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Why We Need this Publication

Spend your leisure time cultivating an ear attentive to discourse, for in this way you will find that you learn with ease what others have found out with difficulty.

-Isocrates

Growing up in a family with different politics than my own, I remember attempting to make every night at the dinner table a debate. I was convinced my politics were on a moral high ground, and I was determined to convince my family of this. I thought it was my duty to “convert” my family to believers of the values that my political party championed. I remember my mom used to tell me, “Something you’ve got to realize about politics is, Democrats and Republicans may think differently, but they don’t really act all that different.”

The idea that both sides of the political spectrum share fundamental traits, despite having differing morals, has always lingered in my mind, and it is something that I have come to find very true. Neither side is on higher ground behaviorally, although both sides believe they are. You are probably thinking, “well of course Democrats and Republicans act the same, all humans act the same at their core,” but no, I mean how each side hates the other specifically for things that they themselves do. Neither side trusts the other, both sides fear one another, and most importantly, both have a flawed perception about what the other believes.

Research has shown that there is an ever-widening “Perception Gap” growing in American politics as we speak. A study conducted by More in Common found that the Democrats they surveyed believed 53% of Republicans to hold radical views on topics like immigration, women’s rights, and climate change, despite only 34% of Republicans actually doing so. And while only 29% of Democrats hold radical views on these issues, Republicans estimated that number to be 56%.      

So what does this tell us, and what does it have to do with this publication? Well, for one, it tells us that people on opposite sides of the political spectrum aren’t speaking to one another, a phenomenon driven by hyperpartisanship. It isn’t necessarily that Democrats or Republicans now have a stronger allegiance to their parties more so than ever before; it is that there is a stronger antagonism between the two parties unlike that of the past. Most importantly, with this antagonism comes assumptions that someone believes a certain way about something because of their association with a particular political party. 

This antagonism has become so strong that nowadays many Democrats and Republicans chose partners and friends not based on personality or level of intimacy, but on the political party they identify with. We’ve even had people quit writing for LPR because we’re too liberal, too conservative, or somewhere in between. It is this perception gap and unwillingness to attempt to understand other perspectives that is particularly dangerous to our society, and that is where we come in.

We at the Louisville Political Review are dedicated to closing that perception gap and to helping people understand one another. We are not necessarily seeking to change anyone’s mind about a particular issue, but open it to perspectives different from their own. Rather than filtering ideas to suit the beliefs of our readers and what we think they would like, we want to encourage our readers to challenge themselves to learn about an idea from a viewpoint dissimilar from their own.

Having a venue that challenges oneself to understand different perspectives is just as important for our readers as it is for our writers and editors. The makeup of our staff is incredibly diverse, and as a result, the articles we produce are inherently varied politically, socially, and intellectually. This indirectly exposes our writers and editors to a new and wide array of concepts and perspectives. Moreover, we actively encourage our writers to evaluate their beliefs, asking deeper questions like why they think the way they do, and to always consider other perspectives when writing. We believe actively creating this space for our readers, writers, editors to articulate their ideas and spark humble discussions around often contentious topics is crucial to closing the perception gap.

We hope this is, and remains, a publication the University and community of Louisville is proud of: a diverse display of the extraordinary writing and research by undergraduate students. Niccio Machiavelli once said, “Politics have no relation to morals.” At the Louisville Political Review, we vehemently disagree. Instead, we insist on elevating respectful and informed dialogue in a political climate where conflict, ruthlessness, and boldly shrewd attempts to gain power are glorified. In other words, we strive to be a light in an oftentimes dark profession; we strive to provide clarity in the convoluted. We reject Machiavellian tendencies, and instead look to another great philosopher, Dr. King. In his words, we at LPR have decided to stick with love; for hate is too great a burden to bear. 

Thus, we do not engage in ad hominem attacks on others, we do not tolerate hateful rhetoric from our members, and most importantly, we always recognize our intellectual inability to speak to every possible view of an issue. 

In order to achieve transparency between our writers, editors, and our audience, it is important to share the following information to highlight the necessity of our publication.

A couple months ago, a former writer of the Louisville Political Review shared posts containing slurs on their personal social media accounts that one could view as homophobic. That member was confronted in a private meeting, where they were informed that posts of hateful and offensive nature would not be tolerated on social media accounts that are associated with an active member of LPR. This was not an arbitrary or novel standard. In fact, we have severed ties with a writer before for breaching this standard. It is important to note that this meeting, though, was not set with the intention of terminating the member that breached the Code of Conduct, only to warn them against sharing further inflammatory posts. 

Instead of accepting that warning and committing to displaying more acceptable behavior, the former member instead initiated an impassioned tirade against members of the editorial board that was disrespectful and unprofessional. At the end of the meeting, the member resigned from the Louisville Political Review. 

We believe the issue is now resolved, and we want to ensure our readers that the entirety of the LPR staff remain fully committed to the continuance of this publication despite these events.

2022 Louisville Mayoral Election

On May 17, both the Republican and Democratic parties will be holding a primary for the mayoral election scheduled in November. Our current Mayor, Greg Fischer, is term limited and cannot run again for Mayor. LPR interviewed three candidates, Colin Hardin, Tim Findley, and Craig Greenberg, with full interviews here on our YouTube. Below is a short review of some of the major candidates. 

Craig Greenberg

Greenberg, a former CEO of 21c Museum Hotels, is focused on making Louisville a safer place for its residents, attracting new business and investments, and revitalizing Louisville’s urban areas. Greenberg envisions developing all areas of Louisville, paying special attention to neighborhoods that have previously been overlooked. He has been on a quest to run through every neighborhood in Louisville, and at the time of writing this article he has run through 621 out of 623 precincts in Louisville. Greenberg is considered a front runner in the upcoming election, and he recently survived an alleged assassination attempt that took place in his office, an incident he says shook him to his core and refocused his campaign on public safety and fighting gun violence. 

Tim Findley

Findley, a pastor born and raised in Newberg, has worked in various faith-based liaison positions with local and state government. Findley was vocal during the 2020 racial justice protests in Louisville and seeks to make Louisville a safer, more prosperous, and less divided city. He has a bold new vision for Louisville that is based on his work as a community leader. Universal Pre-K and Universal Basic Income are two examples of his ambitious vision for our city. 

Shameka Parrish-Wright

Parrish-Wright, an activist and nonprofit leader, strives to be a candidate “for the people” with a progressive agenda that includes eliminating cash bail. Parrish-Wright, a longtime community advocate, has also been a victim of gun violence, and advocates for stricter gun laws at the state and local level. Her public safety policies focus on gun control and economic progress as she seeks to develop affordable housing while not pricing residents out of their homes. Parrish-Wright did not respond to our interview request. 

