Internationally, 2020 was a year of medical, social, political, racial, and economic upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic. More than 7,000 Louisianans died while 173,000 were unemployed and all 710,000 K-12 students and teachers were sent into virtual schooling. Within the struggles of the year, America saw its own horrors and beauty. Moving into 2021, The Drum sought Louisianans who are not only people to watch but are people who work for the community, for the demands of nation building, and for the growth of others. They are People for 2021:
Angela Allen Bell is a respected local, national and international legal scholar and expert on civil and human rights, social and restorative justice and the interplay between race and justice. It was her research that catapulted the recent movement that, in November 2018, successfully ended the use of non-unanimous juries in Louisiana. And she is one of the founding members of the advocacy team that led this effort to reform Louisiana’s jury system through the adoption of legislation that would require unanimous juries in criminal trials in Louisiana state courts. She has the distinction of having worked on several other historic advocacy campaigns, such as the Angola 3 case, the case of Soledad Brother John Clutchette and the case of Robert Holbrook. She is an activist scholar who has adopted Jeremiah 5:1 as a personal edict to seek justice. Her signature traits are her never-ceasing desire to fight injustice and her tireless commitment to dismantling systems of oppression. Angela Allen-Bell is a person for the moment, a Person for 2021. Read her interview.
Through the MyGRIT Course, creator and owner Lisa Batiste helps students deepen their learning by increasing their critical thinking ability. She works with stakeholders within school districts, schools, and community nonprofit tutoring centers, offering one-on-one tutoring, group ACT Preparation, and trainings for independent tutors. Her vision is to impact the way students learn across the nation, she said. The Drum asked her about 2020 and her focus for 2021. “2020 has ‘raised’ me emotionally, spiritually, and cognitively in a manner that I would liken to a birthing. The labor was long, but I’m grateful and filled with excitement for my present. As a result, my work has flourished and thus so my passion, which has always been in alignment with community and the uplifting and empowerment of those I ‘do life’ with.” Batiste is a person for the moment, a Person for 2021. Read her interview.
The Dialogue on Race Louisiana provides a safe space for honest discussion on the issue of racism. It’s an important step in a journey toward enlightenment, understanding and the elimination of racism from our society. Led by Maxine Crump, the dialogue series is dedicated to the elimination of racism through education, action, and transformation. The organization’s vision is to have a community where everyone knows that all institutional opportunities and access are fully available to them regardless of their color. The Drum asked Crump about 2020 and her focus for 2021. “This year of an unprecedented pandemic has put everyone in the world on common ground,” she said. Crump is is a person for the moment, a Person for 2021. Read her interview.
Horatio Isadore opened the doors of Southern Cofe with the mission to inspire hope, passion, vision, and faith into the Scotlandville Community and the Baton Rouge Metro area. “I’ve always tried to create spaces that matter, and Southern Cofe is clearly under that umbrella,” Isadore said. “Over the 20 years of owning coffee shops, I must admit that Southern Cofe is dearest to my heart. And so overall, I’ve realized that I have a concern for underserved markets.” The Drum asked Isadore about 2020 and his focus for 2021. “In 2020, our Cofe Community said ‘NOT TODAY! We are going to stand with this brand through it ALL.’ And they have!” he said. Isadore a person for the moment, a Person for 2021. Read his interview.
Lawanda Jackson began Turn Key Mortgage of Louisiana, LLC to offer mortgage financing with flexible underwriting requirements and comparable interest rates without compromising mortgage terms nor adding costs to the borrower. With more than 17 years in mortgage financing, Jackson started the firm which eliminates the overhead costs that mortgage branches pass to customers. Turn Key also offers multiple lenders and financial products for all buyers. The Drum asked Jackson about 2020 and her focus for 2021. “2020 taught me to be humble, patient, appreciative and to work harder than ever before!” She said. Jackson is a person for the moment, a Person for 2021. Read her interview.
