7 Things To Know About Pro-Reparations Congressional Candidate Gary Chambers
Gary Chambers Jr. believes in being the change he wants to see. It’s why the activist took the world by storm in June 2020 when he went viral for demanding that the school board in his hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana change the name of a school named after confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Now Chambers is using his passion to run for Congress so he can advocate as a member of the government.
Here are seven things to know about congressional candidate Gary Chambers Jr.
1. Gary Chambers is running to represent the Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District.
Chambers announced his run for Congress on Jan. 4. In a tweet he wrote, “It’s official, I’m running for Congress. You’ve inspired me, to jump in the race for La.’s 2nd congressional district to go fight for THE PEOPLE. If we come together around a shared vision for progress, we will win. Let’s make change happen TOGETHER.” It was accompanied by a video detailing his reasons for running.
The campaign slogan, “Do Good. Seek Justice” is fitting for Chambers. It is his self-professed life’s mission based on Isaiah 1:17. He is using it to underscore his campaign as he runs to represent Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes most of New Orleans and East and West Baton Rouge.
The district was vacated when Democrat Cedric Richmond, who held the seat, was appointed as a senior advisor to President Joe Biden.
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2. Rose to national prominence for impassioned speech at school board meeting
Though Chambers has been advocating for his community for years, he rose to national prominence when he called out East Baton Rouge Parish School Board member Connie Bernard for allegedly shopping during a public meeting while community members pushed to change the name of Lee High School (named for brutal Confederate general Robert E. Lee).
“And you sit your arrogant self in here and sit on there shopping while the pain and the hurt of people of this community is on display because you don’t give a d**n and you should resign,” Chambers told Bernard in the meeting. His words were recorded on video, which went viral.
“You should walk out of here and resign and never come back because you are the example of racism in this community,” he said. “You are horrible.”
Chambers proceeded to check all of the school board members group by group. He told NBC News they “won the vote that night and Lee High School will no longer be named Lee High School.”
Bernard also released a statement that said she is “deeply sorry for her actions.”
3. Entrepreneur and co-founder of media outlet The Rouge Collection
According to his campaign website, Chambers is more than a community activist. In addition to his community work, he is also an entrepreneur and co-founder of The Rouge Collection. The outlet describes itself as “Baton Rouge’s black-owned urban media platform. Sharing a collection of views with one goal in mind, to keep you enlightened.”
4. Gary Chambers is pro reparations
Like many progressive candidates, Chambers is pro-reparations and has made it one of the priorities of his campaign. His website states, “No longer can we ignore the role that America and Louisiana played in enslaving Black Americans to build this country’s economy while keeping Black Americans locked out of the same wealth their ancestors helped create.”
He is a strong proponent of HR 40, the congressional bill which seeks to establish a commission to study and develop a reparations proposal for African Americans.
5. Said Black people are no longer waiting on the government to do right by them, but rather aggressively pursuing change for themselves
During his speech at the June 2020 school board meeting, Chambers said, “We built this joint for free and we done begging you to do what’s right!” It is a sentiment he echoed while talking to NBC News.
“I think that what’s happening in Baton Rouge is what is happening for Black folks all over America. In the words of Fannie Lou Hammer, ‘We sick and tired of being sick and tired.’ So, the frustrations exist and you see folks showing up advocating and leaning in on their local government because all politics is local,” Chambers said.
6. Gary Chambers is a minister and father of a 11-year-old daughter
Chambers is a minister who uses biblical principles to guide the way he lives. He credits his 11-year-old daughter and the next generation with giving him hope.
“Every time I look at my daughter that is the hope. … because a dream deferred is not a dream denied,” Chambers said. “I believe in my heart that my 11-year-old daughter … and your children and grandchildren can live out their wildest dreams right here in Louisiana.”
7. Native son of Baton Rouge has overcome adversity, has strong vision for city’s future.
Chambers is proud to proclaim his Baton Rouge roots. In the words of legendary poet Langstone Hughes, Chambers’ “life ain’t been no crystal stair.” According to his campaign announcement, his mother committed suicide when he was only 2 months old and his father battled alcoholism.
He became heavily involved in social justice work during the early stages of the Black Lives Matter movement, he said.
“An equitable and just Baton Rouge has to include fair contracting with [the]city parish government, a livable wage for all people within the community, equitable wage, good public schools, not being terrorized by police,” Chambers told The North Star.