David Nicholson

Nicholson, the current Jefferson County District Court Clerk, has also done nonprofit work. Nicholson is a more moderate candidate, and he is very experienced with local and state government. His campaign has focused on continuing to work towards larger goals such as economic improvement and a reduction in homelessness. 

Colin Hardin

One of the candidates interviewed by LPR, Hardin is a restaurant employee who decided to run for Mayor because he believes that traditional politicians have failed our city. Hardin is best described as progressive with the linchpins of his policy being the legalization of drugs and enfranchisement of former felons.

Bill Dieruf

Dieruf, a Republican candidate who campaigns on a less partisan platform and has advocated for nonpartisan local elections, has spent 10 years as the Mayor of Jeffersontown, a smaller city within Louisville. His agenda focuses on expanding programs that were successful in Jeffersontown, such as substance abuse treatment programs, to benefit the whole city of Louisville. His main focus is public safety, and he seeks to build a police department that citizens and police officers can trust. 

States are Hoarding Welfare from the Needy

Tax season has just ended. While nobody likes the hassle that filing taxes creates, the underlying philosophy behind them is simple and shared: we pay taxes so that the child down the street gets an education, or so the single mother of three gets the support she needs.

Despite widespread support for public assistance programs themselves, polls conducted by Data for Progress and Vox report that a rising number of Americans are concerned about the ways in which welfare can be abused.

So Americans are concerned about welfare hoarders. But there’s an even worse scandal happening– one happening on a much larger scale, one with much deeper ramifications, and one that’s happening right under our noses: welfare hoarding by state governments.

In late December of 2021, ProPublica released damning evidence of states withholding a total of $5.2 billion in public assistance. The funds, issued by the federal government, are part of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, or TANF*. The program is designed to finance state efforts towards job preparation, work assistance, child care assistance, and others. 

*(To be eligible, one has to be underemployed or unemployed, have low or very low income, and meet one of the following criteria: (1) have a child 18 years of age or younger, (2) be pregnant, or (3) be 18 years of age or younger and the head of your household.)

It should be established that this behavior is not illegal. TANF is part of a Clinton-era welfare reform law called the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), and its funds are issued via block grants– this ensures that the states have broad discretion over their welfare eligibility requirements. The one condition–yes, just one–laid on the states is that the funds are applied to meet some of the basic needs of recipients, such as food, gas, or diapers, but these weren’t strings attached by any means. The states reserve overwhelming authority on who gets the funds and why.

A senator from President Clinton’s own party, then-Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Illinois), predicted this quite perceptively:

“If we send the states this money in a block grant, there is nothing to prohibit that state from saying we do not want to have assistance for poor children … We are not going to address the issue of job creation. We are not going to train people to go back to work. We are not going to provide the children with any assistance. We are just going to further squeeze the amount of resources devoted to the whole issue of poverty in our state and we are going to take the money we get from the federal government and use that to go from year to year and not maintain our own effort. I think that would be a real tragedy.”

Braun’s “race-to-the-bottom amendment,” drafted to hold states accountable before they “underbid one another” in delivering assistance to the poor, never made it to President Clinton’s final bill in 1996.

Upon its enactment in 1996, TANF funds reached 68 out of 100 families in need of assistance. Because of the privilege and autonomy of the states, that’s since been reduced to a staggering 21 out of 100 families in 2020.

There are several layers to this misconduct: first, it should be understood that some states are more guilty than others, and second, not all are to blame. According to ProPublica’s analysis, Maine, Tennessee, Hawaii, Oklahoma, and Nebraska are chief among this affair.

Tennessee is loitering with the largest pool of funds–a whopping $790 million. Together with Hawaii and Maine, Tennessee forms a tripartite of withholding the most assistance per capita. 

Nebraska rejected 90% of its applicants, behavior that correlates with a macro-level trend of unspent TANF funds doubling yet approved applications being cut in half. See the data below from the Department of Health and Human Services.

ProPublica reports that instead of using the block grants towards their intended purpose, the states pocket them and throw them at gaps in their annual budget– completely unrelated to the needs of low-income families. 

The billions stashed away reached a peak at humanity’s worst: the COVID-19 pandemic. The national poverty rate from June to November 2020 made its widest jump since the government began monitoring it around 60 years ago, going from 9.6% to 11.7%.

This is a very broad picture, but the countless stories of low-income families suffering due to this negligence go underreported. Bonnie Bridgforth has one of those stories. See her story here.

The states have run amok with complete disregard for the plight of low-income families. They rejoice in their freedom at the expense of the poor’s. They enjoy a federal government that throws millions at them with few conditions. And the conditions that ARE there? Watered down and without teeth. Indeed, as if entering an age of austerity, we’ve seen states act in the interest of “budget balancing” and “fiscal responsibility” rather than in the interest of needy families. This is “states’ rights” in practice, and the poor are suffering because of this blatant impropriety.

‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Exemplifies Hostile, Ineffective Political Arena

There’s no hiding the fact that the current state of American politics is rife with hostility – divided along partisan lines, propelled by misguided, misinformed activism and an onslaught of disillusioned complacency. As our Nation further divides into ‘red states and blue states,’ our public policy and civil discourse suffer.

Though, what we have all seen in recent headlines regarding Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill, HB 1557, is yet another example of overtly partisan posturing and a stab into the heart of democracy. When pundits, politicians, and so-called advocates postured for the camera and flexed for the tweets, the American people lost an opportunity for important, needed, complex conversations on issues impacting American students and families.

Wordplay and Democratic Delay

As is the case with many so-called ‘hot button’ issues (abortion, guns, school boards, CRT…the list goes on), the real issue at hand in HB 1557 is lost in the clouds of heated rhetoric and dangerous hyperbole.

To my friends on the Left, their use of hyperbolic messaging against this bill – regardless of their motivation – is a failure of democracy. For instance, the word ‘gay’ does not appear at all in the text of the bill and the phrase ‘sexual orientation’ appears only twice. Also of important note, the bill applies only to the youngest groups of students – kindergarten through third grade. Couple these facts with the onslaught of misplaced activism displayed on media networks, activists, leaders, and media elites failed the American people by creating a faux crisis.

Though, let me be very clear, any piece of legislation that even seems to discriminate against or single out a single group should be analyzed with the strongest, most ethical scrutiny. The language of the bill may not explicitly harm or discriminate against any LGBTQ+ student, concerns regarding the broad, vague language are aptly valid – vague legislation can have massive consequences.

I also find grave concern with the fact that HB 1557 allows parents to ‘decline…consent’ to mental health services (although, the bill follows this with a clause stating that it ‘does not prohibit a school district from adopting procedures that permit school personnel to withhold such information from a parent if a reasonably prudent person would believe that disclosure would result in abuse, abandonment, or neglect”).

