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    BR high schoolers get aviation experience, attend national conference

    The Baton Rouge Youth Aviation Experience took 20 area high school Juniors and Seniors to Los Angeles to participate in the Airport Minority Advisory Council (AMAC) Aviation Conference, August 23- 25.

    Baton Rouge Metro Airport Commission Chairman Cleve Dunn Jr. created the initiative, which is designed to educate students about career opportunities in the aviation industry. Dunn raised the money to pay for all 20 students to attend the conference, which included transportation, lodging and meals.

    The students participated in AMAC’s Project LIFT program, which was held at LAX Airports Flight Path Museum. The forum-style mentoring session is held for students interested in aviation and aviation-related businesses. Project LIFT exposes students to career opportunities in the aviation industry and the applicable education paths, and provides networking opportunities with professional mentors to further students’ academic development. In addition to an in-depth view of the aviation industry, the students made connections with industry leaders and were provided information about scholarship and internship opportunities.

    DSC06838_edit

    The participating students came from Capitol High School, Scotlandville Magnet High School, Lee Magnet High School, Madison Prep, Woodlawn High School, Mentorship Academy, Collegiate Baton Rouge, and McKinley High School. Chase Bank, Helix Schools, Baton Rouge Metro Airport, New Schools Baton Rouge, Airport Management Group, MetroMorphosis, Runner’s Courier Service, and Dunn Enterprises helped to sponsor the initiative.

    The Airport Minority Advisory Council (AMAC) and the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) presented AMAC’s 35th Annual Airport Business Diversity Conference: Transforming the Future of Airports, bringing together nearly 1,000 businesses, aviation professionals, government officials and individuals from around the country to discuss a variety of subjects ranging from how to do business at airports to public policy issues impacting the entire aviation industry. This conference is the premier aviation industry event of the year – serving as a hub for education, advocacy and networking opportunities that promote diversity and inclusion in airports.

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    Baton Rouge leaders mix it up in Washington D.C.

    WASHINGTON DC—There is something to be said about leaders who push beyond boundaries to forge relationships and gain cooperation from others. For all intents and purposes, that’s what leaders from Baton Rouge are doing on a national scale following with a networking mixer held last month with leaders in Washington DC.

    A delegation of elected and appointed officials from Baton Rouge attended the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference to build allegiance around issues citizens face and find resources to bring to their Louisiana districts.

    Along with participating in many CBC conference activities, the Baton Rouge leaders attended the first “Baton Rouge Meets Washington D.C.” networking mixer hosted by the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome’s office, the Southern University System, and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.

    One goal was “to build on national relationships and use resources to develop and fund programs and projects for Baton Rouge and Louisiana,” said Cleve Dunn Jr., chairman of the airport commission.IMG_4351

    “In particular, for the Baton Rouge Metro Airport, it is our goal to leverage those relationships to develop the land surrounding the airport, fund capital improvements projects, and enhance our air service development by increasing the number of direct flights that we offer at BTR.” As an organizer of the mixer, Dunn said he believed the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference would be a great place to start the national relationship building process for the Baton Rouge leaders in attendance.

    “Not only did I feel that our leadership team should attend the conference, but I also felt that we should create and host a Baton Rouge signature event that would promote the city of Baton Rouge, the parish of East Baton Rouge and several of the cities economic drivers,” he said.

    More than 100 leaders attended the networking mixer.

    “Governmental officials, elected officials, developers, private equity professionals, and business owners; all focused on how we can help the city of Baton Rouge and the parish of East Baton Rouge reach its fullest potential,” Dunn said.

    The Baton Rouge Airport heavily relies on grants and federal dollars to expand runways and to complete capital improvement projects. Likewise, the city of Baton Rouge, the state transportation office, and the Southern University System pull most of their resources from federal dollars and grants. Leaders in attendance said the event gave them all a platform in the nation’s capital to present upcoming projects and programs to Congressional delegates and to potential funders and partners.

    We asked attendees to tell us about what they expected from the mixer and its outcome.

    Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport’s interim director of aviation Mike Edwards and Gregory D. Pierson, interim assistant director of aviation, said: “Support for infrastructure funding and our new air service initiatives is always at the forefront when meeting with delegates from any industry. However, one key expectation was to promote the diverse development opportunities available at BTR. Through doing so, we were also able to begin some preliminary dialogue about partnerships with other institutions from other industries that can further stimulate land development and business opportunities within the North Baton Rouge area.”

    President/CEO of the Indigo Engineering Group, LLC, Delicia N. Gunn, said, “My sole CBC Conference expectation was to meet with executives of the Baton Rouge Airport Authority and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.”

    State Rep. Edmond Jordan (BR—District 29), said, “My expectation was to network with other African-American leaders throughout the nation to compare ideas related to creating wealth and building businesses within African American communities. Additionally, I was there to promote the Baton Rouge region to other attendees who are located throughout the U.S.”

    What was the outcome for you and your agency in DC?

    Edwards and Pierson said, “The Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport was able to establish some key contacts towards formulating a coalition for promoting targeted routes for direct air service. We were also able to promote our Aviation Business Park along with all the economic development incentives that accompany doing business at BTR.”

    Rep. Jordan said, “I was able to network with business owners and elected officials; as we shared ideas, strategies, and successes within our community. Specifically, there were seminars related to federal government contracting and accessing venture capital that were engaging and thought-provoking.”

    How were your outcomes met through the Baton Rouge Meets Washington DC Networking Mixer specifically and through other activities?

    Edwards and Pierson said, “Through our (BR airport’s) discussions with legislative officials and other government partners, the mixer afforded us with the platform to solicit support and funding for capital improvement projects that improve the safety, operation, and development opportunities at the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport. We were also able to meet and connect with Disadvantaged Business Enterprises and Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprises from other regions which will help us to continue to grow our DBE resource pool and further our outreach efforts.”

    Veneeth Iyengar, assistant chief administrative officer, at the City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge, Office of Mayor-President, said, “From City-Parish’s perspective, any opportunity that we have to pitch and export “Baton Rouge and the Parish” is a huge win for the community. The event was very important for Mayor Broome’s administration to connect with organizations and groups, whether entrepreneurs, thought leaders, folks from non-profits and the Federal Government on how we collaborate and work together. The enthusiasm we saw based on the individual and group conversations at the mixer especially in wanting to help our community was great and we look forward to following up quickly on those offers for help.”

    Gunn said, “Although my Washington DC-based firm, Indigo Engineering, has had the privilege of providing engineering and construction management services for cities across my home state of Louisiana, my biggest desire was to work with my hometown city, Baton Rouge….The mixer’s presentation of its airport and city goals provided me with inspiration and information regarding upcoming business opportunities. The casual setting afforded me an opportunity to have in-depth industry conversations that are often stifled around a business table. The event was a perfect recipe for successful networking.”

    Rep. Jordan said, “Baton Rouge was represented in a positive light and promoted throughout DC. There is no doubt that the mixer will lead to business opportunities and an infusion of capital for the city; and hopefully, a direct flight from BTR to DC.”

    What’s next?

    Edwards and Pierson said, “As with most things, the follow-up and ongoing collaboration is critical. We must ensure we build upon the strategies discussed at the most recent event to leverage those relationships established at the mixer for all future initiatives.

    Gunn said, “My next steps are to build relationships and to create partnerships with Baton Rouge Airport Authority and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. It is my desire that my firm becomes a trusted advisor and business partner to these two agencies. I seek to achieve this goal by sharing my life, work and play experiences in the nation’s Capitol with city planners to provide a unique, urban perspective for our growing metropolitan city of Baton Rouge. I also seek to leverage my established business relationships and contacts with private and government sectors to help the Baton Rouge Airport Authority and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development meet its business and planning goals.”

    Rep. Jordan said, “As this was just the first step of many to come, we must continue to cultivate relationships while implementing some of the ideas gained from the conference. We can’t become complacent or lose the focus and energy gained from the conference. Otherwise, it will be lost opportunity. We are better than that. Baton Rouge is better than that. Now let’s prove it to the rest of the country.”

