not do yardwork. I’m trying to stay in touch with my students through Google Classroom.


If you’re a praying sort, we will certainly be grateful for your prayers for a mild bout and a quick return to good health! 

Stay safe and wash your hands!

Report from Louisiana: In-Person School is Better

By: Pat Austin

As hard as it is to admit this, I might have been wrong.

While some school districts across the country have remained closed, and while they attempt to reopen in coming weeks, I have come to the decision that having kids in the classroom, in person, is better for them.

In August, I was terrified of returning to school in this pandemic — and the numbers then were so much lower then than they are right now. I was certain we were all going to get Covid-19, that classes would be hopeless because of high absenteeism, and that schools would shut back down two weeks after opening. I was scared I’d be constantly battling kids who didn’t want to wear a mask. Everyone would see that this was a failed experiment to reopen during a pandemic and we would be sent back home for virtual learning.

“We should stay virtual!” I screamed into the void, terrified.

I was so wrong.

Is it a different kind of school year? Yes.

Have we seen cases of Covid? Absolutely.

Have we had multiple students and teachers in quarantine? Sure, we have.

Have staff members become gravely ill? Several, yes. Others, not so much.

Should we shut down again? No way.

Education has never been a one-size-fits-all endeavor and for many students, virtual classes do not work. I teach ELA in a Title 1 high school and many of my students do not have internet access or computers at home. When we shut down in spring 2020, so many kids slipped through the cracks and never logged into their lessons. Many had little to no support at home.

I know now that these kids need to be in school. I see the benefit every single day. They need the support and the relationships that we give them. They need the structure. They need the socialization. They need so much more than we are able to give, even outside of a pandemic.

It’s true that I spend most of the day cleaning and sanitizing surfaces, computers, desks, you name it (despite research that says Covid-19 is probably not spread that way.) And it is true that my classroom is crowded; we truly cannot social distance in the room; my student desks are about two feet apart. We wear masks and to be honest, the students comply better than some of the adults. Because my classroom windows do not open and there is no ventilation, I bought an air purifier. Maybe it helps.

Even though my students seem truly glad to be in school right now, I do worry about the toll all this might take on their mental health. So many people are without jobs right now and so many of them were in deep poverty even before the pandemic. Add that to the daily stress of sick family members, concern about becoming ill themselves, and worry about what the future holds, well, these kids are juggling a lot right now, just like their teachers and their parents.

Much of this is out of my control and I’ve had to accept that.

But, honestly, as far as classwork goes, not much has been different. In my tenth grade English classroom, we’ve read books, done gallery walks, written essays, analyzed literature, written narratives, basically all of the same things we would normally do. There has been less group work, but we have adjusted.

The bottom line is that kids are resilient. They adjust so much more easily than adults do.

There is growing concern that the new coronavirus variants, which are so much more contagious, will raise the number of cases in schools. This may be true, but it just means that we will increase our vigilance, keep our masks up, and distance as much as we can. We will be fine. Eventually, teachers in Louisiana will get vaccines.

In our district we still have a lot of parents opting for 100% virtual education for their children and I respect that choice. I will never vilify or criticize anyone for doing what they believe is best for their family and for their own health. If this pandemic has taught us nothing else, it should be that we ought to be civil and respectful to each other. But I would tell those parents that as teachers we are doing everything in our power to keep these kids safe.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Covid Fatigue

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – This probably won’t be a popular opinion, but I have to be honest.

I am sick and tired of losing good people to coronavirus. A very good man died this week from Covid-19; he was 57 and had recently retired from teaching. He was a popular high school football coach during his career and highly regarded by his peers. He leaves behind a father, a brother, a sister, and two children.

My friend is but one example of the hundreds dead from this virus.

You can tell me that these people died from their comorbidities, from sepsis, from heart attack, whatever; the point is, they’d be alive still had they not contracted the coronavirus.

Another good friend of mine came down with Covid-19 over the Christmas break. She is in her 50s, and in excellent health. She has mostly recovered from her illness but is still recovering from the double pneumonia Covid brought to her. She’s being closely monitored for blood clots.

My stepson, a nurse, caught Covid from a patient. Young and in excellent health, he suffered greatly and was hospitalized for a week. Because the hospitals are full, he spent over 30 hours in the ER waiting for a room

I know people that I otherwise thought were intelligent, educated professionals who are refusing the vaccine because they’re convinced that the government is injecting something into them through the virus.

I can no longer pretend understanding for people who think the virus is a politically motivated hoax. Even those who believe government officials are using the virus for nefarious gain – to tank the economy, to promote themselves, whatever.

I have been called “delusional” because I believe the virus is real and that it will kill you. I do not care. Names do not hurt me.

