A video of Baton Rouge activist Gary Chambers Jr. giving an impassioned speech in support of changing the name of a high school named for Robert E. Lee and calling out a school board member who was shopping online has gone viral.
Chambers, who appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday to discuss the video, attended an East Baton Rouge Parish School Board meeting on Thursday during a debate about whether Lee High School, named for the Confederate general, should be renamed.
But then his sights were forced to shift.
“I had intended to get up here and talk about how racist Robert E. Lee was, but I’m going to talk about you, Connie. Sitting over there shopping while we’re talking about Robert E. Lee. This is a picture of you shopping while we’re talking about racism and history in this country,” Chambers said in the video, holding up an image on his phone.
Chambers was calling out school board member Connie Bernard, whom he accused of shopping online while community members were voicing their concerns about the school’s name.
“You can look at all of the streets around Lee High School are named after Confederate generals … when you go to a local school board meeting, what you saw in that video is really a reflection of what Black America is dealing with as it relates to white America,” Chambers told “Morning Joe” on Monday.
Chambers said his attention on Thursday also shifted to Bernard because she has reportedly made supportive statements about Lee.
“You should walk out of here and resign and never come back because you are the example of racism in this community. You are horrible,” Chambers told Bernard in the video.
Bernard denied she was shopping and told The Advocate that a pop-up ad appeared on her computer, which she didn’t click out of. However, several witnesses backed Chambers’ account, according to The Advocate, saying it appeared Bernard was shopping.
“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 while people are expressing their concerns,” Chambers told “Morning Joe.”
After his speech was posted to Twitter, it quickly gained traction, with more than 2.4 million views as of Monday morning.
Celebrities like Lebron James shared the video of Chambers.
Following her comments defending Lee, Bernard told The Advocate she was “deeply sorry” and said her comments were “insensitive.”
“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 statement to The Advocate.
Chambers, who told “Morning Joe” that Lee High School had secured a name change — although a decision on the new name has yet to be made — said that despite her apology, he felt Bernard must resign.
“Until Connie Bernard is off the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, we still have work to do,” he said.