‘Race’ viewing prompts discussion

Director Katherine Cecil said she created the documentary “Race,” about the 2002 and 2006 mayoral elections in New Orleans, to generate a conversation about the controversial topic.

Dillard’s Political Science department screened the documentary Feb. 23 in Lawless Memorial Chapel, followed by a discussion between audience members and panelists. About a dozen people attended.  The discussion panel included Cecil;  Dr. Nchor Okorn, political science professor; Major Sierra Spears, a political science major;  and Dr. Willie Kirkland, director of institutional research.

The film highlighted the political strategies of incumbent Mayor Ray C. Nagin and Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, differences of voters and voter turnout between the two election periods pre- and post-Hurricane Katrina. The film showed Nagin got majority of his votes in the 2002 election from white voters.

In 2006, however, after he used the term “chocolate city” to vow that displaced African Americans would return to New Orleans, Okorn said many believed that was the point of no return for his core white voters.

 “In elections, many campaigns use ethnic and integrate strategies,” said Okorn. “Nagin used ‘chocolate city’ to rally to his African American base.”

 The film also weighed in on the displacement of mostly African American citizens following Hurricane Katrina and their civil right to vote even while displaced.

“Why African American voters are not turning out is the question,” said Kirkland.

 (Ralph James contributed to the report.)