The bill’s Republican supporters have argued that the legislation is necessary to help protect America’s youth “from so-called ‘sexualization’ in our public schools.” Though, many opponents of the bill, and some Republican outsiders such as GOP strategist, Gavin Smith, say these claims are “blatantly wrong and hypocritical.”

Those who admonished the controversial legislation with such a hyperbolic, click-bait name failed gay students – they failed democracy. Those on the Left who misconstrued the Parental Rights in Education Act as some war on gay teens are the liberal equivalents to the bewildering conservatives shouting about their guns being snatched from their hands. In fact, many of the plaintiffs in a suit against the state, following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signing of the bill into law, are high school-aged students that would not be impacted by the sexual orientation and gender identity instruction provisions of the bill.

Of note, a similar bill, with over twice the number of pages, has been filed in Ohio. HB 616 is perhaps a more appropriate opportunity for critics to suggest conservatives are attacking minority students as the bill is much more specific in its language – such as its explicit ban on curriculum that “promotes any divisive or inherently racist concept.” The Ohio bill is much more limited in terms of parental rights in public education, which may suggest that the conservatives behind the bill have much more bigoted motives than found in Florida’s HB 1557. Though, we should all be worried that the Left has ‘cried gay’ too soon – making real organizing efforts against the bill all the more difficult. 

HB 1557, as written, is about much more than LGBTQ+ rights, rather the motivation of the bill rests upon growing support amongst conservatives for policies instituting more parental voice into school activities and students’ education. That is a conversation worth having, and one the American people were unable to adequately host amid the turmoil and inflated outrage that has only contributed to further dividing Americans into groups of Left & Right – Blue & Red.

Those students and advocates suing the state against the bill fail to address the very blatant student mental health risks this bill poses by allowing parents to decline mental health treatment – failing Florida students by ignoring the opportunity for conversations on student mental health. 

Those Republicans using this bill to gain admiration from homophobic and bigoted voters – leaning into to hate LGBTQ+ students face across the Nation daily – have failed morally. Representation matters and feeling safe in schools is such an important part of effective education. Specifically targeting minority students is an irresponsible and abusive use of legislative power – although, I don’t believe this bill does that. 

Tyler Morgan, an Eastern Kentucky public school teacher who recently resigned from his job following backlash for his vocal support of diversity and a pride flag in his classroom, has embodied this idea of representation in daily life. “I firmly believe more work needs to be done in Kentucky…to ensure that more resources are provided to make sure all students feel safe, secure, and seen,” Morgan wrote in a Facebook post following his resignation. 

A War with No Winners

All of that to say, our democracy is – and has been at risk. Our democracy will only further stagnate, and our public policy will suffer so long as our political discourse occurs only in 140-character tweets and primetime headlines. So long as policymakers pit Americans against each other by misconstruing and distorting the truth for their own deceptive ambitions, solutions are ignored, dialogue obliterated, and democracy mocked.

Is HB 1557 a good bill? No, it is overly broad, a risk to student health, and ultimately a haphazard political token. That does not excuse the media and liberal leaders from their outright dangerous, irresponsible rhetoric misconstruing the actual language and implication of the bill. 

What we have all witnessed the past several weeks – and for quite some time, really – is a growing complacency amongst American voters and an emboldened strategic mindset amongst political elites that have instilled such a strong sense of identity politics into our national discourse. When we reach the point where our public policy is only achieved along party lines – when conversations happen in micro-dialogue bolstered by hostility – the democracy enshrined upon us by our Constitution will be no more.

Fear-stoking has no home in a democratic society. We cannot continue to use our differences to pit ourselves against our American neighbors. What makes us different, makes us great and there are no winners in [partisan] war.

The State of Local Businesses in America: An Underdog Story

If you’ve been in a shopping district in any city in America recently, you’ve probably seen signs displaying some form of the “Shop Local” message. The message is certainly not new, but it’s taken on new importance. After seeing local favorites face closures and struggle to compete with e-commerce giants like Amazon, people are rooting for the businesses next door. 

Consumers want to and do support small and local retail. A survey by Sitecore found that 40% of American shoppers want to cut back on their Amazon shopping. Among the largest reasons for this was a desire to shop at other retailers. 2020 saw e-commerce gain a significant percentage of all retail sales, but that growth has slowed since

Online shipping, though, still has a slight lead when it comes to consumer preferences. Shopping in-store is now only preferred by 48% of customers. This shrinking group is justified in its choice. Shopping in-store has a ton of benefits. It allows you to actually inspect and verify the quality of what you buy. It also helps customers avoid the expensive shipping costs, waits, and delays that will always come with delivery. 

At the end of the day, though, the retail market is changing. E-commerce now makes up a sizable portion of it that will likely only continue to grow. Online shopping is fast, easy, and can be done anywhere.

Preferences and benefits aside, online shopping with big marketplaces has an image problem. Consumer perceptions of big warehouses used by big companies like Amazon have been shaped by waves of news stories as well as a growing push toward unionization in the industry. Furthermore, the prevalence of online scammers has had an impact on the way consumers think about shopping online. Around a third of consumers don’t even exclusively trust online businesses. Despite its convenience, consumers have trust issues with online shopping that doesn’t seem to be present with in-store shopping. 

Small and local businesses, however, do not face this same image problem. They are trusted and viewed as vital parts of local economies. It seems reasonable then that they could benefit from the increased visibility and convenience e-commerce provides without facing the same kind of trust problems online-only stores and Amazon do. Integrating e-commerce into their business model can help traditionally brick-and-mortar-only small businesses to grow and survive. Furthermore, consumers trust retailers with both physical stores and online stores more than all other types of retailers.

Savvy businesspeople have caught onto this. A number of tech companies are looking to bridge the gap between shopping online and shopping locally. Locally is a website that helps customers to check the inventories of retailers in their area and place orders for pickup or delivery. Other companies like Shop Where I Live, aim to create online marketplaces that can help small businesses benefit from the growing shift toward e-commerce. They have found success across the country from Nevada to Staten Island.

As more companies like these crop up, local, small, and independent businesses that have traditionally been brick-and-mortar, mom-and-pop-type shops will harness the convenience of online shopping.

That’s not to say that some of them have not already. According to Arrowhead, “68% of SMB [small and medium businesses] owners claim e-commerce positively impacts sales.” It is now common to see local favorites commanding a sizable portion of their sales from their own online stores. 

Despite all the talk on the impact of online shopping on retail, physical stores, big and small, are doing well. The retail market as a whole is huge in the U.S., accounting for 18.7% of our GDP  in 2020. 

