Racial and diversity issues are tied to attempts to attain power and control, but must be dealt with if the Monroe community is to progress. That was the recurring theme that surfaced repeatedly during a forum Tuesday night at the Monroe Civic Center.
The forum featured a panel of residents selected by the mayor’s office to talk about the issues of race and diversity in Monroe.
Mayor Jamie Mayo said the idea for having such a forum began several years ago but was never done. However, in the aftermath of his presentation of the key to the city to Minister Louis Farrakhan, a Nation of Islam leader who publicly calls whites “blue-eyed devil” berates Jews while promoting black unity, the mayor was criticized in the media.
The key presentation prompted him to call for the forum which was originally designed to be arranged with a panel from all of the local news media, the mayor and others. The mayor later changed the format and eliminated all news media from the forum and had his staff to hand pick the participants.
Dr. Pamela Saulsberry, Professor of Social Work at ULM and Mike Abrams, a community activist both repeatedly characterized racial problems nationally and locally to issues of power and control.
Saulsberry said that it even extends to women’s issues which spring from attempts to achieve and hold power and control outcomes.
Abrams said historically all racial issues in the nation stemmed from attempts to gain power and control.
In response, Bishop C.T. Hanchey, who pastors the “Power Church” a racially diverse congregation said the community must get behind its history and live in the present and move forward.
Dr. Saulsberry, said the historical issues of power and control still exist today are reflected in policies that cause dissent today.
Verbon Muhammad, leader of the local study group for the Nation of Islam and Rev. Ambrose Douzart, president of the NAACP, echoed Saulsberry’s claims pointing to the disproportionate number of African-Americans imprisoned and the number of persons complaining of job discrimination.
With respect to diversity, Melodie Everitt, Neville High School Student, and Isaiah Jones, the Carroll High School Student of the year, both questioned the lack of diversity in the city school system.
Everitt, a white student, said she moved to Monroe from Austin, Texas and was disappointed with the lack of racial diversity at Neville High School, which only had blacks, whites, and sprinkling of other races. She said there should be more.
Jones, who attends nearly all black Carroll High, said the option for diversity slipped away at Carroll when the district gave the school’s white students the option to transfer to Neville and denied others. All Southside schools are mostly one race. All Northside schools are racially mixed. With the exception of Wossman, all Southside schools are listed as failing schools by the State Department of Education.
Dr. Saulsberry said many believe that because there are no riots or other outward signs of racisms in the area that it does not exists. She repeatedly pointed to the issue raised by Abrams, that the racism locally shows itself whenever “Power and Control” issues come into play. She said it is less evident, but never-the-less exists and is the root of most divisions.
Each time the issue of power and control was mentioned by Saulsberry, Bishop Hanchey countered by noting that we should not be defined by historical issues but focus on today. He said the hope of overcoming the past is through the church.
Abrams said the problem of racism is rooted in our ongoing history which began with images black men were given of themselves as slaves and taught to revere people such as Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson who enslaved us. The political control of blacks for power began in slavery and continues today and will continue until the educational system begins a “more honest approach,” he said.
Abrams said Martin Luther King spent years encouraging blacks to grow in the power relationship to the extent that they would seize power through the political process. When Dr. King started to address power ideas, “and grow and evolve into that person, he was also killed.” Racism said Abrams shows itself most when power and control is threatened.
Muhammad spoke against integration in the education system. He said integration has resulted in the destruction of “our babies.” He said our area has a dual school system one in the parish that’s predominately white and another for the City of Monroe which is predominately black. Labels such as ADHD have been placed on black children by teachers who don’t know how to teach them. “It’s not that the children won’t learn, it’s the teachers that are not able to teach them.”
Muhammad said white teachers who do not understand black children are trying to teach them. “We have in kindergarten, we call it the killing garden, our children are being taught by Caucasians.” He said Minister Farrakhan teaches that blacks should not integrate but separate and “teach our own.”
Muhammad said Farrakhan teaches that even within the race that boys and girls should be taught separate until they are 16. They learn together, he said, when they get to college.
His remarks sparked shouts of “No” from the audience.
There was a noted absence of power brokers on the panel.
The forum was not covered by the daily newspaper, which instead attended a book signing for the authors of the book, “Let Trump be Trump.” The signing was attended by many of the area Republic Power Brokers. The book signing received two pages of coverage in the daily paper.
The race diversity forum was not mentioned at all.