I believe in the science.

Period.

And I am tired of watching friends suffer or die because people won’t wear a mask, are tired of wearing a mask, or think masks are stupid and useless. I am tired of parents sending their kids to school sick, while they wait on test results to come back. I am exhausted for the health care workers putting in twelve hour shifts laboring day after day to save people who are drowning in their own fluids because someone else thought this virus was a political tool.

We are so busy trying to solve the immediate crisis that we aren’t thinking too much about the coming mental health toll all this will bring.

Over the holiday season I have seen my social media filled with people gathering with family, extended family, and friends. I’ve seen photos of New Years celebrations, baby showers, football playoff parties, and birthday celebrations. And now the case numbers are higher than they’ve ever been. Go figure.

Deaths are rising too.

I know that people have to work, that the economy has to keep going. I get that. I see the benefit having the schools open has on our children.

But I’m past being patient with people who are too selfish to wear a mask and maybe save someone’s life.

I’m looking at the children of my friend who died yesterday and wondering how they will ever understand this.

Wear your mask. Get your vaccine. Let’s just please do our part to help end this and we can analyze conspiracy theories later.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: The Vaccine

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Happy New Year! We are spending the holiday in south Louisiana in our cabin on Bayou Teche. Because I will be driving back on Sunday and back at work on Monday, I’m writing this post on the actual first day of the year. We just finished our traditional “good luck” New Year’s meal which of course includes cabbage and black eyed peas. I also cooked a bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin stuffed with andouille sausage and shrimp. We are sitting pretty fat and happy right now.

I took a moment to check some emails today and I see where the school system will soon be offering the Covid-19 vaccine for teachers and school staff. The vaccine should be available to us in the next couple of weeks. Am I going to take it? You bet I am. Sign me up. We will be getting the Moderna vaccine, I am told.

I’m so sick of this virus and the limitations it has put on everyone. I guess it varies somewhat from state to state, but honestly the restrictions that so many business owners must face seem so absurd. For example, we drove over the levee this morning to stop by Turtle’s Bar which is on the Atchafalaya Basin. The swamp is beautiful at any time of year, but there is something about it in the winter that just draws me.

Steve asked Tanya, the bartender, “Well! Did y’all have fun last night?” because, of course, New Year’s Eve, right?

“Yeah,” she said, “until 11:00.” Bars in Louisiana are required to close at 11:00. Because apparently the virus does not spread until after 11?  Who knows? We were the only people in there at that hour, along with one other guy and with the exception of the people who live on houseboats there that walk up to her window to place an order.

We stood at the bar and swapped stories for a while, and I tried to pull up one of the bar stools to sit down. “Oh, you can’t do that!” Tanya said. “It’s against regulations because of Covid. You can’t sit at the bar.” But…you can stand at the bar and that is okay. 

Even stranger – the bartender can serve you at the bar but she can’t walk over to your table and serve you. You have to walk to the bar to get your drink, and you have to wear a mask when you walk to the bar, but once you sit back down, you can take it off again.

It all borders on the absurd.

I have several musician friends who were at home last night, without a gig, for the first time in their careers. No live music is allowed.

But hey, the casinos are apparently non-viral zones because all of our local riverboat casinos are in full swing.

The numbers for new cases and hospitalizations are higher now than they have ever been. I have more friends now who are sick than I ever have. One of my best friends has had fever for two solid weeks now and it runs about 102 even taking Tylenol and Advil every three hours. She has no taste or smell and says it’s the worst she’s ever felt in her life. Her husband is a heart patient and he has recently tested positive as well. I’m quite concerned for both of them.

I’m ready for people to be able to get back to work, for businesses to reopen and recover, and for the music to begin again. I’m ready to see full sports stadiums and concerts. I’m ready to teach school mask-free and to see my students’ faces and smiles again.

So, yes, I’ll take the vaccine. I’m not concerned. Bring it on.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Wuhan Diary

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – As an avid and constant reader, I decided to do the Reading Challenge on Goodreads again this year; last year I set the lofty goal of 100 books and missed the mark with 63 out of 100 books.

This year, because of the pandemic, probably, I did better. I set a lower goal of 75 books and so far I’ve read 82. I’ll probably be at 83 by the end of the year.

Currently I am reading Wuhan Diary by Fang Fang, which is the collected dispatches, or posts, from the renown Chinese author during the 76 days of the Wuhan lockdown. While most of us are tired of Covid, tired of reading about Covid, and tired of all things Covid, I am enjoying the book.