Though large chains certainly have a strong presence in this market, small retail is nothing to laugh at. Small retail stores with less than 50 employees comprise 98.6% of all retail companies in America. Furthermore, along with medium retailers, they hire around 40% of all retail employees. 

This comes out to around 20 million people. That’s 20 million people working in businesses like your favorite local specialty or general store. That’s 20 million people in our communities, people we know. Supporting small retail is supporting your neighbors.

It also helps support your community as a whole, including you. A policy brief out of Michigan State University found that around 73 cents of every dollar spent at locally owned businesses stays in the community it was spent in. That’s 30 cents more than the dollars spent at businesses not owned locally.

With retail making up a significant portion of people’s spending, that mere 30 cents more of every dollar goes back into the community to pay for local products, wages, taxes, and more. You can never support just one local business. Supporting one local business can have a ripple effect that benefits large portions of your community.

There are other, more intangible, reasons to support local businesses, though. For one, it’s a way to keep yourself and your community in a more vibrant and unique local culture. Just think of how much people enjoy talking about local favorites or spending time in shopping districts when they travel. Having more local businesses helps create a unique and vibrant culture in any city.

Despite all the good it does for the community and the value it provides to customers, it still faces threats from e-commerce and big-box stores. There are a number of ways consumers and businesses can work together to keep local favorites alive – without having to drive to Main Street.

I’ve already mentioned shopping locally online. You don’t have to go to Main Street to explore the shopping scene in your city anymore. A number of small retail stores have their own online storefronts or presences on marketplaces, like the ones built by Shop Where I Live.

Additionally, local businesses often can be found and supported at community events. Here in Louisville, the Louisville Independent Business Alliance hosts a Buy Local Fair in July, where businesses can set up booths and connect with new customers.

At the end of the day, the retail market is changing. However, that doesn’t mean that small retail has to lose any presence. Small retail stores offer a lot, and consumers can support them in a growing number of ways. If at all possible, I encourage you to get in touch with your city by finding out what your local businesses have to offer.

Here is the Evidence and Logic Used in the Writing of our SGA Article.

On Saturday, April 9th, members of the LPR editorial board were informed of the decision on the SGA election that was soon to be announced by the Supreme Court. We were given a copy of the Court’s opinion (which explains the “logic” behind their decision) and copies of the Finley/Brooks suit and the Brown/Hayden countersuit. It was decided that our Managing Editor Nino Owens would be responsible for writing the article, “The SGA Supreme Court and Top 4 Stole the SGA Elections.” This was decided because of Nino’s experience and interest in law, his writing ability, and the fact that he was personally removed from any involvement in Top 4 races.   

Nino spent hours reading over the suits and the opinion, calling people involved in the case, and finally writing the article that was published on Sunday. As two members of the editorial board were involved in Top 4 races (Julia Mattingly and Alex Reynolds), their role in producing this article was limited to editing. By the time Nino finished his draft, he was convinced by the evidence that the election was unfairly determined by the SGA Supreme Court and Top 4 instead of the student body. This undemocratic truth moved him to ask the editorial board to release the article with the entire board signed on to it. After reading his article, and agreeing that the democratic process on campus had been hindered, we agreed to do so. 

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and we are certain that some disagree with the article released on Sunday. Some of this disagreement in the coming days will come from the Court, Top 4, and other high places. They will say that LPR is not objective. To this we say: we don’t claim to be, as we are a long-form journalism publication. Additionally, false objectivity usually restricts people from pointing out the truth. They will also say that we are not credible and that we propagate misinformation. To this we say nothing. Instead, we have made all the materials used in the writing and publishing of this article available to the public: so YOU can decide for yourselves. 

As a publication, we take claims of misinformation extremely seriously. Any article we publish, especially one as important as this one, goes through rigorous fact-checking and editing before being released to the public. Our writers and editors work thoroughly to ensure their work is based on verifiable truth, not conjecture. 

At the Louisville Political Review, we believe intellectual diversity is a must for a publication to be successful. Therefore, the LPR Editorial Board is made up of four scholars with a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences, and ideologies. We very rarely unanimously agree on anything, as evidenced by the lack of articles published by our board before Sunday. So, when we do, it should be a strong sign that an issue is very important–or that something went very wrong. 

The following includes text messages from current AVP Alexa Meza, a screenshot of an email sent by the SGA Supreme Court to counsels involved, the unofficial results of the SGA election, and the opinion of the Court and suits filed by candidates given to us by an individual involved in the case.

Text messages from current AVP Alexa Meza that were sent to Julia Mattingly regarding a potential run-off election for the position of AVP.

Screenshot of an email the SGA Supreme Court sent to counsels involved in the case announcing the new vote totals. 

2022 SGA Election Report.pdf –This link will take you to the unofficial results that were distributed to all SGA candidates soon after the election. This is before votes were altered by the SGA Supreme Court. 

Finley_Brooks v. Brown_Hayden.pdf– This link will take you to the SGA Supreme Court’s opinion in the Finley/Brooks v. Brown/Hayden case.

SGA Suits 2022 argument (1) (1).docx– This link will take you to EVP Sydney Finley’s and her running mate Paighton Brooks’s suit against Dorian Brown and Katie Hayden that was filed with the Court on March 21st. 

Brown Hayden SCOTSGA.pdf– This link will take you to the countersuits filed by candidate Dorian Brown and his running mate Kaite Hayden in response to the previously linked suit. 

The SGA Supreme Court and Top 4 Stole the SGA Election

The SGA Supreme Court will soon announce the current SGA Executive Vice President, Sydney Finley, as the winner of the SGA presidential election with 670 votes and a run-off between candidates Katie Hayden and Valerie Tran for the office of the Executive Vice President.

This is a very curious outcome, as after the elections first ended, candidate for Student Body President Dorian Brown led all of his opponents with 844 votes to Sydney Finley’s 791 votes. Additionally, Katie Hayden led all of her opponents with 856 votes to Valerie Tran’s 497 votes. These totals which came directly from the unofficial results disclosed to candidates as the election closed, were soon to be significantly altered by the SGA Supreme Court.

Unofficial Results were disclosed to candidates via email once the election closed and before Supreme Court hearings occurred. Dorian Brown and Katie Hayden led both of their races.

According to the SGA Supreme Court, Sydney Finley and her running mate, Paighton Brooks, brought suit against their opponents Dorian Brown and Katie Hayden for a myriad of campaign violations on March 21st. The lawsuit delivered to Brown-Hayden on the next day was five pages long, single-spaced, yet the Court only allowed the Brown-Hayden campaign two days to prepare documents in their defense and appear before the Court in a pretrial conference, significantly violating the current SGA constitution which requires the Court to allow the campaign no less than fourteen days from the time the lawsuit was served to prepare documents in their defense and appear before the Court (Section 5.7.6). 

