Resistance, New Orleans Style

Photo: Statue of General Lee is removed. Courtesy of Take ‘Em Down NOLA.

This post is part of the series, “Meet the Citizens of the Resistance,” by Indivisible volunteer Michael Mellini. Across the country, members of Indivisible groups are working to defeat the Trump agenda and hold their members of Congress accountable. This is a grassroots movement of ordinary people doing extraordinary things and Indivisible wants to celebrate that. These are the stories of the citizens of the resistance.

Kenny Francis; New Orleans, Louisiana; member of Indivisible NOLA

Showing Up for Answers: “After the election, Senator Cassidy held a town hall, but only publicized the event with a mailer sent to registered suburban Republicans. It was held the night of Nyx, an all-female Mardi Gras parade, which ensured it would be difficult for people from New Orleans to attend because of road closures. But I set up a Facebook event and over 1,000 people showed up to successfully disrupt it.

As an educator, I wanted to know how he, someone who campaigned on advocating for children, and whose wife founded a school for dyslexic children, could justify confirming Betsy DeVos. I was able to speak, apparently impressed Joyce Vansean, the leader of Indivisble NOLA, and she asked me to get involved with the group. I’d always been politically plugged in, followed the news and voted, but realized actively using my personal time to advocate for policies I believe in was so much more important now. You can do everything in your classroom to make kids’ lives better, but they don’t live in a classroom. If society is systematically stacked against them with policies that keep them in poverty and feed the school to prison pipeline, how much are you really helping?”

All Politics are Local: “One of the missions of our chapter is to uplift and augment local organizations that have been fighting for progressive values long before our group was created. We’re not interested in being the new kids on the block who think we know everything. We’ve partnered with groups like A Community Voice, organized out of the 9th ward, where only 300 people in voted in the last mayoral election, working to get more people to vote. We also helped to rally against the building of a proposed privatized industrial canal in the area. It’s a terrible project whose construction would displace hundreds of people from their homes for 15 years, the same people who were washed away by Katrina and had such a hard time getting back. And there hasn’t even been an environmental impact study to see how it will affect their water.”

Signs of Change: “One highlight has been working with Take ‘Em Down NOLA, a group seeking to remove all symbols of white supremacy in the city, which recently oversaw the removal of four Confederate monuments. We participated in the march and stood against the white supremacists, KKK members and confederate sympathizers who descended upon our city to try to start what they thought would be a race war. Instead it ended up being the people of New Orleans, from all different backgrounds and walks of life, coming together and saying, “This is not our city. We are better than this.”

We’ve had some victories and seen tangible results. The town hall we staged for Senator Kennedy, who has yet to hold one since being elected, had a huge turnout and received national TV coverage. Rachel Maddow highlighted our “Do No Harm” health care event to remind Senator Cassidy of the oath he took as a physician and that a Louisiana citizen is estimated to die every six days if this bill passes. We’ve grown from a small Facebook group to over 2,600 members.

After the election it was hard to get up every day and feel like marginalized people had any chance at all in this country, but being part of Indivisible and mobilizing people has made me feel better and productive. Together, we are standing as a city to show pride in our country and our aspirations for it.”

100 Lousianans showed up for Indivisible NOLA’s “Do No Harm” protest, calling on Sen. Bill Cassidy to honor his oath as a physician.

Joyce Vansean of Indivisible NOLA goes toe-to-toe with a defender of the Confederate monuments on a local radio show. Kenny Francis also gave an interview with a conservative radio host talking through the history and context of the specific monuments.