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Education

A teacher asked a great question about superintendent pay. Then, all hell broke loose.

Her earnest question about inequality in our education system was met with a grotesque abuse of power.


Why should a superintendent get a raise while teachers in the same district struggling to make ends meet see their paychecks flatline — year after year after year?

Teacher Deyshia Hargrave begged the question. Minutes later, she was handcuffed and placed in the backseat of a cop car.

The scene was captured below by YouTube user Chris Rosa, who attended a board meeting for Vermilion Parish Schools in Louisiana.

You can watch Hargrave begin speaking about 33 seconds in. The situation starts becoming contentious around 6:35 minutes. Hargrave is arrested at 8:35, and then walked outside in handcuffs and placed in the back of police vehicle.




Teacher Deyshia Hargrave was questioning the school board how they can vote to give the superintendent a raise when school employees have not gotten a raise ...

"We work very hard with very little to maintain the salaries that we have," Hargrave, who teaches middle school language arts, said during a public comment portion of the meeting, stating that she's seen classroom sizes balloon during her time at the school with no increased compensation. "We're meeting those goals, while someone in that position of leadership [the superintendent] is getting raise? It's a sad, sad day to be a teacher in Vermilion Parish."

According to comments Hargrave made to BuzzFeed News, she believes Superintendent Jerome Puyau was already making $110,000 before the board voted to give him a raise of $38,000. The raise alone is roughly the salary of "a teacher, or two cafeteria workers, or two janitors," Hargrave told the outlet.

After Hargrave spoke out again later in the meeting, a city marshal on duty asked her to leave — even though the school board was still addressing her.

"You're going to leave, or I'm going to remove you," the officer told her, as seen in the video. Many people in attendance seemed shocked. "Are you serious?" someone asked, aghast, in the crowd.

Hargrave leaves the room, followed by the officer. But moments later, someone chimed in, "he's putting her in handcuffs" — and the room erupts in disarray.

"I am not [resisting], you just pushed me to the floor!" Hargrave is heard screaming at the officer, as he forcibly removes her down the hallway and out the building in handcuffs. "Sir, hold on! I am way smaller than you!"

Teacher removed from Vermilion school board meeting in handcuffs

According to KATV News, Hargrave was booked in the city jail for resisting an officer — a fact that left many commenters online flabbergasted. School officials are reportedly not pressing charges. "Umm ... what charges could they possibly make?" one Redditor noted.

With help from the Reddit community, Rosa's video has gone viral, garnering more than 600,000 views in less than 24 hours. Clearly, Hargrave's earnest question about inequality in our education system — met with a grotesque abuse of power — has clearly touched a nerve with people across the country.

"I don't know how this teacher could have been more polite and patient in her earnest desire to find out why the superintendent deserves a raise while the teachers work harder with less," YouTube commenter Scott Wells chimed in. "She continued to press because they refused to come up with an answer. Seems like a good question to me."

We agree.


This article originally appeared on 01.09.18

Imagine the gall it takes to sit in a meeting where community members are sharing their personal stories of racism and scroll through an online store on your computer. Now imagine the gall it takes to not just be in that meeting, but to be one of the people running it anddecide your new clothing needs are more important that the concerns of Black community members.

Gary Chambers, Jr. caught East Baton Rouge Parish School Board member Connie Bernard on camera shopping online during a hearing on changing the name of Lee High School—as in Robert E. Lee— on June 18. As community members shared their feelings about having a school named for the general of the confederate army—the one who fought for the South's "right" to enslave Black people—Bernard appeared to be pondering what color dress she was going to buy.

When Chambers' turn came up to speak, he said he had intended to get up and talk about how racist Robert E. Lee was, but instead was going to talk about Connie Bernard, who was "sitting over there shopping while we're talking about Robert E. Lee." Holding up his phone, he said, "This is a picture of you shopping, while we're talking about racism and history in this country."


Chambers pointed out that it was only white members of the board got up from their tables while people in the community—which Chambers says is 81% Black—were talking. "Because you don't give a damn, it's clear," he said.

He did explain how racist Robert E. Lee was: "Not only did he whoop the slaves, he said, 'Lay it on 'em hard.' And after he said, 'Lay it on 'em hard,' he said 'Put brine on 'em so it'll burn 'em.'"

"And you sit your arrogant self in here," he said, addressing Bernard again, "and sit on there shopping, while the pain and the hurt of the people of this community is on display. Because you don't give a damn, and you should resign."