This violation was the first in a line of unconstitutional actions on behalf of the Supreme Court and the current Top 4 in SGA to win the election for Sydney Finley, including President Ugonna Okorie and Services Vice President Eli Cooper.

In their lawsuit, Sydney Finley and Paighton Brooks alleged six claims of SGA election rules (SGAGER document available here) violations by the Brown-Hayden campaign. In one, they claimed that because Brown liked a comment left on his page from AVP candidate Kendall Tubbs that Brown was responsible for endorsing another candidate. In another, they claim that Brown-Hayden began their campaign account too early on February 9th at 8:46 AM, an entire 15 minutes before the campaign start time of 9:01 AM. In yet another claim, they say that Brown and Hayden were pictured at multiple events without masks on in violation of University policy. All of the claims, with one exception, were dismissed by the Court due to a lack of evidence or ridiculousness. 

The claim the Court accepted is even more worrisome than any of those it denied. Finley-Brooks claimed that the Brown-Hayden campaign violated election rules (SGAGER 203.3c) by receiving Instagram endorsement posts from two students with official ties to the University, Emily Gornick and Dayla Johnson. These posts clearly said, “personal endorsement,” on them, but the Court ruled that since they included information about their campus involvement on the posts to establish credibility, these two posts counted as campaign violations. 

The two endorsement posts Finley-Brooks sued for that were included on the Brown-Hayden Instagram page, @brownhayden2022. Five other posts were included in the Court’s penalty that was not in Finley-Brooks’s suit.

Then, in another violation of universal courtroom norms, the Court decided that five other posts on the Brown-Hayden campaign’s Instagram violated this same rule. These five extra posts were not included in the Finley/Brooks suit but rather found by the Court itself. This is extremely abnormal: courts usually limit themselves to consider only the evidence brought before them. They then arbitrarily decided that each one of these violations would result in a 3% reduction in votes for the Brown-Hayden and Finley-Brooks campaigns (for two other violations of campaign rules). Dorian Brown and Katie Hayden had 21% of the total number of votes subtracted from the votes they received due to this decision, while Finley and Brooks lost only 6% of their vote totals. Without the Court searching for their own evidence, Brown would have only lost 6%, securing their victory in the election. The Court went out of its way to ensure Brown’s defeat. 

So far, this may seem like an undemocratic, activist Supreme Court determining the outcome of an election without regard to the votes of the student body, but the Court did not act alone. In fact, this conspiracy to steal the SGA presidential election was assisted by the current SGA Top 4. 

During the hearings, Liam Gallagher, counsel to the Brown-Hayden campaign, requested any previous SGA Supreme Court precedent for use in defending Brown. According to him, the Court replied that they were unable to locate any precedent. Sydney Finley, though, in her position as Executive Vice President is constitutionally responsible (Section 3.3.6) for the keeping of such records. She cited court precedent in her lawsuit filed with the Court which provided her an unfair advantage in the proceedings.

Current Services Vice President Eli Cooper served as counsel to the Finley-Brooks campaign and was also listed as an eyewitness on the campaign’s lawsuit in three of its claims. When Liam Gallagher petitioned the Court to remove Cooper from the list of eyewitnesses because of his office in Top 4, Liam said Cooper removed himself and submitted a very similar eyewitness statement to the Court under the name of SGA President Ugonna Okorie. These executive officers share administration with Sydney Finley, yet are representing her in the Supreme Court hearings and providing eyewitness testimony for her: two clear conflicts of interest. 

In addition to providing counsel to Finley under questionable circumstances, Cooper personally attacked Dorian Brown during the Court proceedings. According to Gallagher, Cooper said Brown attended the anniversary vigil of the Atlanta Spa shootings held by the APSUI and the Raise Red event to “boost his social clout.”  

When LPR reached out to candidate Dorian Brown for comment, he said, “To a certain point, I feel like this was a conspiracy against me. I lack experience in SGA, so the other candidates knew more about the election rules and already had established networks within SGA. They used them to unfairly take over 400 votes from me. I believe this election was stolen from me.”  

Last but not least, Academic Vice President Alexa Meza is a close friend of the SGA Chief Justice, Jackie Gesser. Alexa also attempted to determine the outcome of the election for her current position of Academic Vice President. Before the election was even completed, Alexa texted a candidate for the position informing them that, “we [Meza and Gesser] are charging [AVP candidate] Kendall [Tubbs] for a lot. Don’t tell anyone else that tho.” “Basically our goal is to dock him one vote per every student he sent that survey out to so it messes up the vote proportions or something. But fr do not tell anyone else.” From her own words, AVP Alexa Meza conspired with the Chief Justice to alter the outcome of the AVP election. 

This evidence that numerous SGA elections were stolen from the decision of the student body is damning. As of now, Sydney Finley will be installed by the SGA Supreme Court and Top 4 as the next Student Body President; the executive vice president will be decided in a run-off between Katie Hayden and Valerie Tran because of the Supreme Court’s vote sanction; and the academic vice-presidential election was at the very least tampered with by the Court and current AVP Alexa Meza. Students should be outraged. Their decision was overturned by an unelected body based on little-known election technicalities. 

The Louisville Political Review Editorial Board (Julia Mattingly, Nino Owens, Emma Fridy, and Alex Reynolds) wholeheartedly condemn the actions of the SGA Supreme Court, SGA President Ugonna Okorie, EVP Sydney Finley, SVP Eli Cooper, and AVP Alexa Meza. We believe that they acted in the very least undemocratically, but possibly unlawfully also. As a publication, we pride ourselves on non-partisanship. In this case, that commitment is transcended by our commitment to democracy and our commitment to facts. 

The students of the University of Louisville chose Dorian Brown and Katie Hayden to be their SGA President and Executive Vice President. Therefore, the Louisville Political Review supports that decision. We also believe that the SGA Supreme Court must reverse this wrongful decision, the SGA Top 4 should be investigated for tampering in the election and the proper actions should be taken afterward, and the SGA Senate must amend the constitution to keep this situation from ever happening again. Student engagement in SGA elections is already low (only 10% of students cast a ballot in this year’s elections); and allowing this situation to go unaddressed could dash that minimal engagement–at the very least, SGA will become more undemocratic than it already is. 

