As 2017 draws to a close, most New Orleanians, just like most Americans, are shaking their heads, holding their breath and waiting to see what 2018 brings. It is a hopeful wait, but also it’s filled with anxiety as the change that has come to America, in the form of the Donald Trump presidency, has not only Americans, but the world, on pins and needles. New Orleanians are at the same time, hopeful. In 2017, we saw not only one woman as a major contender for the highest office in the City, but two, equally talented and qualified Black women. In the end, after an historic run-off election, Councilmember LaToya Cantrell made history by becoming the First woman to be elected Mayor of the City of New Orleans.
Let’s take a look back at 2017 and our top stories, before we bid good bye to this year of ups and downs, triumphs and tumults.
Jan 21, 2017 – As Trump Prepares for Inauguration, NOLA Prepares to Protest
Nearly a week after the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as the nation’s 45th President. As the King Holiday promotes service and unity between people throughout the world, the United States will once again stand divided during the presidential ceremony.
The nation’s 58th Presidential Inauguration will take place Friday, Jan. 20th in Washington D.C. The ceremony officially begins at 8:30 a.m. Central Time. President-elect Trump will swear into office at 11 a.m. Central Time. The ceremony will be held outside Capitol Hill.
As the nation prepares for its 45th President, some groups will be detesting the change and its accompanying policies. Several organized groups, including two in New Orleans, plan to hold Citywide protest of the inaugural day.
New Orleans Anti-Trump Protest
Take ‘Em Down NOLA and New Orleans Workers Group will hold an organized demonstration in front of City Hall, at Duncan Plaza, to denounce policies of the Donald J. Trump Administration, and other policies that infringe of the majority in the nation. The planned protest will convene at 3 p.m. Central Time, and is open to the general public.
The protest organized by Take ‘Em Down NOLA and the New Orleans Workers Group will demonstrate against fascism, White supremacy and the rule of billionaires, which, according to protest leaders, are representational of Donald Trump’s character and action.
Several other organizations around the nation will be participating in similar protest, using the joint hashtag #J20 on Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms. In New Orleans, Take ‘Em Down NOLA and New Orleans Workers Group will use the #J20NOLA hashtag.
This past November, similar but less organized anti-Trump rallies and protest were rampant across New Orleans and other cities across the nation after Donald Trump was named President-elect.
Many Republicans in the most recent Care attempting to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which, in essence, subsidizes expensive health treatments for many Americans, and prevent insurance companies from dropping or raising premiums with individuals with terminal illnesses. Without the act, many Americans would be without Affordable Health Insurance. According to Donald Trump’s campaign, he is a supporter of dismantling the legislation.
April 29, 2017 – City Removes One Confederate Monument…Distastefully
Monument Removal Recap
In February of 2015, Landrieu signed an ordinance to remove and relocate four Confederate Monuments in New Orleans. City Council voted 6-1 on the removal of those monuments. In March of 2017, The United States District Court of the Easter District of Louisiana backed the City’s right to remove the statue.
Landrieu said that the monuments would be housed in a private warehouse, and later donated to a museum for safe keeping. The City allocated $170,000—and an undisclosed amount of private funds—to hire a contractor to remove the monuments.
Dissatisfied with Removal Process
While some people were happy that the City followed through with its removal promises, others were not pleased with the way the City went about it.
“I was out there. I hated how it came down,” said Malcolm Suber, an Organizer for Take ‘Em Down NOLA.
“I was disappointed that the mayor didn’t do it in the daylight. It was a cowardly act on his behalf to succumb to the threats of White Supremacist,” Suber said. “We think the mayor—who has access to the police force—should have denounced White terrorist threat, and should call for a public celebration. This is a historic achievement in the history of New Orleans.”
On Monday, April 17th, TEDN led a protest at City Hall to bring attention to the fact the City dragged its feet with the monument removal. The original removal date, according to the Mayor’s Office was April 13th. The roadblocks, according to TEDN, were the state actors and White Supremacist threat reports.
Wearing All Black
Suber said the contractors were able to remove the monument in four hours.
“It was shocking to me when I saw the workers wearing black jackets, helmets, and had their faces covered. Even their vehicle identification was covered,” Suber said.
