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Are there conflicting views on voting history in the US? According to some board members of the Lafayette Parish Library in Louisiana, and since it does not present opposing sides, the library does not serve its patrons well.
Teresa Elberson, a longtime Lafayette Library staff member and current system director, suddenly resigned from her post on Friday, January 29, after a clash with the library board. The board members felt that the speakers she had hired to discuss the history of voting rights with her community were too far left and did not represent the entire community.
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The library applied for a grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. The $ 2,700 was rejected by the board because the discussion about voting rights was unbalanced. The board also made it clear that Elberson was disappointed that he had not invited two speakers with “opposing perspectives” to level the discussion.
Board member Stephanie Armbruster said that “these two speakers are extremely, extremely far to the left” and did not represent the conservative community. Armbruster claims the library’s image has been scrutinized in recent years and that taxpayers did not renew property tax in 2018, which would help fund the library. Another renewal is on the ballot for this year.
In 2018, the library planned a drag queen story time that led to a lawsuit. The lawsuit was dismissed and the program continued.
Doug Palombo, president of the library board, believes that voting programming should be apolitical and should not lean on one side or the other. Other board members, including Armbruster, fear that presenting such a program will not allow community members to re-fund the library system. Board member Landon Boudreaux said the community does not support the library because it is too political and has too much money.
But do these perspectives represent the community or just make it uncomfortable for the board to face their own complicity in the bigotry? What is clear, however, is that this decision has encouraged community activists to step forward and demand an explanation – and change.
Lafayette’s Stand Black organization and the Louisiana NAACP plan to protest at the next board meeting on February 15.
“To be crystal clear, this discussion doesn’t have two sides,” Stand Black and the NAACP said in a statement to The Advocate. “There is a well-documented history of voter suppression of blacks in this country. Make no mistake that the “our voters” referred to are people who believe in continuing to marginalize minority communities. “
The two books chosen for the grant-funded program are Bending Toward Justice by Gary May and Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All by Martha S. Jones. May’s book is a story of the 1965 Suffrage Act, including a look at the activists who risked their lives to secure the vote for all Americans. Jones’ book explores the history of African American women in politics and the work they do to secure one vote and one voice in politics.
But what’s the other side of the voting story?
Both books in question are mainstream titles, well-reviewed, and the program was not funded by library taxpayers. It was funded by a grant the library received from the State Humanities Foundation, supported by a local educator who wrote the discussion guide for May’s book.
“[W]We will not allow the story of John Lewis and other activists who were struck while crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge to detract from their legacy in Lafayette, Louisiana, ”the organization leaders said.
Those in attendance and / or able will be encouraged to attend the board meeting to protest the library board’s decision.
“We encourage all who are able to stand on the right side of justice to take part,” wrote the leaders of the organizations to The Advocate. “Voting rights are not an option; You are a constitutional mandate that is not rigged at Lafayette. “