    Also in attendance were Baton Rouge Councilmembers Erika Green, LaMont Cole, Chauna Banks, and Donna Collins-Lewis;Metro Washington Airport Authority Vice Chairman Earl Adams, Jr. ; State Reps. Ted James, Rodney Lyons, and Randal Gaines; State Senator Ed Price; Metro Washington Airport Authority Rep. Kristin Clarkson;‎ Federal Aviation Administration Rep. Nick Giles;‎ US Department of Agriculture Rep. Danny Whitley;‎ BREC Commissioner Larry Selders; Makesha Judson with the ‎Mayor President’s Office; Louisana DOTD Chief Legal Counsel Josh Hollins; Former Southern University SGA President Armond Duncan; Perfect 10 Productions CEO T.J. Jackson; and Rise of the Rest Fund Partner David Hall.

    By A.G. Duvall II
    Drum Contributing Writer

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    Facing the nation: Making inclusion a priority in Baton Rouge aviation

    Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport and its commission chairman Cleve Dunn Jr. are facing two national nominations for being catalysts for diversity inclusion. This first-time praise comes from the Airport Minority Advisory Council, the only national, non-profit trade association dedicated to promoting the inclusion of minorities and women in contracting opportunities within aviation and aerospace industries. Dunn has been nominated for the AMAC Advocate of the Year Award and the AMAC Inclusive Leader Award. As a result, the airport earned the nominations as well. The advocate award recognizes an outstanding spokesperson, educator, innovator, advocate,  and strategic partner with AMAC for diversity inclusion. The leadership award honors an organization for demonstrating diversity inclusion within its corporate structure of procurement and employment.

    Earlier this week, Dunn discussed the nominations and the airport’s work with minority-owned and women-owned businesses.

    THE DRUMSince this is the first time you and the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport have been nominated, what does this nomination say for the BR Airport?

    DUNN: It simply says that the leadership has changed and the culture at the Baton Rouge Metro Airport is changing and becoming more inclusive.

    THE DRUM: What were the specific actions/programs you initiated or completed that encourages minority opportunities at the Baton Rouge airport?

    DUNN: During my time on the Baton Rouge Metro Airport board of commissioners there has been no new program rollout to encourage minority opportunities. What I chose to do as a commissioner for the past 5 years and now the chairman of the board is to aggressively advocate for inclusion and diversity in every thing that we do at the Baton Rouge Metro Airport (BTR). That includes assuring that minorities receive jobs and career advancement opportunities at the airport, making sure minority owned and disadvantaged businesses are in our pipeline for contracting opportunities, and making sure that we are exposing children from our community to the aviation industry. As a result, our administration is more culturally diverse than it was five years ago, BTR is much more visible in the community and BTR is supporting more North Baton Rouge businesses, organizations and non profits than ever before.

    Sean

    Sean Joffrion

    Sean Joffrion, director of fine arts at the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, said, “Because of Mr. Dunn’s passion for showcasing Baton Rouge and what it has to offer, he advocated for one of Baton Rouge’s premier schools, McKinley Middle Magnet, to have a wall space in Baton Rouge Metro Airport. This space allowed our diverse multi cultural population the opportunity to showcase art work which depicted the students interpretation of Louisiana and its culture. It also gave travelers the opportunity to get a first hand look of what our school and school district could offer to prospective students/parents. This amazing partnership between the school, district, and airport allowed McKinley the opportunity to recruit students to our program. Cleve is an amazing guy who knows the importance of having relationships between our community and business.”

    THE DRUM: What had been barriers for diversity inclusion at the airport when you arrived as a commissioner? How are you leading or assisting the commission and the airport leadership in removing those barriers?

