Across Louisiana: In Case You Missed It
La. Congressional maps to be redrawn to add a majority-Black district. LSU’s first Black band director Kelvin Jones retires. Fort Polk renamed after Black WWI hero. Gantt names SUSLA chancellor.
Back to the drawing board!
Supreme Court allows redrawing of Louisiana Congressional Map to create additional majority-Black district
The U.S. Supreme Court has tossed out a case by Louisiana Republicans seeking to reverse a lower court ruling that ordered it to redraw its congressional map.
The decision now paves the way for new voting lines to be drawn to include a second majority-Black congressional district before the 2024 election. The justices reversed their initial plans to hear the case directly and lifted the hold placed on a lower court’s order regarding the need for a revamped redistricting regime. Notably, there was no dissent among the justices.
Last year, a congressional map that the Republican legislature had passed over Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards’ veto led to a lawsuit against Louisiana state officials.
The map, which only designated one out of six districts as majority Black, came under scrutiny considering the 2020 census revealed that 33% of the state’s population is Black. U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick, who presided over the case, had been considering a remedial congressional plan after Louisiana lawmakers refused to pass a plan that included a second majority-Black district.
The Supreme Court clarified on Monday, June 26, that their latest decision “will allow the matter to proceed before the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for review in the ordinary course and in advance of the 2024 congressional elections in Louisiana.”
With this latest decision, the ongoing debate surrounding the Louisiana congressional map’s compliance with the Voting Rights Act will proceed through the ordinary review course in the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
This move by the Supreme Court follows a recent ruling made earlier in June regarding Alabama’s congressional maps. That ruling upheld the historical approach of courts when dealing with the redistricting provisions in the Voting Rights Act, a historic civil rights law that Black voters are now utilizing to challenge the Louisiana congressional plan.
Because of this new order, the lower court proceedings, which the conservative majority had put on hold in June of last year, will now resume.
LSU’s first Black band director Dr. Kelvin Jones retires
Kelvin Jones, Ph.D., the director of LSU's Golden Band From Tigerland, announced his resignation after 10 years with the program. In a statement Saturday, he said he would be resigning from his positions as director of the band and assistant director of bands to focus on his family. Under Jones’ leadership, the program collaborated on "Full Circle," a production with Lake Charles native Sean Ardoin and his band Kreole Rock and Soul. It was nominated for Best Regional Roots Album at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards. A graduate of Jackson State University and LSU, Jones is the first Black band director at LSU.
Army renames Louisiana’s Fort Polk after Black WWI hero, erasing Confederate history
The Army renamed a western Louisiana base Tuesday, June 14, 2023, in an effort to shed its Confederate history — and uplift a Black World War I hero.
Fort Polk was rebranded as Fort Johnson in honor of William Henry Johnson who received the Medal of Honor nearly a century after serving on the front lines of France.
Johnson enlisted in the Army in June 1917 and was assigned to the infamous Harlem Hellfighters, known for being one of the first all-Black regiments to serve with the American Expeditionary Forces during the First World War. Johnson served one tour of duty on the western edge of the Argonne Forest in France’s Champagne region, where he suffered 21 injuries while beating back a German night raid, according to the National Museum of the United States Army.
He also prevented a wounded Black comrade from being taken prisoner when, after running out of grenades and ammunition, he killed two German soldiers with his knife.
Former President Theodore Roosevelt named him one of the five bravest Americans to serve in the conflict and he became one of the first Americans to be awarded the French Croix de Guerre avec Palme, France’s highest award for valor. The base was previously named after Confederate commander Leonidas Polk.
Read more by Katherine Donlevy, New York Post
Aubra Gantt chosen as next chancellor of Southern University Shreveport
The Southern University System unanimously approved Aubra Gantt, EdD, as chancellor of Southern University Shreveport.
The Shreveport native has more than 25 years of progressive experience in postsecondary education, and has served in various state government, academic affairs, student affairs, enrollment management, and clinical behavioral and mental health positions.
She began her professional educational career at SUSLA, where she served in numerous positions, including Educational Talent Search counselor with the TRIO programs. She served as dean of enrollment management at Scottsdale Community College in the Maricopa Community College District, one of the largest two-year college systems in the nation.
Gantt is the founding vice president for academic outreach and student success at the Tarrant County College Connect Campus in Fort Worth, Texas, one of the most comprehensive community colleges in the nation.
She has a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge; a master’s degree in social work from Southern University at New Orleans, and a doctorate of education in higher education administration from the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas.
He Made Louisiana History. Now He Wants to Change the State’s Climate Future.
Davante Lewis is the first Black, openly LGBTQ person ever elected to office in Louisiana. Now he wants to turn a fossil fuel hub into a green energy giant
“You’re going to see me,” Davante Lewis told the crowd. It was late February, and Lewis was speaking to a classroom-sized group that had gathered in a senior center in St. James Parish, a rural stretch of southeast Louisiana along a generous bend of the Mississippi River. The occasion was a Black History Month celebration hosted by Inclusive Louisiana, an environmental justice nonprofit fighting the extractive industry and led by Black elders in the parish. Nearby, a dense matrix of petrochemical facilities crowded the riverbank, towering over homes, schools, and fields soon to be thick with corn and sugarcane. This area is just one part of an 85-mile industrial corridor widely known as Cancer Alley. That grim moniker, and the environmental hazards it conjures up, came about because of the actions—or inactions—of generations of absent politicians and regulators.
Lewis, 31, intends to break that mold—and he’s in a good position to do so, because he is now a Louisiana public service commissioner—one of just five elected officials tasked with overseeing utilities across the state. Moreover, he is a break from the past in some very literal ways. He is the first openly LGBTQ person elected to a statewide office in Louisiana, and the first Black LGBTQ person elected to any political office in the state, at any level.
Read more by Grey Morgan at The Nation.