Here’s Why We Need To Get Rid of ShotSpotter

On a cold March night in 2021, the ShotSpotter gunshot detection system picked up the sounds of gunshots in a Chicago neighborhood, dispatching police to a dimly lit alleyway. What followed was a chase that quickly turned deadly. On that night, Adam Toledo was shot dead by those responding police. The incident, captured on video, rocked a nation already shaken by grotesque displays of police violence. What wasn’t captured on video was the digital infrastructure that laid the ground for this tragedy. One particular piece, ShotSpotter, has proved to be a dangerous and ineffective tool. It has also proven itself a persistent staple of policing despite its danger and ineffectiveness.

Developed in 1996, the program was designed to detect gunshots within a certain area using microphones planted in things like light posts. It can be found in almost every major city. The ShotSpotter system is usually placed in city neighborhoods with predominantly Black residents. Statistics gathered by police on violent crime as a result of arrests tend to focus on Black neighborhoods, resulting in a disproportionate representation in crime statistics. This is the product of  “tough on crime” strategies that have resulted in a practice of heavily patrolling Black neighborhoods and disproportionately targeting and arresting Black individuals. This practice has resulted in a negative feedback loop that criminalizes Black neighborhoods and serves to justify in the eyes of law enforcement, disproportionate surveillance tactics, and tools in Black neighborhoods. 

In terms of technical effectiveness, ShotSpotter touts a high accuracy rate, as high as 97%, and as a result, has become integral to modern-day policing.  However, as recently as last year it was revealed that in Chicago, ShotSpotter was responsible for less than 10% of gun-related arrests. It was also considered dangerous to communities of color, because of mistaken identity, misattributions leading to false convictions, and errors in detecting what a gunshot was and what it wasn’t. As many as 91% of the sounds that Shotspotter picks up are difficult to identify as actual gunshots. The Adam Toledo shooting is an infamous example of the horrible dangers of a system of microphones planted in Black neighborhoods that collects random sounds and relies on a secretive algorithm to determine whether or not that sound was a gunshot. How many different sounds do we hear a day that could be gunshots? Cars backfiring, fireworks, claps. Any one of those could be interpreted as a gunshot. In some cases, the human operators have been accused of simply making stuff up and attributing it to the wrong individuals. The “evidence” produced by ShotSpotter has ended up in courtrooms and has factored into convictions. How many of those could be false? It’s difficult to quantify how many different sounds could be false. However, when one takes into account all of the different sounds that could be interpreted as gunshots, along with a 9% success rate, it’s fair to say it’s a pretty high number. 

Louisville first introduced Shotspotter to select areas of the city back in 2017. With its introduction came questions about its effectiveness, and whether the city really needed it at all. Simply put, the program doesn’t work. While it may pick up a small portion of sounds and correctly interpret them as gunshots, it misinterprets the vast majority of sounds and can lead to the wrong people being put in jail. Simply put, Louisville should absolutely eliminate this program. It should take the money spent on ShotSpotter and consider shifting it towards funding services like our education system. Our teachers could better use that money in their classrooms, rather than wasting it on an ineffective program. That shift also needs to be factored into a total rethinking of what public safety means. For far too long, the police and police unions have exercised a disproportionate amount of influence on local politics and have been able to ask for whatever they want with little pushback. As a result, the city, like many others in the United States, has wasted millions of dollars that could have otherwise been put to better use. Part of this rethinking involves our city leaders demanding an end to the wasteful spending on ineffective programs and prioritizing spending on social services. We can start with a program like ShotSpotter as a case in point. 

To start, the budget for the past fiscal year came out last July.  It called for over $198,000,000 in police funding in response to the record-high number of homicides the city experienced in 2020. That would be the surface-level interpretation.  However, as studies and stories have shown, outsized budget allocations are more an example of the deep influence and power of the police and their unions in local politics. Police unions often leverage their influence in order to secure more favorable contracts, and therefore increased spending on the police by local governments. They can also count on consistent public sentiment. For decades, the public has been conditioned to accept a “tough on crime” mentality. This conditioning, coupled with strong institutional influence, has given the police a blank check to do as they see fit. As a result, disproportionate funding for programs like ShotSpotter is driven by a desire to not anger the police and their influential unions, who remain favorable to the public. It also means that funding escapes most kinds of actionable scrutiny.  In this kind of environment, political safety supersedes public safety. It means that city leaders disregard the clear evidence that ShotSpotter isn’t effective. It means that city leaders ignore the fact that many people are in favor of increasing funding for other public services. 

Beyond the social and human cost, the literal cost of ShotSpotter is unjustifiable. The city of Louisville currently spends around $450,000 a year on ShotSpotter. On average, ShotSpotter can cost up to $95,000 per square mile.  Some cities have chosen to abandon ShotSpotter because of both its ineffectiveness and the growing controversies around the program, as well as its exorbitant costs. These factors combined make it unjustifiable that the city of Louisville spends as much as it does on ShotSpotter. 

Louisville should follow the examples of cities like San Diego and Charlotte and abandon the program. There are a number of policing alternatives. Reducing the number of available firearms on the streets would have an effect on gun violence. Community policing and building relationships with community members and partnerships with community organizations would be far more effective than relying on errant technology. Instead of handing money to private contractors, we could be spending that same money in areas like the education system.  

Even a modest increase in education funding could have a greater effect on reducing crime in the city. Numerous studies have shown that increasing access to substantive education results in less crime and less incarceration. We can accomplish much more than we think by giving our children safe and funded learning environments. Education is where everything starts. It’s where people learn the difference between violence and non-violence. It’s where people learn to solve their differences in a clear and non-violent manner.  In those classrooms, children learn behaviors, norms, and n right vs wrong. For many children, it’s the only place where they really learn those kinds of things. 

It’s not an impossible thing to do. If we recognize the potential and possibilities in other strategies, we can overcome the politics of yesterday and forge a new path forward. We can save lives, instead of ending them. People support a better education system for their children. We can and must do this. At a crucial time where digital technology is intersecting with longstanding social issues, we have a chance to reverse the dark dystopian curse that is emerging. Our only option is to do it. 

Remembering the Atlanta Spa Shootings

Louisville Political Review

Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, Daoyou Feng, 44, Xiaojie Tan, 49, Hyun Jung Grant, 51, Paul Andre Michels, 54, Yong Ae Yue, 63, Suncha Kim, 69, and Soon Chung Park, 74 all lost their lives from the Atlanta Spa shootings. This article will commemorate the lives that were tragically taken last year and reach talks of gun restriction amidst the trend of mass shootings in the United States.

Context

On March 16, 2021, the United States experienced yet another hate crime incited by a white man, Robert Aaron Long. Six of the eight victims above were Asian women.

