Gary Chambers Jr., an East Baton Rouge community advocate, was in the midst of making a passionate speech urging the parish's school board to rename a public school named after a Confederate general when he noticed something strange: board member and District 8 representative Connie Bernard appeared to be shopping online for clothes during his remarks.
Chambers’ speech first went viral on June 18 for its content, with thousands of people sharing the three-minute clip as a testament to his passionate advocacy:
But the longer clip tells the real story: Chambers noticed Bernard shopping online as he spoke, and called her out on the spot:
“You should walk out of here and resign and never come back,” said Chambers, publisher of The Rouge Collection, “because you are the example of racism in this community. You are horrible.”
Topic of discussion for the meeting was if Lee High School in Baton Rouge should be after it has been widely criticized because it was named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Bernard has angered Chambers and others of the Louisiana community after she told the public that they should do further research into the legacy of Robert E. Lee before supporting the removal of high school name.
“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 In an interview with WVLA-33 on June 10.
Board Vice President, Tramelle Howard, addressed Connie Bernard directly at Thursday’s meeting.
“It’s unfortunate that the comments that you made were just extremely tone-deaf to our collective community, extremely tone-deaf to the students of our district, and I would be remiss if I didn’t stand up to that,” he said.
Bernard has since apologized for her behavior.
“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,” Bernard said in a written statement issued Friday (June 19). “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.”
The school board for the East Baton Rouge Parish unanimously agreed following the meeting on Thursday that they would agree to hear any new recommendations for a new name for Lee High School.
(Photo credit: Gary Chambers Jr.)