The entire video is gold, with Chambers explaining how Bernard should have resigned two years ago when she was caught on video choking a student, and how she should now walk out and resign, "because you are the example of racism in this community."

The mic drop moment at the end brought the point home: "We built this joint for free," Chambers said. "And we're done begging you to do what's right."

When Chambers mentioned Bernard "talking foolishness" on TV the week before, he was presumably referring to a June 10th interview with WVLA-33 in which Bernard said that people who didn't like the name of the school needed to brush up on their history.

"I would hope that they would learn a little bit more about General Lee," she said, "because General Lee inherited a large plantation and he was tasked with the job of doing something with those people who lived in bondage to that plantation, the slaves, and he freed them."

After understandable backlash, Bernard issued an apology in a written statement:

"My comments last week about the naming of Lee High School were insensitive, have caused pain for others, and have led people to believe I am an enemy of people of color, and I am deeply sorry. I condemn racial injustice in any form. I promise to be part of the solution and to listen to the concerns of all members of our community. I stand with you, in love and respect."

However, she also told The Advocate that what looked like her shopping was just a popup ad that she hadn't closed out. "I wasn't shopping," she said. "I was actually taking notes, paying attention, reading online comments."

But Chambers wasn't having that nonsense either—he had receipts in the form of a 20-second video of her scrolling through a full screen of clothing while one of her fellow board members—a Black woman—was speaking.

Another attendee at the meeting, Arthur Pania of Baton Rouge, corroborated Chambers' account on Facebook, "I personally watched her for about eight minutes, attempting to decide between a beige and red dress," he wrote. "The only thing I had issue determining from my sight was if it was a short dress or nightware."

People with this much blatant racism in their bones and a willingness to blatantly lie in an attempt to cover up that racism has no business making decisions for anyone, much less school children in a community of mostly Black families. As Chambers wrote on Instagram, "Our children deserve better, our community deserves better. If she remains it gives permission for others to do the same."

True
New Orleans Tourism

When Rabeetah Hasnain teaches, she resists telling her students what to think.

There’s no need to just drill them on facts they memorized.

Instead, she loves to witness her special education students’ eyes light up with understanding and growing confidence in her fourth- and fifth-grade classes at ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy in New Orleans.  


Her students think for themselves and learn how to solve problems — but in a fun, free-spirited way that mirrors the celebratory, artistic culture of their city.

All images via Turnaround Arts New Orleans/ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy​, used with permission.

For Hasnain’s math classes, she choreographs the fluid movements of a mathematics dance to help her kids learn how a decimal point moves when multiplying by 10.

For English, she has them create a three-minute improv theatrical scene to review their reading comprehension of the "Matilda" chapter she assigned for homework.

Older students even learn U.S. history through rap battles inspired by the mega-hit Broadway musical "Hamilton."

That's because at this academy, art isn’t a separate subject tacked onto education — it's ingrained in the school's culture, just like it is in the city of New Orleans.

It makes sense that their education style is as unique and jubilant as their surrounding city. After all, if you take a walk through New Orleans, you'll see artists lining up their original artwork every day along the sidewalks and fences of Jackson Square. You'll see Dixieland jazz musicians roaming the streets, playing for those that pass by. From its Cajun and Creole cuisine to its multicultural artistic population to its historic architecture, this is a city where beauty and expression in all its forms are celebrated.  

The school, then, takes its cues from the spirit of New Orleans, infusing art, music, and performance into many aspects of the learning experience.

They do this with the help of Turnaround Arts, a national program that aims to transform low-performing schools by using arts education as a strategic tool to boost confidence, creativity, and academic achievement.

"Arts integration doesn’t have to be this extra crazy thing that teachers do," Hasnain says. "It’s just good teaching." Especially when you can connect students with a city's vibrant arts community.

Take Preservation Hall, for example. Situated deep in the heart of the iconic French Quarter, this music venue is known for its unforgettable jazz concerts, which further a living tradition of New Orleans jazz music and culture citywide. It’s also known for its music groups, like the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and it is those very band members who are orchestrating the future of this storied musical tradition through Turnaround Arts.

Twice a week, Preservation Hall sends professional jazz musicians to ReNEW Academy to work with the school band, so the students can learn jazz and marching band styles that mirror the jubilant streets and famous venues of their city.

And the kids get to take their art outside the classroom too.

Band students also perform in the city’s Mardi Gras parade, further connecting these students with the local arts scene and allowing them to be part of one of the city's most famous creative traditions. That’s a big deal for anyone enchanted with the city’s defining music.