“People are supposed to be able to do business without fear of retaliation. In fact, the mayor has not denounced this White Supremacist assault.”
Suber was also concerned about the Mayor’s Office’s inability to move forward with the removal process publicly.
“We think the whole process from day one has been in the public. The announcement of the removal was made public. Take ‘Em Down NOLA has been made clear over the past year. The commissions approved taking the statues down. All has taken place in the public,” Suber said.
“What this says is, you are allowing White Supremacist to dictate what is going on in New Orleans,” he added.
May 20, 2017 – President Trump Wages War on Obama’s Legacy in First 100 Days
There was the proposed massive budget cut to the Department of Housing and Urban Development; the incessant rhetoric about a rise in crime in the nation, that lacked evidence to back it up; the threats of a renewed war on drugs. There was even a failed attempt to bully Republican lawmakers into passing a flawed bill that sought to roll back the Affordable Care Act, a law that provides healthcare to millions of Americans.
This was President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in the White House. Trump didn’t win a single legislative achievement during his first 100 days. For policies that impact the lives of African-Americans, it was just as perilous as you thought it would be. During the 2016 campaign, Trump often described the Black community as a monolithic, stereotypical caricature. Trump used the types of violent stereotypes one parrots after they’ve binge-watched 11 seasons of “Law & Order,” but have never actually been to an inner city.
So, much of what Donald Trump focuses on is about undoing the accomplishments of the first Black President of the United States. The obsession with “alternative facts” and the erasure of President Obama’s legacy continues to be the core focus within the Trump Administration.
Days before his 100th day in office, Trump’s spokesman Sean Spicer blamed President Obama for the fiasco surrounding Gen. Michael Flynn. Flynn, a loud supporter of Trump during the 2016 campaign, was fired by Trump as National Security Advisor on February 13 and ended up holding the position for the shortest time in U.S. history (24 days) after it was reported Flynn lied to Vice President Pence.
Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions, perhaps the most dangerous federal official for African- Americans, sought to revive the “War on Drugs,” a set of policies that disproportionately impacted African-Americans in the 1980s and 1990s.
“We can wish that we could just turn away and reduce law enforcement,” said Sessions in 2016. “But I do believe that we’re going to have to enhance prosecutions. There just is no other solution.”
During a trip to Richmond, Va., on April 11 Sessions said: “We need to say, as Nancy Reagan said, ‘Just say no.’ Don’t do it…We can reduce the use of drugs, save lives and turn back the surge in crime that inevitably follows in the wake of increased drug use.”
None of this should be a surprise to the Black community. Sessions comes from Alabama where incarceration is high art. Placing humans in cages is Alabama’s leading industry. At 70, Sessions is a stark reminder of another era. He’s also a reminder of how old, failed policy is difficult for so many to break away from. With so many Republicans embracing “smart on crime” policies, Sessions is determined to star in the movie “Groundhog Day” on federal crime policy.
July 12, 2017 – Youth At Risk for Human Trafficking in New Orleans
While New Orleans is known for being a culturally-relevant City, it’s also a hotspot for Human Trafficking.
On Saturday, August 5th, during an open community event, Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano, Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, held a discussion on human trafficking in the City at the Central St. Matthews United Church of Christ.
In her quest to raise awareness for at-risk youth, Lobrano cited joint research between the Modern Slavery Research Project at Loyola University and Covenant House of New Orleans. According to the organizations, approximately 60,000 people are coerced into slavery in the United States.
“You can only sell a gun or a drug one time,” Lobrano said. “But you can sell a human over and over again. Human Trafficking has to stop. I believe it has to change on a local level.”
Lobrano advocates for a higher rate of community engagement. While laws define the rules and punishments, it takes a community to help someone at risk, Lobrano added.
Factors that put youth at risk include poverty, homelessness, unemployment, a history of sexual abuse, and mental illness. Additionally, societal and parental pressures can also put youth at risk.
Researchers in the joint analysis limited this study to the Covenant House of New Orleans population, which serves about 150 youth a day and 700 individuals per year. In a study that included 99 anonymous youth at the Covenant House of New Orleans, nearly 25 percent of the respondents participated in sexual labor.
