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.