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UPDATE: State Senator issues statement on library board grant controversy

Student ID cards work as a library card in Lafayette Parish.
Posted at 10:15 AM, Feb 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-02 20:36:24-05

LAFAYETTE, La.  — The Lafayette Parish Library Board has set a special meeting for tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the appointment of an interim director.

Today, State Sen. Gerald Boudreaux and the ACLU issued statements about the ongoing controversy involving the Lafayette Parish Library Board of Control's rejection of a grant to fund a discussion of voting rights.

Controversy erupted last week after the board rejected a small grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities that would have funded the presentation of a program about the history of voting rights. The director of the library abruptly resigned after that board action.

Boudreaux joins the ACLU of Louisiana, the League of Women Voters, Stand Black and the NAACP, which have also issued statements critical of the action.

UL Lafayette is currently working on having the presentation on voting rights on campus, Boudreaux and Dr. Theodore Foster, Black History professor at UL, confirm. An exact date should be released by next week, according to Dr. Foster.

In the statement, Boudreaux says that UL Lafayette "answered the call to negate the intentions of a few political appointments."

If you want to read the board's statement about this, click here.

Here's Boudreaux's statement:

First, I want to commend Mrs. Teresa Elberson on an outstanding professional career spanning over thirty-eight (38) years. Her service in the Lafayette Parish Library System has been duly noted and greatly appreciated.

I also want to applaud and commend Dr. Joseph Savoie and the entire faculty at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Their timely assistance in coordinating the transfer of the “Conversation on the history of voting in the United States” from the Lafayette Public Library where the board has chosen politics over our people, culture and history. I witnessed the work of Dr. Jean Kreamer, Mrs. Sonya Branch, Ms. Sona Dombourian, Andrew Duhon and so many others as they elevated our library system to one of the most respected by all in the State of Louisiana.

The actions, comments and decision by the Library Board of Control in rejecting a community grant to have a discussion of past voting rights issue is incomprehensible. The question was raised as to the other side being represented and part of the discussion. The college professors who worked with the professional library staff indicated in the approved proposal that the entire spectrum would be covered in the discussions/presentations. Allow me to answer the question, the other side falls in the category of “Jim Crow Laws” and the “KKK”. I agree we do need to discuss the other side, as history has proven that if we ignore the past we will be doomed to relive those dark days. Many members of the community and the University of Louisiana-Lafayette have answered the call to negate the intentions of a few political appointments. Remember, we are talking about a $2,700.00 grant to have a conversation about past Voter Suppression in the United States. The November 2020 elections are over and have been validated by Congress and the Supreme Court. We must move on as a community and a country!

The negative comments and actions are destructive and this rhetoric contributes to chaos, confusion and events that divide instead of uniting our community and country. It serves to incite actions that are not consistent with the theme of Unity. Individuals appointed to boards and commissions must make decisions based on facts and input from the citizens that are impacted by the programs.
Sen. Gerald Boudreaux

On Tuesday, the ACLU of Louisiana released a statement on the Lafayette Parish Library Board's decision to reject a grant and cancel a discussion on voting rights.

ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Alanah Odoms issued the following statement:

"Voting rights are among the most sacred and fundamental rights of citizenship. The fight for African American people to secure the right to vote after twelve generations of enslavement in this country, followed by 100 years of violent suppression of the vote, is as much a part of American history as the founding fathers. Yet, we've used historical white-out to obscure-and even erase-the dehumanization and torture that was inflicted on communities of color who sought to exercise their lawful right to vote, particularly in the South. The Lafayette Parish Library Board has shamefully decided to deny their entire community access to bedrock historical events and facts, alleging that truth-telling narrative should necessarily be accompanied by 'an opposing viewpoint.' We can no longer allow American history to be manipulated and co-opted in this harmful way. Teaching the Lafayette community about the historical and ongoing struggle for voting rights in the Black community is not divisive, on the contrary, it's affirming for the communities that have been harmed, and could be redemptive for those who've sought to inflict such harm should they choose to grapple with the impact of their behaviors. Teaching American history-in its entirety, uncensored and unbiased-is the only safeguard to ensure that history won't repeat itself.

Here in Louisiana, we should be enacting measures to encourage voting, voter education, and civic engagement rather than inviting baseless reasons to conceal historical events and deny voters the information they need to make informed decisions at the ballot. Libraries are gateways to knowledge, which should create learning opportunities through the free exchange of ideas. The ACLU of Louisiana condemns the Board's decision and calls for the Library Board to reconsider the proposal with all deliberate speed."

The program was put together by professor of African American history at UL Lafayette, Theodore Foster.

The library's executive director abruptly retired after the action, and a new group has formed to support the library.

The Library Board also issued a statement on the controversy. Read that statement, here.

The two books selected for the program were: Bending Toward Justice by Gary May, a history of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All by Martha S. Jones.

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