Marja Broussard is the president of the Lafayette chapter of the NAACP. Her story was captured as part of Voices of Race in Portrait, an exhibition by Conversation Starters that explores the experience of race in Acadiana through interviews and portraiture.
I have always been a very black-centric person, because we were raised that way, and our parents gave us a firm foundation of our blackness. I attended Lafayette High, and one year during Black History month, we had to do an art project. So, I painted a black Jesus with dark skin and a big afro with the crown and blood dripping from his head. And the teacher said, “What is this?” and I said, “This is the black Jesus Christ.” And she said “No, Jesus Christ is not black. Get out of my class and go to the office!” Of course I was reprimanded and put out of school. It was the late Dr. Raphael Baranco who helped my parents get me back into school.
I remember a lot in my youth of being treated differently and, even today, black people are treated differently. It is disheartening in 2020 that I still have to face some of the same things my parents and grandparents faced. It would be nice to believe that people won’t judge me by the color of my skin, but that is not a reality in Louisiana. If anyone believes that racism does not exist here, we have a problem. Because not talking about it will not make it go away, not recognizing that it exists does not make it go away.
I would challenge any white person to come and walk in my shoes for one day. I don’t think they could take it.
Marja’s story was facilitated by Skyra Rideaux and republished with permission. Voices of Race in Portrait is showing Feb. 8 – Feb. 29 at the Acadiana Center for the Arts.