By Candace Siemen, Jozef Media
Tony Brown, a journalist and host of “Eyes Open With Tony Brown” came clean in his opening keynote address delivered Thursday, Sept. 24 at annual state conference of the Louisiana NAACP.
“The State of Louisiana is simple,” Brown told the group during the opening luncheon, “We are at the bottom of the list when it comes to the good stuff and the top of the list when it comes to the bad.
He offered a laundry list of problematic situations and injustices that the citizens in the state have faced. He began with education.
“In the nearly 10 years our children have had (the exit exam) mandate forced on them, more than half a million of our children have failed to pass the grade…what adds to this problem is a large number of them both Black and White simply get discouraged and drop out. This is part of the reason why we should hold our head in shame…Louisiana, we have a problem.”
He explained how the penal system pulls statistics on male students’ school performance to determine where to build prisons: “From the school house to the jail house…the cradle to prison pipeline is alive and well in Louisiana” he said. “That’s just wrong and enough is enough.”
Brown also shared the stories of Black murder victims who had been killed at the hands of young, white police officers in Central and North Louisiana. They are Baron “Scooter” Pikes, 21, Richard Goss, 36, Bernard Monroe Sr., 73, and Harold Phillips, 54.
“What is just as shocking is that all of these homicides took place in less than a year and a half,” he said. “So when you ask me ‘what is the state of Louisiana?’ I say, ‘(Louisiana) in a sad state.’ Four unarmed Black men, all of them died violently at the hands of those we pay to protect and serve. So far, there has been not one convention and no one has even been to court.”
Brown also shared incidents of “Black Exceptionalism” where situations surround blacks not the rule, but the exception. He used the recent experiences of Harvard Professor Louis Gates following his at-home arrest, Pineville Junior High students wearing President Obama jackets, the and the firing of two black truckers in Tallulah to drive home the point that racism is active in the state. He ended each tale with “that is just wrong. I say enough is enough.”
Brown’s Alexandria-based radio show “Eyes open with Tony Brown” on 88.1FM often serves as an open forum for such community issues and concerns that are particularly not included in mainstream media.
During the three-day conference, other speakers including Judge Mablean Ephriam, former Sen. Donald Cravins Jr., and SBA Region VI Administrator Yolanda Olivarez echoed Brown’s sentiment that Louisiana citizens can continue to press the judicial system, business, industry and education leaders to do the right thing.
“We have to stand up for what’s right and not fear anyone,” said Ephraim during the Freedom Fund Dinner that was held Friday, Sept. 25. “Our generation, the Baby Boomers, are keepers of the dream. The torch has been passed to us…It’s up to us to make sure the legacy continues.”
Ephriam is best known for her television show, “Divorce Court” with Judge Mablean, but she is a retired judge in California who could still take a case to the Supreme Court, “if I need to.”
“We can’t be afraid. We need people of courage to eradicate drugs in our neighborhood. The lawful outnumber the lawless!” she said.
In agreement with Brown’s message about the local murders, the judge offered, “We have to make sure justice is fair. The disparity in sentencing has to discontinue. These are battles we continue to fight.”
Because of the disparities in health care, she urged the audience of 500 to lend their “voices, time, talent and energy to President Obama’s health care reform.”
The state NAACP conference celebrated the 100th year anniversary of the NAACP and its centennial theme: “Bold Dreams – Big Victories.” To that Ephriam said, “we had a hope and faith that said ‘I can do that.’ We did not give up; we pushed for a better world.”
She closed her speech quoting poet Robert Frost: “We’ve got miles to go before we sleep.”