“Trafficking is an issue all over the world. New Orleans is a challenging City in Human Trafficking. It not’s just during big events and it’s not just women,” she said. Trafficking includes non-willful drug dealing, physical labor, sexual labor, survival sex—sexual acts in exchange for food, housing, or basic necessity—, or illegal or informal work. As of August, of 2017, New Orleans is the only City in the State of Louisiana that has a recovery home for former Human Traffic victims. The site, Eden House, a non-profit group, can only house eight women at a time. Many of their constraints are due to lack of available funding.
September 2, 2017 – Texas Hit with Billions in Damage After Hurricane Harvey
Just as the Crescent City approached its 12th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the state that took in thousands of hurricane refugees found itself underwater.
On Friday, August 25th, Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast as a strong Category 4 Hurricane. The system threatened to bring gusty winds, heavy storm surges, and large amounts of rainfall. By the time Harvey hit the coast, it slowed to a tropical storm, drenching Houston and surrounding areas, moving as slow as two miles per hour. As of Tuesday, August 29th, the Storm dropped over 39 inches of rain, with over 50 inches in some local areas. Over 15 people are believed to be dead after the recent natural disaster.
Forecasters at The Weather Chanel determined Harvey to be the strongest hurricane to hit the United States in the last 12 years. In fact, it has been nine years since a hurricane hit Texas. In an analysis by Asset Management Company, William Blair & Co., there can be as much as $30 billion in personal property damage caused by the storm. In a recent article by Washington Post, over 80 percent of victims in hard-hit areas do not have flood insurance.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August of 2005, meteorologist reported it as the third strongest Hurricane to hit The United States, leading to the death of over 1,800 people. That storm, in combination with a levee breach, left most of New Orleans underwater.
Hurricane Harvey brought nearly 5 inches of rain to some areas on New Orleans between August 27th and 29th.
September 30, 2017 – Data News Weekly Celebrates 51 Years, Makes Leap into Digital Publishing
Last year the New Orleans Data News Weekly celebrated its Golden Anniversary as the People’s Paper providing news that empowers, inform and inspires a community. This year the paper turns 51 and has come a long way since Joseph “Scoop” Jones, who was among the few Black World War 2 Correspondents created it in 1966.
Terry Jones is a second-generation Publisher of the New Orleans Data News Weekly Newspaper. As he took the helm of Data News in 1985, he learned that the skills needed to run a business of this size requires most of if not all of your time. It is unlike a normal job where you work a certain number of hours then you punch out for the day. Speaking of his normal work day he says, “The problem with this kind of work with public relations it’s a 24/7 thing.” Continuing he says, “I made the commitment early on that this was not a job but a way of life. I consider it a way of life particularly in a City like New Orleans, everybody knows who you are and you always have to be on always. And because we are so connected to the community I am always thinking what I can do to improve the paper to impact our people in a positive way.”
Data News Weekly Enters the Digital Age
As the media industry is changing and some print publications are struggling to survive Data News Weekly is not only surviving but thriving in a changing marketplace. Data News Weekly as have many print publications found themselves facing new challenges as the digital landscape is changing the nature of print media. Questions have arisen about how they will survive and remain viable. A reality not lost on Jones as he remarks of these changes, “We’ve had to re-identify ourselves online and connect with a new generation of readers. It is a challenge in this transition; we may have to eventually move from print to digital to reach our readers, but right now our print publication is doing well reaching readers and our website and social media presence has grown considerably.”
November 25, 2017 – New Orleans Elections Makes History
Historic Night in New Orleans
New Orleans voters went to the polls and history was made as the City elected its first woman Mayor, LaToya Cantrell and the first Asian-American elected to the City Council Cyndi Nguyen, in District E.
Mayor-Elect LaToya Cantrell
During her campaign party held at the New Orleans Jazz Mart in Central City, the mayor-elect was surrounded by her family and supporters stating this is not just a win for herself and her family, but for the City of New Orleans as cheers filled the room. This sentiment is based on the grassroots approach she took while campaigning going into communities and meeting citizens to understand their needs and concerns. This bottom-up approach is one of the factors that led to her victory on Election Night.