At this New Orleans academy, their approach to the arts is creating a whole new generation of young artists that are both inspired by and shaping the culture of their city.

Just last January, the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center (just north of St. Charles Avenue) hosted "I’m Glorious," a collaborative installation featuring works from the city’s three ReNEW schools.

A month later, local artists visited homeroom classes at ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy to help them design a mural or art installation around the theme of growth. And the New Orleans Museum of Art donated banners and frames for the project.

In New Orleans, providing children with the space for thinking creatively and for free expression isn’t just to improve academic performance.

It’s about furthering this spellbinding city’s legacy.

"In New Orleans in particular, you’re not only a musician, you’re a culture-bearer," Hasnain says.

"That’s why we bring so many community partners here. ... It would be horrible to be in a city that has so much culture and the kids not be part of it."

It's a culture and a legacy recognized around the world — from the dazzling parades, to the sweet sounds of jazz music in the French Quarter — shaped every day by the youth who live and learn there.

More

Think NYC Pride is outrageous? Welcome to New Orleans, where 'Southern Decadence' reigns.

Southern Decadence bucked all expectations, and no city does satire better than New Orleans.

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New Orleans Tourism

The year was 1972, and New Orleans was having the quintessential queer party.

The theme was Southern Decadence. Partygoers were expected to dress up as their favorite “decadent” Southern elite.

The more outrageous the better of course.


40 or 50 friends gathered just outside the French Quarter at a rundown cottage house called Belle Reve, drinking, smoking, and lounging beneath a big fig tree, dressed to the nines.

It was meant to serve as an epic send-off for a friend leaving New Orleans, but it soon became much more than that.

The following year, they gathered again in a French Quarter bar, showing off their costumes and then walking along Esplanade Avenue.

From that point on, the “parade,” as it was later named, became an annual tradition — a very queer, very Southern tradition that is now recognized around the world as the Gay Mardi Gras of New Orleans, which over 200,000 people attended last year.

Paul Broussard and NewOrleansOnline.com

Southern Decadence now spans an entire weekend full of events celebrating queer culture and everything that makes New Orleans unique.

Southern Decadence bucked all expectations, and that's largely because no city does satire better than New Orleans.

That's how SarahJane Guidry sees it, at least.

“Satire is one of the best ways marginalized people can have an impact on public conversations," explained Guidry, the executive director of Forum for Equality, a statewide human rights organization. “It publicly celebrates outrageous and fun personal expression."

[rebelmouse-image 19528383 dam="1" original_size="1024x683" caption="Image via Derek Bridges/Flickr." expand=1]Image via Derek Bridges/Flickr.

Being visible as queer, transgender, or gender-nonconforming is already a powerful form of resistance, and at a time when LGBTQ people were expected to cower in the closet, such an outward celebration of Southern queer culture became so much more than a party.

New Orleans has always been considered a home for queer outcasts, no matter where "home" actually is.

Paul Broussard and NewOrleansOnline.com

That's partly why there is an amazing history of queer creatives and artists in New Orleans, Guidry explains.

From the Gay Mardi Gras Krewes of the ‘50s to bounce music made popular by queer artists like Big Freedia and Katey Red, the queer community brings a kind of energy to New Orleans that’s unlike anything else.

“The LGBTQ community in New Orleans is as unique as the city itself and has always taken the best of what we have and made it better,” Guidry said.

And the party's unique spirit remains.

The Southern Decadence of today is a nod to that “outsider” feel, evolving from a bar crawl to a full-blown weekend-long event, complete with a parade that anyone can join. The music, costumes, and dancing are all an invitation, a “come as you are” to every person who’s ever felt a little bit (or a lot) different.

[rebelmouse-image 19528385 dam="1" original_size="512x655" caption="Image via Infrogmation of New Orleans/Wikimedia Commons." expand=1]Image via Infrogmation of New Orleans/Wikimedia Commons.

As people continue to gather for the parade every year, Southern Decadence is perhaps as political as it is whimsical.

Southern Decadence saw some of its biggest crowds on Labor Day weekend, markedly claiming the public space so often denied LGBTQ people, particularly trans and gender-nonconforming people.

Paul Broussard and NewOrleansOnline.com

And while there is always still more work to be done, real progress is happening.

Beyond the meticulously crafted costumes and dazzling music in the streets, Louisianians are making real strides. Just recently, the governor signed a fully inclusive executive order protecting LGBTQ state employees — hopefully a sign of things to come.

“New Orleans stands as a beacon for equality in the South and can throw a hell of a party,” Guidry said. “So, we celebrate these victories."