To me, it is interesting to see what it was like in Wuhan in the days after the pandemic broke. Fang Fang’s frustration with the situation is evident and she is well aware that the government censors are reading and taking down her posts. Her readers would screenshot the posts and share them via text message to each other, and in many ways she became the voice of the pandemic in Wuhan as people in lockdown were starved for information that was not filtered for them.

Her frustration with the initial position that the virus is not contagious from person to person is clear. She does not mince words, despite the censors. As the lockdown in Wuhan drags on, it has been interesting to read how neighbors worked together to supply each other with fresh food, medicines, and supplies.

The book also shows that we are not all that different; Fang Fang loses many friends and colleagues to the virus; she deals with the same problems we all have: shortages, misinformation, isolation.  She worries a great deal about the mental health issues that result from the lockdown and she worries about the marginalized who cannot get medical treatment, especially in the earlier days before the temporary hospitals were constructed.

She also has very relatable problems, like running out of dog food. (She cooked rice for her dog when this happened.)

Sometimes she even challenges the censors. She wants to be seen as a witness, not necessarily a critic. As a result, her voice is honest, and heartbreakingly real.

I’m not finished with the book yet, but I do recommend it. Somehow it seems fitting to end this year of the pandemic with Wuhan Diary.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: NOLA Mayor attacks Christian Singer Lauren Daigle

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – As Louisiana politicians go, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell is on her way to being as infamous as any of them.

Cantrell has come under criticism for her harsh economic restrictions in response to Covid-19 in New Orleans compared to the rest of the state.  She has placed stringent restrictions on high school athletic events which likely contributed to the Louisiana High School Football Playoffs relocating their games from the Superdome in New Orleans to Natchitoches, Louisiana at Northwestern State University.  Her tough occupancy restrictions for the Superdome would not enable many fans in the stadium; conditions are more favorable in Natchitoches; this move will cost New Orleans a chunk of tourism dollars from the multiday event.

In her latest move, Cantrell has verbally attached Christian singer and Louisiana native Lauren Daigle for spontaneously singing at a French Quarter protest last month.

The rally was a pop-up Let Us Worship rally staged by Californian Sean Feucht who has been doing this all across the country to protest Covid restrictions on churches and worship services. Daigle, who lives near the French Quarter, was reportedly riding her bike in the area, stopped, and when she was recognized and asked to sing, she complied. Naturally, it hit social media as a clip was posted by Feucht, and the firestorm began.

The protest “flouted coronavirus restrictions.”  Participants were “not wearing masks.” There “were thousands of people there.” There were “hundreds of people there.” Daigle “endangered first responders.” Criticism rained down.

Mayor Cantrell lashed out at Daigle in a December 9 letter which she wrote to Dick Clark Productions – the organization organizing the New Year’s Rockin’ Eve event which was to spotlight New Orleans in an eight-minute segment of the broadcast.

Cantrell asked that Daigle not be involved with the broadcast because of her participating in the protest at the French Quarter. Cantrell wrote,

“Miss Daigle cannot and should not be rewarded with national media exposure and a public spotlight. She harmed our people, she risked the lives of our residents, and she strained our first responders in a way that was unconscionable – in the midst of a public health crisis. That is not who we are, and she cannot be allowed to represent New Orleans or the people she willfully endangered.”

Daigle responded to the kerfuffle last week with a statement which said, in part:

“I’m disappointed that my spontaneous participation has become part of the political discourse and I’m saddened by the divisive agendas of these times. I would have been, and still would be, honored to represent our city on New Year’s Eve and although I was aware of discussions regarding my involvement, an offer was never made. I have wept, pleading for this chaos to dissipate and for harmony to return. We need unity when people are desperate, suffering, starving or out of work.”

Mayor Cantrell’s attack on Daigle has been criticized by Louisiana Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser who oversees tourism for the state. His office has pulled their financial subsidy for the city’s participation in the NYE event. In response, the city of New Orleans will pony up the $500,000 from their own “cultural fund.” This move has drawn criticism from some city council members who would rather spend the money locally in support of local artists, but the mayor contends that the national exposure is more important.

It’s all a huge mess, and really quite unnecessary.

Cantrell’s rush to criticize Daigle seems misplaced. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry sent a letter of support to Daigle should she and Dick Clark Productions choose to “relocate the event” to “more hospitable areas of the state.” He reminded her that Cantrell has previously allowed protests in the city, including a Black Lives Matter protest this summer. And the Naught Nawlins swinger convention was allowed to go ahead, which incidentally resulted in a Covid outbreak.

In light of that, Cantrell’s criticism seems rather harsh, and it does seem that she could be costing her city some tourism dollars in times when they are most needed.

I’ve never listened to Lauren Daigle’s music very much, but I think I’m going to give her a listen. And I will not be watching New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.