July 19, 2024

Baton Rouge activist blasts white school board member: ‘You don’t give a damn!’

Gary Chambers confronts East Baton Rouge Parish school board member Connie Bernard, saying she didn’t ‘give a damn.’ (Photo: Instagram/Gary Chambers)

In a video that has gone viral, a white school board member in Baton Rouge gets scolded by a Black activist who is fed up with her defending a high school being named after General Robert E. Lee — and apparently shopping online during a recent board meeting.

Connie Bernard, a member of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, had to apologize on Friday for defending the Confederate solider after getting called out by activist Gary Chambers.

Swearing to be part of the solution, Bernard essentially apologized for being a racist after she defended and voted in the past to uphold Lee’s namesake.

READ MORE: Robert E. Lee high school name change brings students to tears

On Thursday, a unanimous vote got passed to change the name of Robert E. Lee High School, which got shortened to Lee High after a similar backlash in 2016.

However, for Bernard, the decision was a tough one, considering she once said that parents and students triggered by the school’s name did not know their history.

“I would hope that they would learn a little bit more about General Lee, 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,” Bernard said.

On the contrary, people who opposed the name did know who General Lee was.

“When he got the plantation after he got off the field with 27,000 people dying at Gettysburg. Robert E Lee was a brutal slavemaster,” Chambers, the publisher of The Rouge Collection, a Black-owned, urban media platform in Baton Rouge. “Not only would he whoop the slaves, he said, ‘Lay it on ‘em hard.’ After he said that, he said, ‘Put brine on them.’”

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I told Connie Bernard to her face she needed to resign from the East Baton Rouge School board. • She was shopping while citizens were speaking about changing the name of Lee High. She was a school board member 4 years ago when they voted to keep Lee associated with the school. Then she chocked a teenager in his home in 2018, she should’ve resigned then. Then she got on TV last week telling Black folks we needed to learn more of Lee’s history. • When we don’t confront elected officials we give them permission to disrespect us and to devalue us. Connie needs to resign. I stand on that. If you think her actions are unacceptable send an email to the members of the board encouraging Connie to resign. • Speak truth to power, stand on your convictions, let NONE of them slide, and #KeepPushing. We got work to do. • I love US for real. We won the vote to change the name of Lee High, but the work continues until Connie is gone. • Email the board: dtatman@ebrschools.org, cbernard@ebrschools.org, mgaudet@ebrschools.org, jdyason@ebrschools.org, ewarejackson@ebrschools.org, dcollins1@ebrschools.org, thoward4@ebrschools.org, dlanus@ebrschools.org, mbellue@ebrschools.org.

A post shared by Gary Chambers (@garychambersjr) on

Bernard’s recounting of General Lee also came under fire from other board members, some of whom are Black.

“Under the demands of his late father’s will, which demanded he free all slaves after five years, Lee tried multiple times to resist and keep the slaves under his control, yet his name hangs over our school,” Dadrius Lanus. a Black board member, said.

“It was disturbing that a fellow board member would be so insensitive and say some inaccurate things about history that would just fan a flame,” Evelyn Ware-Jackson, a Black board member, said, according to The Advocate.

What made matters worse was when Chamber took a picture of Bernard while others expressed their desire to rename the school – it appears the white board member distracted with her shopping online.

“You don’t give a damn!,” Chamber said, but she claims it was a pop-up ad and she was not internet savvy to close in time, The Advocate reported.

“I wasn’t shopping,” Bernard said. “I was actually taking notes, paying attention, reading online comments.”

READ MORE: Texas school board member wore Venus, Serena Williams Blackface for Halloween

Chambers would call out Bernard for leaving the room once more critiques got directed at her. In her response, she left to use the restroom.

Bernard later wrote in a statement on Friday she was “deeply sorry” for leading people to think she is “an enemy of people of color.”

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