Symbols of a Shameful Past

The Take ‘Em Down NOLA Panel Discussion on National Monuments

Take ‘Em Down NOLA is a growing coalition of citizens passionate about the vision of a real chance at racial reconciliation in New Orleans. Symbols represent systems; this organization is focused on exposing the systems that have gone on to allow symbols of bigotry to stand as a beacon of power in the city. Take ‘Em Down NOLA remains a grassroots organization driven toward the goal of mandating a city-wide ordinance for the removal of all remaining Confederate monuments that exist in the area. Their goal further includes a drive toward the renaming of streets, schools, parks and other public works that continue to esteem and promote white supremacy.

A recent Take ‘Em Down NOLA meeting used a public space (Cafe Istanbul) to speak openly about their views of the current state of the removal of these monuments. A seeming contradiction of energy toward celebrating the city’s first female, black Mayor – Take ‘Em Down NOLA set aside reservations and openly criticized Mayor Latoya Cantrell (nicknamed Latoya “Cant Tell” for her talks with a relocation committee). The panel faulted Cantrell for her questionable stance on the removal of the monuments. The main topic of the five panel discussion was the recent leakage that the Mayor had private meetings with seven special committee members who aimed to lead the decision on what to do with 3 of the 4 Confederate monuments removed in the last year.

Take ‘Em Down NOLA formally invited Mayor Cantrell to their meeting but she did not appear.

The five panel discussion included activists young and mature who held track records fully committed to a life’s work of combating racism while promoting the equality understood in one human race. Leon Waters, historian, and Hidden History tour guide spoke first in the panel discussion, sharing that he was not surprised by the Mayor’s secret meetings. He cautioned that this Mayor is on the road to defending the status quo and urged that we give more thought to pushing revolutionary politicians as opposed to supporting bourgeois politicians.

Panelist Christine “CFreedom” Brown echoed her feelings of not being surprised by the Mayor’s involvement with this committee. Longtime activist Malcolm Suber then shared his sentiment that the Ma”Uncle Tom” politician who wants access to the dollar. He felt that there have been 32 years of leadership including black Mayors who have done very little to create change. Mr. Suber emphasized Take ‘Em Down NOLA’s intent to push elected leaders to finish the job: “we can’t get no satisfaction till we take down Andrew Jackson.”

Chuck Perkins owned the meeting space, Cafe Istanbul. He shared his desire to push these concerns and educate everyday citizens about racist monuments. He felt that there are good people amongst us who are blind but need clarity. Take ‘Em Down NOLA needs to continue to educate people on the relevance of racism and Confederate monuments toward citizens in 2018. Poet, educator, and activist Quess agreed that there was no surprise concerning the Mayor’s involvement with people advocating for the statues. Quess furthered the sentiment that these symbols represent racist systems. He emphasized the monuments were purposeful symbols placed in highly strategized and fully funded locations. The symbols around the city shared a theme with a common connection that was by no means a mistake and by every means, intentional.

The Take ‘Em Down NOLA monument meeting provided great insight to their stance against the perpetuate staging of racist monuments on an oppressed community. It was stated from the panel that there are over 100 hotels inside New Orleans with over 1600 meeting rooms. These meeting rooms have the names Claiborne, Bienville, and Lafitte – all of whom are oppressors to African American people. Workers of these hotels become desensitized to this reality and are made to deal with it as they are bombarded every day with these names and images. Leon Waters expressed that he had been watching this struggle since 1954. He shared that Take ‘Em Down NOLA has had an impact around the nation and the world. He felt that there is a great need for education and he said with much assurity, “if you keep your mouth shut, you make no impact.”

Written By – Nicole Nixon

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