Post-Katrina I've seen a dramatic rise in the amount of incidents that could be deemed hateful and have put our children's lives at risk both on a systemic level and on a day-to-day interactions level. It's shocking and it's startling. While we knew that level of intolerance already existed, to see it manifest in the way that it has since November has been astonishing.
I've been a photojournalist for the past 10 years. I'm also an avid social justice advocate who believes in ensuring that our children have a safe and equitable future in New Orleans and the world. So when the monuments issue came up, it really hit close to home. I felt compelled to chronicle what was happening in this city to highlight the level of racial division that exists as well as the fervor behind the removal of the confederate monuments.
There was a principal of an alternative school here in New Orleans who was, at first, pictured standing next to some confederate supporters the night before the removal of the monument to Robert E. Lee. This principal was tasked with protecting and educating the most vulnerable population of children in this city: African-American children who have expended all other opportunities to be in school and were expelled and placed there as an alternative to keep them out of jail. His explanation was that he was just "somehow" there to witness history...
Well that photo began to circulate on social media pretty rapidly and an informal investigation began. When I began to dig deeper I found something seemingly more sinister at play. During that investigation, someone brought to my attention a video where he could be clearly identified at an event known to white nationalists as "The Battle of New Orleans 2017." To provide some context, on May 7, 2015 there was a national call put out to various white supremacist groups to defend the confederate monuments and prevent their removal. The Ku Klux Klan, League of the South, Preamble Patriots of Louisiana, and Based Stickman movement all came out of the dark. They arrived in New Orleans on May 7, 2017 for the "Battle" to confront Take 'Em Down NOLA, an activist group who actively organized and rallied for the removal of the confederate monuments. In this video he gave an interview to an organization that is known to be aligned with white nationalists. There is a point when he raises his hand and I was able to immediately identify two rings on his fingers that when paired together are identifiable acknowledgments to the Nazi regime.
With all of this evidence, I felt pretty comfortable going to the media and exposing his association with white nationalist organizations. For me, it was critical, no matter what the cost, no matter what the threat, that this person be exposed. As a black man in this city, it's important for me to stand up to what's wrong and not stay silent. I believe in a fair and equitable society for all and if there are any remnants of a supremacist structure that inhibit that, I will fight it to my core until my very last breath.