A legend in the Baton Rouge community was killed on Friday — Sadie Roberts – Joseph the founder and curator of the Odell S. Williams African American History Museum was found deceased in the trunk of a car. The news of her death has gone viral, CNN, ABC News, The Shade Room, civil rights leader Shaun King, and dozens of others have shared the news of her passing. A tragedy that caused this entire community to stop and ask the question, why did someone kill Ms. Sadie?
I encountered Ms. Sadie on more occasions than I can count because she was an active member of the Baton Rouge community. A few years ago when I started attending metro council meetings in Baton Rouge, she was already a regular, one of the citizens showing up to stand on the side of truth and justice. Over the years I held the door open for her and she always extended a greeting and smile.
News reports broke Friday that a woman was found in the trunk of a car, never in a million years did I think it would be Ms. Sadie. When I got the call late Friday night that it was her I was stunned and in disbelief. I didn’t have a personal relationship with Ms. Sadie, I simply had the honor of being in her presence. The last time I saw her was a few weeks ago when she was promoting her annual Juneteenth celebration. I was at Southern Grind Cofe when she walked in, never loud, never over the top, just gracefully doing her work. Always wearing beautiful garments that reflected African heritage, we greeted each other and went on our way.
Sadie Roberts – Joseph like many black leaders who have a passion for their people, took the time to build a museum to ensure the history of black people in this community was preserved and known. She detailed the history of Baton Rouge’s Bus Boycotts — the first in the nation. She did so with little to no funding to do her work, she still pressed on. She was a gift to Baton Rouge, and someone stole her life and though I didn’t have a deep relationship with her, like most of you I’m hurt by her passing and in such a tragic way.
What does this say about Baton Rouge? We continue to try and paint this picture that our city is this great place to live, work, and play, but is it? When a 75 year old woman can be killed and stuffed in the trunk of a car, I’m not sure that equals a great place to be. We have some soul searching to do, and some work to do as well.
The elderly and our children should always be the priority of our protection, and if they aren’t safe in our city — who is?
The state of Louisiana has been under clouds due to hurricane Barry making landfall yesterday, but the weather fits the mood of the city of Baton Rouge, weepy from the loss of such a great woman. News reports say Ms. Sadie went to her sisters house Friday to go bake cornbread because her oven was broken, it was the last time she was heard from. Someone killed her, and someone knows who it is. We cannot allow the person who did this to her to walk our streets. Her killer must be apprehended and prosecuted to the full extent of the law and we should all work to see that happen by speaking out if you know something.
More importantly, we cannot let the work of her life die. The museum that she founded should get the support of all of us, not just in words and repost online — but with our dollars both private and public. Louisiana has rich history and Ms. Sadie worked to preserve it for future generations, and sadly we haven’t done all we can to see it grow, myself included. I am committed to give to see her life work live on, so that the darkness of this moment would not cloud the light of her life.
It is my prayer that justice is as swift as the angels that met her Friday, to carry her to the place the ancestors go to meet again and rest for eternity. It is also my hope that we as a community do the work of changing our city to prevent tragedies like this so that the life of another elder is not lost like this.
I heard it said once, “The youth can walk fast, but the elders know the road,” Thank you Ms. Sadie Roberts – Joseph for showing us the road — Rest in Power Queen.