    DUNN: In my opinion leadership sets the tone and creates the culture for any business or organization. The leadership team has to be passionate about an issue or project and get buy in from the rest of the staff and/or team members in order for that initiative to be implemented successfully.  Our barrier at BTR was that our leadership was not passionate enough about inclusion and diversity as we needed to be to bring about a culture of inclusion at BTR. That is why I lead the charge in advocating for a national search for us a new aviation director. I felt it was very important for us to evaluate the best and brightest aviation professionals around the country; who could develop the land surrounding the airport, grow our air service by adding airlines and destinations and work with our board of commissioners to create a culture of inclusion at the airport. The airport’s aviation director search committee, made up of three metro council members and myself as one of four airport board commissioners concluded our work on July 9. After vetting the group of 39 candidates, conducting video interviews, reviewing their resumes and  several in person interviews; we narrowed the group down to three candidates that the committee chose to recommend to the metro council. The metro council is scheduled to choose a director from the group of three finalists in the weeks to come.

    Baton Rouge Airport Commission Chairman Cleve Dunn Jr.

    Baton Rouge Airport Commission Chairman Cleve Dunn Jr.

    THE DRUM: You are now in your second term on the commission and first term as chair, how do you plan to continue building business capacity for the airport? Plans for supplier diversity?

    DUNN: Supplier diversity has been and will continue to be a top priority for me. One of the first things I proposed as chairman is a board retreat where the commission and the staff could meet and develop the annual mission and goals for the airport. During my previous five years on the commission we had not been given the opportunity to have this level of input prior to budget review. Our first retreat will happen in the next 30 days or so; it is during this retreat where we will create and assign action items to board members and staff that will help us to build business capacity and increase our supplier diversity numbers.

    THE DRUM: Do you or other commissioners help develop aviation or aerospace career interests among local students? K-12, technical school, or college students? If not are there plans to do so?

    DUNN: Yes, I do help to develop aviation career interests among local students. I often times bring young people to the airport, give them a tour of the airport and let them sit in on our commission meetings. I also work with Big Buddy and local colleges to give students internships at the Baton Rouge Metro Airport.

    Lauren Smith Marrioneaux

    Lauren Smith Marrioneaux

    The program operations director for Big Buddy’s LevelUp program, Lauren Smith Marrioneaux  said, “After finding out that Cleve served on the Baton Rouge Metro Airport Board, I contacted him about the airport becoming a host site for the Big Buddy Level UP! Summer Internship Program. He committed to making it happen and he did just that! He made it happen and helped increase the employability of the youth in our program. Because of Cleve’s help and support the Level UP! Summer Internship Program and the Baton Rouge Metro Airport has exposed several teenagers in the Baton Rouge area to the aviation industry. After this experience some of our students later gained employment in the aviation industry.”

    THE DRUM: What is the status of the airport  as a growth opportunity for businesses and North Baton Rouge?

    Cleve Dunn Jr

    Cleve Dunn Jr

    DUNN: I’m a native of North Baton Rouge, and I’m very passionate about the areas growth and development, as well as the people of North Baton Rouge being benefactors of that growth and development by improving their quality of life through jobs and contracting opportunities. We have some 4,000 jobs at the airport and hundreds of contracting opportunities there as well. I will make sure that people living in and around North Baton Rouge are aware of the job and income opportunities and do what we can to help them get those opportunities.

    As director of programs and events for the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Black Chamber, Troy R. Lee, said, “it was imperative that I secured sponsorship for our Inaugural Minority Business Conference and Expo. I called Mr. Dunn and explained the need to have a successful expo and without hesitation he made sure we had sponsorship from the Baton Rouge Metro Airport. Without his timely assistance our expo would not have been the success that it was. BR Metro Black Chamber members and myself are eternally grateful for Mr. Dunn’s kindness and belief in the fact that it does take a village to make things happen especially in underserved communities.”

    THE DRUM: Who are you acknowledging as you receive this nomination?

    DUNN: I am honored to receive the Catalyst award nomination from such a prestigious organization like AMAC. I want to thank the AMAC Catalyst award nominating committee for valuing and recognizing the work that many of us do around the country to promote minority-owned businesses, increase contracting opportunities and professional advancement for minorities in the aviation industry. I do not accept this award nomination alone. I also accept it on the behalf of all the current and former Baton Rouge Metro Airport board of commissioners who have advocated for minority-owned and disadvantaged businesses while serving on our commission. Finally, I’d like to thank the Baton Rouge Metro Airport administration and numerous staff members who have been committed to inclusion and increasing the participation of minority owned and disadvantaged business enterprises.

