The new issue of the Gambit Weekly announces that they have named Jim Letten as New Orleanian of the year. While civil rights leaders have raised concerns that Letten is a polarizing figure who seems obsessed with pursuing Black elected officials, the Gambit has found him to be our most valuable citizen. They even overruled a previous restriction that public officials were not eligible.
The latest award is an opportunity to reflect on the Gambit's editorial choices and ask: Are African Americans qualified to be New Orleanian of the year in the Gambit's eyes?
Gambit editors have already demonstrated (with last year's award) that they believe you can live and work in St. Bernard Parish and have only recently relocated to the region and still be more qualified than any Black residents.
A quick scan of past awards (leaving out group awards such as "first responders" and "reservists in the Middle East" but including years when two or three people split the award) finds that - during a 25 year span when Black people were consistently a majority of the city's population - Gambit's editors found that African Americans were qualified for their highest honor in about five out of thirty awards.
Previous award winners include: Joe Canizaro, Darryl Berger, Gary Groesch, Oliver Houck, Tom Benson, Dr. Mervin Trail, Pat Taylor, Phyllis Taylor, Lindy Boggs, Jim Bob Moffett, Ian Arnof, Larry Lundy, Roger Ogden, Sister Jane Remson, Ron Forman, James Monroe, Barbara Major, E.J. Ourso, Ray Nagin, Rob Couhig, Gregory O'Brien, Dr. Betsy Dresser, The Rev. Harry Tompson, Jeri Nims, Doug Thornton, Bill Goldring, Frank Glaviano, Norman C. Francis, Liz McCartney, Zack Rosenburg, and Karen Gadbois.
Who does the Gambit speak for? Not all of New Orleans.