This shooting was not an isolated incident. It was not a mere coincidence that the victims of this attack were Asian. This attack was a part of a series of anti-Asian and Pacific Islander shootings and hate crimes. There were two shootings, both of which took place in the Atlanta area and on…

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Remembering the Atlanta Spa Shootings

Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, Daoyou Feng, 44, Xiaojie Tan, 49, Hyun Jung Grant, 51, Paul Andre Michels, 54, Yong Ae Yue, 63, Suncha Kim, 69, and Soon Chung Park, 74 all lost their lives from the Atlanta Spa shootings. This article will commemorate the lives that were tragically taken last year and reach talks of gun restriction amidst the trend of mass shootings in the United States.

Context  

On March 16, 2021, the United States experienced yet another hate crime incited by a white man, Robert Aaron Long. Six of the eight victims above were Asian women.  

This shooting was not an isolated incident. It was not a mere coincidence that the victims of this attack were Asian. This attack was a part of a series of anti-Asian and Pacific Islander shootings and hate crimes. There were two shootings, both of which took place in the Atlanta area and on the same day. The first shooting occurred at Young’s Asian Massage near Acworth, Georgia. Robert Aaron Long went to the bathroom of that parlor. When he came back, gunshots were fired, killing two and critically wounding three (two of which would later die).  

Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz, the only survivor of this attack, recounted that tragic day, “When I heard the first few shots rang out, I opened the door of the room and when I saw him face-to-face, I threw myself on the floor and asked him not to shoot me. He told me to look up at him and when I looked up at him, that’s when he shot me in the face.  

The murderer did not stop there. 

Shortly after the events unfolded in Acworth, there was a robbery at Gold Massage Spa in northeast Atlanta, nearly 30 miles from the previous incident. Three women died from gunshot wounds at this location. Others who were in a break room were shot at but survived. And across the street, another victim lost their life.  

When Robert Long was apprehended by law enforcement, Captain Jay Baker told the media that “He (Long) apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate”. Long reduced the lives of those Asian women to nothing more than a temptation that needed to be eradicated. It is clear that his actions were racially motivated. 

Sexualized Racism 

Annie King, an active student at the University of Louisville and a member of the Asian Pacific Student Union stated that the moment the words ‘sex’ and ‘Asian woman’” appeared in article headings, those mothers, grandmothers, human beings lost to a gunman, ceased to be human. They instead became expendable and invisible “lotus blossoms”. King explored the idea that this act of violence was fueled by sexualized racism rather than a racial agenda targeting a specific group of individuals. What the killer said proved this. He stated that “I am going to kill all Asians,” “It was to alleviate my sex addiction,” or “It had nothing to do with race”.  

Lily Stewart, the secretary of the Asian Pacific Student Union at UofL stated that “Hyper-sexualized tropes inflicted upon Asian women, both consciously and subconsciously, ultimately delineate us expendable . . . For Asian American women, race is always gendered, and gender is always racialized. Together, they synergize to perpetuate racially gendered oppression and violence pervasive our livelihoods and identities.” It is no secret that this problem goes unnoticed in America. This terroristic act that was incited by Long further proves it. His motive is clear. 

Hate Crime Toward Minorities in America is Nothing New 

The great civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”. Part of being a humanitarian is the moral obligation to stand up against injustice. And I believe that as human beings, we are all humanitarians and must not turn a blind eye toward injustice as our predecessors have in the past. 

I could host a lecture that would list all of the injustices that white America has done to minorities living in this country. The red summer of 1919  saw a rise of white supremacy and terrorism against Black people in the United States with hundreds dying and thousands of families left destabilized and disenfranchised for generations to come. The 1921 Tulsa Massacre is another example of white supremacist violence, where more than a thousand lives, homes, and Black businesses were burned to the ground. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 passed by Congress implemented a 10-year ban on Chinese workers who sought to immigrate to the U.S., higher restrictions on those who were already living in the U.S. by refusing to grant them citizenship, and even U.S. citizens of Chinese descent could face deportation. Even when the act expired after 10 years, Congress extended this injustice by passing the Geary Act in 1902, which added extra requirements for Chinese residents to register and obtain certificates of residence  — something that immigrants from Europe did not have to do. 

Perhaps the gravest injustice that the American government has committed against the Asian American community would be the so-called internment camps of the Second World War. As America was fighting Japan in the Pacific theater, distrust and animosity grew toward people of Japanese descent and Asians in general on the west coast of the U.S. American officials believed that there were spies living among the population. To combat this, the American government had a provision in the executive order which would require Japanese-Americans to renounce their allegiance to their homeland and the Japanese emperor.  

This was met with swift opposition as many felt that they were disrespected by the U.S. government and even demanded to be willingly deported back to Japan.  To protect the “interests of the public,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued executive order 9066 mandating the transfer of any person of Japanese descent on the West Coast to internment camps. In these concentration camps, people lived in tight cell blocks, faced inhumane conditions, and were often not fed. This abuse of human rights would be challenged in the infamous court case, Korematsu v. United States. The Supreme Court of the United States, supposedly the last resort for a remedy against constitutional implications, ruled against Korematsu and sustained the internment of every Japanese-American in those camps. It would not be until 2017, that the court officially overruled Korematsu in Trump v. Hawaii

This indicates that historical injustices against the Asian community and other minority groups in America sometimes go unacknowledged until years later as a way of making up for “past sins.” This is a recurring topic throughout recent history. Isn’t it past time for a paradigm shift? Aren’t we sick of witnessing injustice go unpunished simply because a particular conduct was “technically legal”? 

Gun Control  

The Atlanta spa shooter legally purchased a handgun and ammunition at a local firearm store in Georgia. Like many southern states, Georgia does not have a waiting period to use a gun, nor is an individual required to have a license to possess a firearm in the state. Because the killer passed the background check, within minutes he was able to use that gun per Georgia’s law.  

Is it time to begin implementing stricter gun control measures into American policies? How many lives must be taken before the state legislatures and the American Congress create meaningful legislation to end racially motivated gun violence? I am not advocating to strip you of your constitutional liberty to bear arms. I am arguing for stronger gun regulations in areas that have high concentrations of gun violence which result in mass shootings. The Pew Research Center surveyed U.S. adults on gun restrictions and the results were that the share of Americans who say gun laws in the U.S. should be made stricter has increased from 52% in 2017 to 60% in 2019. And those who believe that gun laws should be less restricted dropped from 18% in 2017 to 11% two years later. Improving gun laws in America could be the deciding factor in whether a student at your local high school comes back home safe or they become another statistic of students who died in school shootings because people have relatively easy access to guns.  

APSU and the LPR 

On behalf of the Louisville Political Review, I would like to thank my peers at the University of Louisville’s Asian Pacific Student Union for their collaborative efforts that were put into this article.  