    Winners of the AMAC awards will be announced during the 34th Annual Airport Business Diversity Conference in Seattle, Washington, Aug 21-25.

    ONLINE: http://amac-org.com
    ONLINE: www.flybtr.com

    By Zenobia Reed
    The Drum contributing writer

     

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    Airport commission chair nominated for two Catalyst awards

    Chairman Cleve Dunn has been nominated for two Catalyst awards by the Airport Minority Advisory Council (AMAC). The AMAC Catalyst awards honor persons who have made outstanding contributions to furthering the goals of AMAC. 

    Dunn’s nominations include:
    AMAC Advocate of the Year Award:This award recognizes an individual within the industry who has been an outstanding spokesperson, educator, innovator, advocate, and strategic partner with AMAC for diversity inclusion in the field of aviation, aerospace (Aeronautical influences such as pilots, airlines, aerospace, educators in the field), or corporate leaders that contribute and encourage minority opportunities and growth in these areas.   

    AMAC Inclusive Leader Award: This award honors an organization that has demonstrated diversity inclusion within its corporate structure of procurement and employment. Nominees are viewed within the industry as a leader for supplier diversity, best practices and fostering business capacity with its diverse partners. Nominees should demonstrate support of AMAC’s goals and mission. 

    “I am honored to receive the Catalyst Award nominations from such a prestigious organization as AMAC. I want to thank the AMAC Catalyst Award nominating committee for valuing and recognizing the work that many of us do around the country to promote minority-owned businesses, and increase contracting opportunities and professional advancement for minorities in the aviation and aerospace industries,” said Dunn. “I do not accept these award nominations alone. I also accept them on the behalf of all the current and former Baton Rouge Metro Airport Board of Commissioners that have advocated for minority-owned and disadvantaged businesses while serving on our commission. Finally, I’d like to thank the Baton Rouge Metro Airport Administration and numerous staff members who have been committed to inclusion and increasing the participation of minority-owned and disadvantaged business enterprises.” 

    Award winners will be announced at the 2018 AMAC Airport Diversity Conference in Seattle the third week of August.

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    Baton Rouge flights head nonstop to Austin, Orlando for $99

    Travelers from the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport gain nonstop options to favorite destinations in Texas and Florida starting this fall thanks to a new agreement with Via Airlines.

    The airline has announced it will launch new nonstop service between Baton Rouge Metro Airport (BTR) and Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB) in Central Florida and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) in Central Texas on September 13th. The new nonstop flights will operate three times each week to/from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, and two times each week to/from Orlando Sanford International Airport with 50-seat Embraer ERJ- 145 jets.
    The BTR – Austin-Bergstrom flights will operate on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays with 1:38 p.m. departures. The BTR – Orlando Sanford International flights will operate on Mondays and Thursdays and depart at 1:48 p.m.

    “Baton Rouge is an amazing city and we’re excited about the opportunity to serve both its business and leisure travelers alike with nonstop jet service to/from both Orlando Sanford International Airport in Central Florida and the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Central Texas as we bring the convenience of nonstop flights to these markets as part of our 2018 expansion,” said Matthew Macri, Via Airlines’ Vice President of Operations. “Via Airlines takes pride in being the airline of the hospitality industry. Our jet service to Orlando and Austin will move travelers to and from Baton Rouge far faster and more economical than existing options or traveling by car. When flying with us you are truly our guest, not just a passenger,” said Macri.

    “We are elated that Via Airlines has chosen to partner with Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport (BTR) as their newest destination for nonstop service,” said Mike Edwards, Interim Director of Aviation at Baton Rouge Metro Airport. “The addition of Via Airlines is yet another positive growth factor for BTR, and is an exciting response to local demand for additional air service options.” “Austin and Orlando are major destinations for both business and leisure travel, and the Greater Baton Rouge community will greatly benefit from these new non-stop routes.”

    Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said, “Thank you Via Airlines for having the confidence in Baton Rouge to add two new nonstop destinations in Austin and Orlando. Area residents will enjoy visiting the many attractions they have to offer, but the nonstop flights will also be a significant time saver for business travelers whether they are flying from Baton Rouge or into Baton Rouge.”

    “This is a big win for Baton Rouge, and we look forward to a long relationship between our area and Via Airlines,” said Cleve Dunn Jr Airport Commission Chairman.”Attracting low cost carriers has been the mission of our board and staff so that we may give our business and leisure travelers more options to choose from…We are excited to have Via Airlines call Baton Rouge Metro Airport home. It is our hope that this announcement is one of many more to come. This historic announcement will provide direct flights to Austin, Texas for the first time ever and reestablish direct flights to Orlando, Florida for the first time in over 5 years. By securing these new markets with a low cost carrier like Via Airlines, it will help us to increase our enplanements, increase our connectivity and decrease our leakage. The Via Airlines proposed rates of (less than $100) per one-way flight will help us to be more competitive with the New Orleans International Airport in these markets.”

    Jim Caldwell, BTR Marketing & Air Service Development Manager, noted the importance of community support for the new service. “Via Airlines is an established, quality airline that is giving us a great opportunity for new service that is not easy for smaller airports to secure in today’s airline environment. We encourage travelers to support the flights for both vacation and business travel to ensure their success, which can potentially lead to more flights.”

    Limited, introductory discounted fares are available by visiting flyviaair.com or calling 800-565-5042. Via Airlines also participates in the GDS (Global Distribution Systems), allowing bookings through local travel agencies, online travel agencies (Expedia, Orbitz, etc.), and corporate reservations booking tools.

    Baton Rouge (BTR) to/from Orlando Sanford (SFB):
    Days of Operation: Mondays and Thursdays
    Time of Operation: Depart BTR @ 1:48 pm Arrive SFB @ 4:30 pm
    Depart SFB @ 11:45 am Arrive BTR @ 12:45 pm
    Baton Rouge (BTR) to/from Austin (AUS):
    Days of Operation: Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays
    Time of Operation: Depart BTR @ 1:38 pm Arrive AUS @ 3:08 pm
    Depart AUS @ 11:45 am Arrive BTR @ 1:03 pm

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    ‘Things get uncomfortable’ when protesters Blackout BR, interrupt policing meeting

    As officer-involved shootings continue to plague cities around the country, frustrated citizens are continuing their fight for justice. With each shooting that has occurred, dash cam footage has been released, surveillance and other forms of film have been released to ensure complete disclosure. But, unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case with the deadly shooting of Alton Sterling.

    After nearly three months, only the cell phone videos filmed by spectators has been released. In addition to the withholding of dash cam footage and surveillance, Baton Rouge police officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II are still on administrative leave. No charges have been brought against the officers and citizens are wondering why. The recent officer-involved shootings that led to the deaths of Philando Castile and Terence Crutcher have resulted in charges brought against the officers. But, law enforcement officials in Baton Rouge have remained silent.

    Now, citizens and protesters are demanding answers. Why has the footage been withheld? Why haven’t the officers been charged? Monday, Sept. 26 was declared #BlackOutBR, a day where local citizens wore black clothes and did not work, go to college, or shop. A rally was held at the steps of City Hall calling for information on the Alton Sterling case.

    BlackOutBR flyer

    After the rally, protesters entered a police reform meeting to hear the committee’s plans and to demand answers and action.

    “The problem is, with an exception of a few, we don’t see these people in the community,” businessman Cleve Dunn Jr. told the committee. “When you look around and you don’t see the community, there should be no meeting.”

    The committee included District Attorney Hillar Moore; councilmembers Tara Wicker, Donna Collins Lewis and Erika Green; BRPD Chief Carl Dabadie Jr; local pastors; and residents. 

