African American Museum Vandalized a Month After Its Founder Was Murdered

Illustration for article titled African American Museum Vandalized a Month After Its Founder Was Murdered
Image: Facebook

Baton Rouge’s African American museum has been damaged by what appears to have been vandals, a month to the day after its founder was murdered.

Photos posted to Facebook show windows popped out from their frames, benches flipped over, and other signs of destruction. According to the Advocate, police said they’re investigating the incident, though they have not confirmed whether it was an act of vandalism.

In July, beloved community activist Sadie Roberts-Joseph, who founded the museum in 2001, was found dead in the trunk of her car. Police arrested Ronn Jermaine Bell shortly thereafter on charges of first-degree murder. Bell reportedly owed Roberts-Joseph over $1,200 in rent, and is also reportedly a registered sex offender, having pleaded guilty to sexual battery of a 9-year-old girl in 2006, a charge on which he spent seven years in prison.


In addition to founding the museum, officially called the Odell S. Williams Now And Then African American Museum, Roberts-Joseph is known for having elevated the profile of Juneteenth to a nationally recognized celebration.

Kevin Hayes told WBRZ he visited the museum to pay his respects when he found the destruction, including fountains with crystals torn apart, gardens trampled over and chairs flipped upside down.

“It’s a historic black museum, and a lot of kids find time to not do harmful things by coming to this place,” he said. “Seeing it vandalized is heartbreaking.”

Sadie Roberts Joseph’s son, Jason, called the alleged vandalism “disrespectful and extremely disappointing.”

“The museum has been there for the community since its inception,” he said.

Night blogger at Jezebel

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On the societal level, the use of “mental illness” to explain racist mass murder — innumerable incidents over hundreds of years — is absurd. If it’s mental illness, it’s a societal one, a specifically white one, in which white males are singularly vulnerable to violent expressions of racial prejudice. These mass killers with their manifestos are the identified patient in the dysfunctional white American family, manifesting all the symptoms, hidden and obvious, of our race problems. Well known to all family therapists, the identified patient takes the family’s conflicts and manifests them in personal distress — anxiety, depression, mania, psychosis. When the patient begins to get better, the family unconsciously pressures them to stay sick, because without the identified patient the family’s illness is laid bare. Why would we want to take away our white boys’ guns? Why would we want to give them mental health care? Why would we want to understand their pull to extreme bigotry instead of just demonizing them? Then we would have to admit that there is a problem, and the problem is us.There is a cycle, familiar to any experienced therapist: Like clockwork the racial nature of American reality gets pushed closer to the surface and the pressure mounts on (and within) white people to acknowledge our thing: slave auctions, lynchings, fire hoses, Hurricane Katrina, Philando Castile, Unite the Right, Zero Tolerance, “Send Her Back.” It gets hard to hold on to white denial for awhile. We want to change, we swear we’ll get better. But hold on hard we do. Like addicts, we can’t live with our whiteness and we can’t live without it. And we have so few words to talk about it, we can’t even say why. In our wheel-spinning ambivalence we have achieved what prominent sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva calls “racism without racists.””