The Asian Pacific Student Union strives to give AAPI students a strong campus presence and sense of community by celebrating cultural identities while advocating and educating on AAPI-related issues. The members of APSU planned this candlelight vigil to honor the lives of those lost to anti-AAPI hate crimes and to educate the UofL community on these social justice issues that often go unnoticed. 

I am honored to have been invited to be a part of such an event. I was moved by the compassion that was on display that night from the audience to all the speakers and it has compelled me to write this article in honor of all the lives that were tragically taken last year in Atlanta. Before I conclude, I will list all of the victims that lost their lives on that devastating day one last time.  

Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33 | Daoyou Feng, 44 | Xiaojie Tan, 49 | Hyun Jung Grant, 51 | Paul Andre Michels, 54 | Yong Ae Yue, 63 | Suncha Kim, 69 | Soon Chung Park, 74 

The Western Branch Library: a Beacon of Hope for Louisville’s Black Community

“The library does more than furnish facts and circulate books…the people feel that the library belongs to them, and that it may be used for anything that makes for their welfare.”

 -Rev. Thomas Fountain Blue, the Western Branch’s first librarian

For centuries, libraries have served as a space for self-enlightenment, a place where people can cultivate thought and ideas and share this in community with others. There was a time, however, when this access to knowledge was not attainable to everyone. Despite the 13th and 14th amendments granting Black Americans freedom following the Civil War, opportunities for Black self-enlightenment were slim to none during this time period, especially in Kentucky.

In 1905, a beacon of hope for Black thought and ideas was established in Louisville. Sitting just a block west of the 9th Street Divide on Chestnut Street, the Louisville Western Branch Library was the first library in the country to exclusively serve and be fully operated by Black Louisvillians and is one of the nine original libraries funded by wealthy industrialist Andrew Carnegie. Through the Western branch and its resources, previously educationally marginalized Black citizens in Louisville gained tools and resources for learning unlike they’d ever had access to before. 

As literacy rates climbed steadily amongst Black Americans following emancipation, Black desire for scholastic fulfillment and the fight for equality in access to education was at an all-time high. In fact, many Black Kentuckians, particularly those in Louisville, were among the leaders at the forefront of the national struggle for this equality when the Kentucky State Legislature passed legislation in 1902 that created the Louisville Free Public Library. At the time, the proposal for the LFPL branches was intended only for white Louisvillians, and this legislation made no mention of offering any such services to Black citizens in the community who also desperately wanted them. 

As a result, a growing population of Black readers in Louisville worked to challenge city officials in hopes of creating an additional branch of the library that would be fully operated by and exclusively serve Black Louisvillians. At the forefront of this movement was the then-principal of Central High School, Albert Meyzeek, who was concerned about Black student literacy rates and access to adequate reading materials at his school. As a result, Meyzeek began taking his students to the Polytechnic Society Library downtown, where after a few visits, he and his students were denied access to their services because of the color of their skin. Enraged by the lack of adequate library access for Black Louisvillians, Meyzeek began attending the City Library Committee meetings where he passionately and persistently argued that an additional branch of the newly-proposed Louisville Free Public Library must be created to serve the Black community. Meyzeek’s advocacy was successful, and the Western branch was soon established.

In late 1905, the Western branch first opened as a three-room apartment on West Walnut Street in the heart of Louisville’s predominantly Black West End district. The library saw huge success initially as there was significant pent-up educational demand from the Black community there. Within just three months of its opening, reports indicated 4,132 people had visited and 1,545 books were borrowed. However, it wasn’t long before the staff at the Western branch became overwhelmed by the high community interest in the library and its services, and administrators decided to expand capacity and relocate. Through Andrew Carnegie’s generous donations and support, in 1908 the Western Branch was able to move into a new building at the corner of 10th and Chestnut Streets, where it still sits today. 

Thomas Fountain Blue was selected to serve as the Western branch’s first librarian. Blue’s impact on the Black community in Louisville during his time as a librarian cannot be overstated. As the first librarian at the nation’s only library serving Black citizens, Blue knew the importance of the role he was about to fill. Like Meyzeek, Blue believed education through schools and libraries offered the most effective means for social uplift in the Black community. In his tenure, Blue emphasized not only educating Black Louisvillians and providing them with the highest-quality library resources, but he also made a point to work for Black inclusion into broader American society. Blue focused on making the Western branch a space for fostering racial progress through its books, reference materials, community spaces, and a number of other initiatives. 

Thomas Blue and staff of the Western branch library, 1927. Photo: UofL Archives.

Working from the philosophical framework of intellectuals like Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois, Blue built a collection of books concerning Black events, culture, and history written by Black authors. Blue also initiated an apprenticeship course for Black citizens wishing to enter the library field that lasted until the 1930s. Before the Hampton Institute opened their library school, this training course at the Western branch was the first of its kind in the emerging field of library science and trained dozens of Black Americans–particularly women– from all across the South.

Seven women serve apprenticeships at the Western Branch preparing for library service. Three from Louisville and one each from Houston, Texas; Cincinnati, Ohio; Memphis, Tennessee; and Evansville, Indiana. Photo: UofL Archives.

Another one of Blue’s primary initiatives was to increase literacy rates amongst Black youth and cultivate a pool of young Black readers. With the help of another Western branch supervisor, Rachel Harris, Blue organized a Children’s Department that hosted reading clubs, storytime, debate, and other entertaining events for Louisville’s Black children. In addition, Black poet and educator, Joseph Cotter, sponsored a children’s storytelling contest every year where winners would receive cash awards and statewide and national recognition. The Cotter Cup is still in place today.

In 1909, Blue created the Douglass Debating Club for high school boys. This debate club served as a program to acquaint Black male youth in Louisville with public speaking, contemporary topics in politics, parliamentary procedure, and how to prepare an oral argument. The club met weekly at the Western branch and participated in a debate contest in Louisville annually. Some of the subjects the Douglass club debated included suffrage rights for women, whether Abraham Lincoln was a greater American than George Washington, and if Germany was justified in taking up arms against the Allies. Often, the Black male youth that participated in the Douglass Debate Club went on to enroll in prestigious universities throughout the country and see great success.

Douglass Debate Club, 1914. Photo: Louisville Free Public Library.

In 2012, the Western branch underwent major renovations to include the African-American Archives Reading Room, which houses the historical papers of Thomas Fountain Blue and Joseph Cotter, as well as an extensive collection of material focusing on the Black experience in America. Today, the Western Branch Library still stands on the corner of 10th and Chestnut Streets as a testament to Albert Meyzeek, Thomas Fountain Blue, and all the other Black patrons who have utilized its services in search of self-enlightenment, an equal opportunity for education, and a sense of community. The Western branch then offered — and still continues to offer today– Black Louisvillians a year-round place to learn and grow. And for that, it should be honored.