by Marion Marks
Thanks to each participant, both panelists and interactive audience members, of the “REAL” Shreveport Sunshine Forum Wednesday night for not permitting those who attempted to bully the forum to cease and silence any voice of dissent. Had they succeeded the flickering hope I had that Shreveport might yet succeed would have been extinguished. The apparent evil or criminal element we seem to have inherited would have won. We would have allowed evil forces, people and what they represent, to put us into their box.
The Times story unfortunately stated specifics contrary to the facts we know to be true. The 90th anniversary committee of the Shreve Memorial Library had been organizing special events for the library since last year planned and reserved the original venue.
Second, while it is alleged that the makeup of the panel was not known until the 11th hour, those same records indicate that an all-users email was sent a week before the scheduled event, and that the Facebook event had also been available for a full week prior. Information on some speakers was available to the organizing committee and others even earlier than that. The bullies had yet to realize they may be targeted. [FREE ACCESS to email records here]
Finally, although this was not included in the records I acquired, based on my experience attending library events as a private citizen, this is not the first program sponsored by the Library where presenters failed to represent the races, ages, or genders of the community. It is unclear why this event specifically is being held to a standard that has clearly not been mandated by the Library in the past. Do we require equal presentation when there is not equal work, ability or prior participation is EVERYTHING in our lives?
What we have learned about PRR of government entities in our region is that the manner in which they address PRRs is a form of censorship. We try to create a more open environment, yet what we accomplish is trained professionals who know how to deny openness.
It’s time for the public to recognize that you can’t legislate talent or demand equality where the facts are that only a minority, in this case unfortunately mostly neither black nor supported by black politicians, are qualified to speak coherently on the topic of Public Records Requests. What we further have proven is that bullies in public office can effectively censor any open discussion which may potentially find flaws in those who hold power. What a phenomenally pitiful account of what a free speech based system should represent.
The obvious next step is to cancel the job title for anyone involved with public records and require higher fees for providing such documents. However, you may yet reap the whirlwind. Shreveport may deserve exactly what we allow. Next have another panel with the few who really want to have real openness by demanding change, but demand they stay on topic regardless of ethnicity or gender. You can’t dictate ability.
NOTE: I was not the organizer of the original event scheduled for Wednesday, March 19th, but I agreed to attend and help promote the need for such events and the principles of the event. I feel the truth of the cancellation reinforces issues at the heart of local political turmoil. When at least two Caddo Commissioners bullied the library to cancel the forum, I and two others agreed to pay the rental fee at CoHabitat, a non-profit entity, and the intended topics of the event still occurred and was covered by the Shreveport Times.