    “What happens when leaders & protesters disrupt a meeting on police reform? Things get uncomfortable, they get real, and then they get a seat at the table, alongside the chief of police, the DA, & the DOJ,” wrote artist Walter Geno McLaughlin on Facebook.

    More than 30 protesters lined the walls of the small meeting room, including Sterling’s aunts.

    “We want to press upon our local government but also go all the way to feds that we want a decision on the investigation, said Dunn who explained the reason for the gathering and expressed protesters’ demands. “We are pressing upon the Department of Justice, our mayor, Kip Holden, as well as our Governor… to solicit a timeline of some type of idea of when we can get a decision.”

    “This issue of Alton Sterling has been divested from the people in this room as much as we hate to hear that,” said Will Jorden, who is an assistant district attorney and prosecutor. “We hear the frustration. I am frustrated. These pastors are frustrated. But what this (committee) does is give the people a sense of legitimacy and to be able to move forward with positive change.”

    Wicker said, “This group today is not the group trying to come up with solutions. That’s not our charge. That’s not our job. That’s not what we are doing here. Our charge is to setup an infrastructure so that what you are saying can actually be heard, documented and put into a policy paper that will be submitted as the voice of the community.”

    Several protesters asked the committee for better communication and circulated a paper to add email addresses for future contact. They also presented a list of demands.

    In addition to the demand for a decision in the July 5th shooting, they are requesting that changes be made to city and state flood contracts. The change to contracts would require the cancellation of current contracts in order to include Black-owned firms in renegotiations.

    Community leaders argue that the exclusion of government resources is a strong contributing factor to the financial inequity in the black community. The officer-involved shootings in impoverished areas of the city are also arguably attributed to the lack of economic development.”You cannot prevent an Alton Sterling encounter without economic development in black communities,” the list states.

    The third demand is in reference to police reform. With incidents of alleged injustices resolved with internal investigations, community leaders and local citizens adamantly believe there needs to be a task force in place on state and local law enforcement levels to reform police across the city and state. 

    Here’s the list of demands:
    1. A Decision in the Alton Sterling Case from the Department of Justice.
    We request Mayor Kip Holden and Gov. John Bel Edwards both send letters to President Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch requesting that the DOJ swiftly conclude its investigation. The most powerful government in the world shouldn’t take longer than a district attorney from Tulsa Oklahoma to decide which way to proceed in an investigation, with all the resources at their disposal. Our community deserves to be able to move forward.

    2. Cancel Current State & Local Flood Contracts and Include Black-Owned Firms In Renegotiations. Currently, our state and local government are handing out millions of dollars in contracts relating to flood relief. Black-owned businesses are not reaping from the resources that are on the ground. The exclusion of black-owned companies is one of the primary causes of inequity in our community. You cannot prevent an Alton Sterling encounter without economic development in black communities. Black businesses owners hire black people, giving second chances to people like Mr. Sterling which puts them in our workforce and makes them productive citizens. There should be DBE Mandates equal to the percentage of the population in order to ensure fairness and equity in how our state and local government does business.

    3. Reform Our Police Department
    The murder of Alton Sterling has surfaced issues within our police department that must be addressed. We request a task force convened on a state and local level to reform policing in the city and state. The task force should not just include members of law enforcement and elected official, but local protestors and community advocates who have taken to the streets to oppose the tactics of police departments around the country.

    The list of demands has garnered criticism from local news outlets and citizens with opposing views. Many readers said they believe the demands are far-fetched and argue federal authorities have refrained from filing charges because they haven’t been able to gather enough evidence against the officers involved. But, despite the arguments, the footage is still being withheld, which leads protesters to believe local authorities have something to hide.

    “These demands, especially the first two, are silly. The prosecutor should make a decision only when all the evidence is in. The flood recovery companies should only hire the best companies and people for the job,” wrote writers with The Hayride.

    The question remains: will officers Salamoni and Lake be charged in connection with the shooting death of Sterling? At this point, no one knows what the outcome will be.

    The case is currently still under review by federal authorities. It is still unclear whether charges will be filed against Salamoni and Lake.

