In March of 2006, I launched CenLamar.com (an amalgamation of my homeland, Central Louisiana, colloquially known as “CenLa,” and my name, Lamar). During the site’s first two years, I focused almost exclusively on the small town politics of Alexandria, Louisiana, and due, in large part, to my outspoken advocacy, I was hired as an assistant to Mayor Jacques Roy.
I served in Mayor Roy’s administration for four and a half years, and along with an enormously talented team, I helped launch the city’s largest reinvestment project in history. Together, under his leadership, we attracted millions in outside grant funding and revitalized some of the city’s most beleaguered and blighted corridors, becoming a national model for sensible smart growth implementation and pioneering an award-winning program focused on crime prevention through environmental design. During my time in Alexandria, I also organized two major regional summits on smart growth, sustainability, historic preservation, and resiliency and a large-scale exercise on cyberterrorism involving the United States Air Force, city, parish, and state law enforcement, media professionals, hospital administrators, and the region’s top private-sector employers.
I continued to publish commentary on my website, though now I focused on national politics. In January 2007, I became a fierce and dedicated supporter of a young U.S. Senator from Illinois, and less than a year later, two of my friends and I were selected to attend the 2008 Democratic National Convention along with the entire Louisiana delegation, most of whom were overwhelmed with joy and pure emotion. I will always treasure that experience until the day I die; for many of us, and particularly for elderly African-Americans who had driven or flown thousands of miles away to see something they’d always thought to be inconceivable- that a black man actually get to that mountaintop- it was absolutely unforgettable. Master P, the rapper, stood a few rows up, and when Obama strode into the stage, Louisiana was flooding again, in tears. Some were gulping in their emotions. It was cathartic.
A little more than a year later, on a cool February night, I experienced an even more meaningful collective catharsis while walking down Poydras Street in New Orleans. It was as if the entire city of New Orleans was levitating, ebullient, humming, chanting, and singing sounds to the gods and redemptive prayers to dead relatives. “The center of the universe,” I wrote at the time.
I had been promised tickets to the White House to watch President Obama praise the team, but there were some logistical problems and, instead, a young White House staffer asked if I’d be willing to take a Coast Guard tour of the site of the Deepwater Horizon. I knew I had to see it.
The next year, I resigned from a job that I loved and moved to Dallas, enrolling in SMU’s Dedman School of Law, but I never stopped writing my website. Along with Zack Kopplin, I plunged into the strange world of Christian dominionism, and with the help of a colleague, Jason Brad Berry, I exposed a radical church school receiving voucher money in order to convert students into prophets. The Times-Picayune and others picked up the story, and shortly thereafter, the school was removed from the voucher program.
A few months later, in the early morning of April 1, 2012, the famed political provocateur and Tulane graduate Andrew Breitbart and I were continuing our day’s long conversation on Twitter. He told me he apologized for calling me a putz. I went to bed, and a few minutes later, Breitbart dropped dead.
Later that year, I was honored to receive the Ashley Morris Award at the Rising Tide Conference in New Orleans.
I spoke about diligence, vulnerability, gratitude, and humility:
The next year, I wrote a series on the film adaptation “Twelve Years a Slave,” most notably an essay titled “Why ’12 Years a Slave Will Always Matter to Louisiana,” which eventually became the subject of a report on BBC and BBC Radio.
Last year, I became an unapologetic champion for three incredible women leaders, Wendy Davis, Mary Landrieu, and Hillary Clinton.
In late December, I apparently kept Congressman and House Whip Steve Scalise up at night.
And a couple of months later, I was accused of race-baiting by Bobby Jindal’s chief of staff after publishing my friend Robin May’s picture of his portrait in the governor’s office.
I was born on Cinco de Mayo in 1982, the first of three children. When I was around 12 months old, I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and as a result, I spent a good deal of my childhood in and out of hospitals and physical therapy. I had 15 operations before I turned 14. My family was tenacious, and even though insurance sometimes would not cover my care, I hit the lottery: I had a doctor who was willing to conduct many of my surgeries for free.
Today, I walk without assistance; I live on my own; I drive my own car. Of course, this doesn’t mean that living with cerebral palsy is exactly easy: I fall constantly. My knees and elbows are numb. I move awkwardly. But I know, still, how lucky I am, and I intend on spending the remainder of my time on this planet promoting, in my own small way, a more tolerant, a more inclusive, and a more compassionate world and raising awareness for disability rights causes. Tolerance. Justice. Empathy.
I am a graduate of Rice University in Houston, earning a B.A. in English and Religious Studies and a graduate of Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law, earning a Juris Doctor. I am currently an incoming doctoral candidate at LSU’s Manship School.
lamarw at gmail dot com