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Hundreds honor radio pioneer Jenelle Chargois at senior appreciation event

Posted at 6:42 PM, Nov 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-15 20:06:02-05

The City of Lafayette continues to mourn the loss of an African American community leader and former general manager of KJCB Radio, Jenelle Chargois.

On Thursday, more than 800 people gathered at the MLK Center in Lafayette for Senior Citizen Appreciation Day.

The annual event celebrates seniors, but this year, it also honored Chargois who founded it 25 years ago.

“This event, the Senior Citizen Thanksgiving Appreciation Lunch, is probably the one she took the most pride in. Jenelle wasn’t out of the intensive care, and she called me about my sponsorship for this event, thinking about the people and not about herself,” said Representative Terry Landry in a speech to the attendees.

Even in Jenelle Chargois’ final days, she worked to bring the event into fruition.

“She was a very, very strong woman, and if I can tell you one thing she taught me is to always be strong. And, I can also tell you she taught me how to be forgiving and patient. I mean, this lady had patience like no other, but she was very patient, and persistent, and consistent,” said Chargois’ daughter Maisha Drexler.

Chargois left an indelible impact on the community through decades as an African American radio pioneer.

“African Americans throughout Louisiana kind of looked to KJCB for guidance on politics and social issues. Most of that was in large part due to Mrs. Jenelle and her consciousness and her ability to articulate the issues that mattered to the people in our community,” explained community leader and zydeco radio personality Dustin Cravins.

Chargois also founded the African American History Parade Foundation, which established Lafayette’s first MLK Day Parade.

Chargois was also a founding member of the Greater SLWA Black Chamber of Commerce.

“She came up with the idea of doing a heritage quilt where we took pictures of people who made significant contributions to the Creole community,” said friend and quilter Sigrid Donatto.

The quilters decided to memorialize Chargois on the Creole Heritage Quilt.

“The work she was doing under the surface, behind the scenes that changed the tone of the conversation a lot of times. So, it was very important for her that Creole get its just due. And, you know, a lot of times we look at that inclusion today, and we take it for granted and assume that it’s always been that way, and it’s not that long ago that it was not that way. And, it’s because of people like her and her contribution,” explained Cravins.

Funeral arrangements have been set for Chargois. Visitation will be held at Immaculate Heart of Mary on Friday, November 16, beginning at 7:00 a.m. A mass will follow at 11:00 a.m.