    By Meaghan Ellis
    Community Reporter

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    Protesters, leaders vow: ‘We will not destroy or burn down our community’

    Alton Sterling’s death has inspired nationwide protests backed by thousands of Americans who want to end police brutality and the unremitting laws that seem to protect those who are employed to serve and protect citizens.

    Sterling’s name is being called by people all over the world who are partaking in public demonstrations, rallies, and protests seeking justice for his death and that of Philando Castile, Dylan Noble, and others who were killed by police officers. With the continued efforts being taken to protest, many people are optimistic about the possibility of justice being served this time around, but what happens if the verdict isn’t in favor of the victims? How will supporters feel? Will the public outcry lead to a volatile response from protesters? In Baton Rouge, leaders are extending a strong message to citizens currently fighting for justice and against police brutality. They are saying, with microphones in hand and in casual conversations, “Rioting and looting aren’t effective forms of retaliation. We will not destroy Baton Rouge.”

    In the past, America has seen the devastating aftermath and retaliation from outraged protesters and residents following seemingly “unjust” verdicts. Many of the most highly publicized officer-involved shootings have resulted in non-indictments, non-guilty verdicts, and dropped charges.

    Despite facing incriminating evidence and unedited videos of their attacks, overly aggressive—and often violent—police officers have managed to walk away from cases with judges ruling in their favor. Instead of serving time, these officers end up getting a slap on the wrist or a severance package to move on with their lives. Only to be met with violent uproar within the communities left on the other side of justice.

    Local community leaders and elected officials have stepped into what could’ve been riotous moments during the protests following Sterling’s killing and deescalated situations in an effort to keep peace. With emotions and tensions at it peak, these leaders say they aren’t personally concerned about the possibility of local looting, but some residents are.“I don’t have a concern about looting, but I’m a business owner and a property owner so, I do know other business and property owners may be worried about those possibilities because they aren’t as close to the situation as I am,” said businessman Cleve Dunn Jr.

    Cleve Dunn Jr

    Cleve Dunn Jr

    “(Baton Rouge has) done things differently from a lot of other places around the country because we’ve had the opportunity to learn from the lessons and previous mistakes other communities have made and observed that if you tear your community up, once national media leave and professional protesters leave, we’re left to deal with the aftermath.”

    To that, Black leaders throughout the city stress the importance of refraining from destroying the community, saying the aftermath would be detrimental to the advancement of the community.

    “Destructive protests do not accomplish anything because generally our people are the ones who hurt the most from it,” said Doris Gaymon, 64, a lifelong resident of North Baton Rouge. “We tend to destroy our own areas and properties and it defeats the purpose of the message we hope to send. In many cases, the areas destroyed are not insured and total destruction on those locations have made owners apprehensive about rebuilding in the impacted areas due to fears of repeated destruction.”

    For Gaymon, Sterling’s death is quite disheartening and many of the strikingly intense photos from recent protests mirror those from Civil Rights era demonstrations. The images and emotions signify the fight for equality and the ongoing battle against police brutality.

    “It appears we haven’t gotten beyond destruction,” she said.

    Gaymon remembers the 1972 rally at Southern University where Denver Smith and Leonard Brown were fatally shot by white deputies while protesting on campus. Although their protests weren’t centered around police brutality, they were fighting for a number of on-campus changes and the resignation of certain administrators.

    “The death of Alton Sterling has only culminated a deep-rooted problem that has been festering for many years. Hopefully, we, as a people, can understand that destruction does not resolve anything,” Gaymon said.

    In spite of all the horrific events Baton Rouge has experienced—including the shooting death of Sterling, attacks on peaceful protestors, and the deaths of three uniform officers—most residents agree emphatically that retaliation in the form of rioting and looting won’t relay the message of justice the community is hoping to send.

    “At every opportunity, you will hear leaders and residents all over saying, ‘We will not destroy or burn down our community!’,” said Dunn. “And we will not. This is ours.”

    By Meaghan Ellis
    Special to The Drum

    Originally published July 2016 in the print edition of The Drum

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