With Lee High School poised to get a new name, Baton Rouge activist Gary Chambers is focusing on removing other symbols of the Confederacy in Louisiana, but also removing from office the politician he famously criticized Thursday night, East Baton Rouge Parish School Board member Connie Bernard.

The video of Chambers’ address to Bernard has gone viral, shared by big entertainment sites and popular figures like LeBron James. On Monday morning, Chambers appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” talk show.

“What you saw in that video is really a reflection of what Black America is dealing with as it relates to White America,” Chambers said.

“You have black folks speaking up passionately about what they feel, while you have a School Board member, a representative of the people, a Republican, who’s sitting there scrolling on the internet,” he continued.

Chambers is referring to a picture he took and posted showing Bernard looking at a shopping website on her laptop during the Lee High renaming debate that night. Bernard told The Advocate on Friday that that was a pop up ad that she neglected to close, an explanation disputed by several observers of her behavior that night.

Bernard was already in hot water for a June 10 TV interview where she said anyone offended by the name Lee High should “learn a little more” about Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general the school is named after. On Friday, Bernard apologized for those comments saying they were “insensitive” and she is “deeply sorry.”

Chambers is not letting up on Bernard.

“Until Connie Bernard is off the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, we still have work to do,” Chambers said during the 10-minute interview.

Co-host Mika Brzezinski complimented Chambers describing his speech Thursday as a "master class in civil engagement."

While School Board members have made clear their intention to rename Lee High, the school system still needs to convene a special naming committee to come up with alternatives. The board plans to select a new name at its July 16th meeting.

Chambers, who is publisher of The Rouge Collection, also repeated his call that streets near Lee High, several of them named after Confederate generals, be renamed.

“There’s even a street named Whitehaven,” he said.

And then he took aim at the name of a state university in Thibodaux.

“We have slaves etched on the exterior of the state Capital while there is a statue for former brigadier general of the Confederacy, (Francis T.) Nicholls, which is also Nicholls State University,” Chambers said. “Until every monument to white supremacy is removed and we begin to uplift the proper voices, we’ve got work to do.”

Monday was a busy day for Chambers. After Morning Joe, he appeared on TMZ Live, journalist Roland Martin's daily talk show and ended the day talking to CNN's Don Lemon.


Email Charles Lussier at clussier@theadvocate.com.