For the past few years, I have used this platform to communicate with our community. Open letters have kind of become my thing. In December, I wrote an open letter to share with the community that I was considering a run for Louisiana State Senate. I followed that letter up with a meeting with you. It may be unusual for a candidate to write an open letter to the other name on the ballot, but there is a need before the campaigns are in full swing for me to say publicly what I shared with you privately on December 20th of last year. In our conversation, I shared with you that I have nothing but the utmost respect for you and have supported you in the past. I even endorsed you from this platform in your last race. It is my belief that you are a kind, thoughtful person who loves Baton Rouge and Louisiana. I believe you have done your best to serve the people of Senate District 15. I simply believe we need more and that change must come to our communities.
In 2004, I voted for the first time. I cast my ballot for State Senator Kip Holden, who was then the Senator for District 15, to become the first black mayor of Baton Rouge. As a result, then Representative Sharon Weston Broome ran to replace Mayor Holden in the State Senate and you ran for State Representative to replace the newly elected Senator Broome. As long as I have been a voter, I’ve cast my ballot for you. As we discussed, the district has seen better days. Over the last 14 years we’ve lost several grocery stores, a mall, and even a hospital. After watching that, my advocacy was birthed.
Consistently, we’ve watched our community lose resources and there has been little to look at as tangible results in certain parts of our community. This is not your fault, but these things did happen on your watch and it is the responsibility of all of our elected leaders to bring home tangible results that shift the dynamics of our community for the good.
Dr. King said, “Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.” I love my community and believe that those in power have a responsibility to bring justice. It is not JUST that the majority of failing schools in Baton Rouge are in North Baton Rouge and our teachers are underpaid and we both know a thousand dollar raise isn’t enough. It is not JUST that there is a lack of healthcare access in North Baton Rouge and almost all of Senate District 15. It is not JUST that in our state, black men are jailed for marijuana possession while majority white owned companies in other states profit from pot. It is not JUST that one side of our parish prospers while the majority of Senate District 15 has been left behind. If power is love implementing the demands of justice and justice is love correcting everything that stands against love, there is an obligation that power yields us a more JUST society.
This is a democracy, where the people yield their power to elected leaders through their vote in hopes that change will be produced for our personal and collective good. My desire is to serve the people of our state and create the change for our communities that must come. I want to be clear I’m running, not against you, but to Do Good and Seek Justice that produces tangible change. We have to be able to recognize that companies like Georgia Pacific were bound to close, because it was a paper mill in a digital age. We have to be able to build plans and partnerships that bring jobs and opportunity so people can lift themselves out of poverty and build our collective prosperity. We can’t be a state that is at the bottom of every major quality of life ranking and pretend that we don’t need drastic change. North Baton Rouge specifically, as well as Baker and Zachary, can’t wait another 4 years for significant change to come. Too many young men and women leave our communities every year. Some leave for better opportunities. Some leave because they lose their lives to violence that is birthed in poverty. Most recently we’ve discovered that more black males specifically are leaving by suicide, because they’ve lost hope to live.
Senator Barrow, I respect you and believe you have given our community 14 years of service and you should be honored for that. In every period of time there are those who fulfill the role and assignment of Moses, and those who fill the role of Joshua. Both were sent for their time. One would lead the people out of Egypt, the other would lead them from the wilderness into the Promise Land. I believe better days are possible for our communities and state. We must have what Dr. King called a “social vision” to propel us forward from here. I intend to cast a social vision and look forward to the forums where we can both publicly discuss the path forward with and for the people. There is no love lost, just time for change.
“Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.