State Representative Ted James said he gives Louisiana residents “trusTED leadership, inspiration, and public service,” but his most important title is father. “Other than that, God has blessed me to become a lawyer, professor, and state representative. In addition to being chairman of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, I’m also the chairman of the Criminal Justice committee,” James said. The Drum asked him about 2020 and his focus for 2021. “Honestly, I’m still learning from 2020. When I think about my own battle with COVID-19, I know that God pulled me and warned me about getting too comfortable. Too comfortable with my faith, my health, my finances, and my career.” James is a person for the moment, a Person for 2021. Read his interview.
Creative entrepreneur, Elizabeth Jones started Studio 8:17, specializing in sport highlight videos. Now, her media company provides a broad range of videography and marketing services for businesses, churches, and schools. Having created more than 40 videos during the pandemic, it’s easy to see the value of Studio 817’s visual storytelling. The Drum asked Jones about 2020 and her focus for 2021. “2020 taught me that I can accomplish anything in any situation,” she said, “During a year of many tragedies and hardships, I still managed to start a successful business and maintain its operations throughout such a difficult time.” Jones is a person for the moment, a Person for 2021. Read her interview.
Chenese Lewis is a nemesis to fashion idealism. She’s a gorgeous full-figured, plus-size model who celebrates positive body image and health self-esteem. Through her modeling, podcasting, and event hosting, she promotes beauty and the plus-size fashion industry in a bold, compassionate way. The Drum asked Lewis about 2020 and her focus for 2021. “Despite all the obstacles 2020 presented, it wasn’t completely awful for me. I was extremely blessed to not have any illnesses or hardships in my immediate family. 2020 taught me that I could quickly pivot, adjust to the new normal, and still thrive in uncertain times.” Lewis is a person for the moment, a Person for 2021. Read her interview.
As president of the state’s association of educators, Tia Mills Ph.D. is a leading advocate for teachers who is intentional about building collective support for educators. “Our desire is to ensure that all educators are equipped with the tools and support they need to be successful in the classroom,” said Mills during the middle of the nation’s most erratic academic year caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The Drum asked Mills about 2020 and her focus for 2021. “2020 gave us the opportunity to pivot. To incorporate more technology into our everyday activities. It allowed us to shift the paradigm of old structure and merge new strategies to ensure success,” she said. Millis is a person for the moment, a Person for 2021. Read her interview.
For more than nine years, Kayla D. Perkins has worked at the East Baton Rouge Parish’www.ebrpl.orgs main library. She is now directly responsible for composing, editing, and producing its monthly newsletter, “The Source”. Perkins is also the in-house reporter for “Beyond the Stacks” a segment of the library’s monthly television show, “The Library Road Show”. With 14 convenient locations across the parish including the Main Library at Goodwood, her work reaches thousands of patrons young and elder. The Drum asked Perkins about 2020 and her focus for 2021. “Last year was one that I’m sure we all are happy to see in the rearview mirror. The biggest lesson I’ve learned from 2020 was that we all need to take the time to nurture our mental and physical health. When stressors abound, it’s very important to have a solid plan ahead of time to help you cope,” she said. Perkins is a person for the moment, a Person for 2021. Read her interview.
While hosting monthly televised nutrition segments, dietician Bianca Plant presents nutritious recipes and healthy lifestyle strategies shared in her first cookbook, Eating to Live–Eating God’s Way. During a time where many people are looking to nutrition to prevent or heal from diseases, Plant’s guidance and instructions stretches across social media, into organizations and congregations. The Drum asked Plant about 2020 and her focus for 2021. She said, “Although 2020 was a year of upheaval for everyone, it was also a year to be most planted in God. In everything that occurred, God’s grace was still sufficient in our weaknesses and mercies were new every day. Despite of it all, He kept me. It seemed as if justice continued to be broken in our community, but our perseverance and prayers instilled a platform in order for us to rise up once again.” Plant is a person for the moment, a Person for 2021. Read her interview.
Brandon “Chef B” Williams is community minded. The culinary teacher and local celebrity chef said he strives to provide the best Cajun-Creole products and chef services to local and international customers. After recently appearing on the Food Network, The Drum asked Williams about 2020 and his focus for 2021. He said, “The one thing (2020) taught me above all other things was to simply, be myself and trust my instincts.” Williams is a person for the moment, a Person for 2021. Read his interview.