Voices from Lafayette's Black community explore the role of education in reconciliation.

Queen Mother Moore’s racial solidarity: When reconciliation was not enough

Tiffany Caesar wearing a black shirt and green jacket
Dr. Tiffany Caesar currently leads the preservation initiative on Queen Mother Moore organized by the Iberia African American Historical Society.

Last year, I had the opportunity to begin a two-part celebration on Queen Mother Moore —  Audley Moore — in New Iberia with the Iberia African American Historical Society. She was a founder of the reparation movement, a pan-Africanist, political theorist, African liberation leader and educator. With the help of the Louisiana Endowment For Humanities we were able to do a day-long event on her birthday celebrating her legacy for the first time in July. We had scholars like Dr. Akinyele Umoja, Dr. C. Sade Turnipseed, and Dr. Ashley D. Farmer share the significance of Queen Mother Moore and black cultural heritage preservation. 

After spending a year of teaching as a fifth grade teacher there, I wanted to leave something for my students, who were predominantly Black in an area of New Iberia that is culturally rich, community oriented, Black in the expression of art and love, but also challenged by poverty, violence and a lack of resources. It is invigorating to work with the historical society on the Queen Mother Moore initiatives. Next summer, we will reveal the Queen Mother Moore Marker in front of Da Berry Fresh Market to add to the permanence of her legacy in Iberia Parish. 

Recently, Hopkins Street has been changed to commemorate one of the most famous freedom fighters of our time — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. However, does a street change provide enough salve for the ongoing oppression of people of color in this community? Does this street name, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Parkway, translate into a better education for the children in the community, job training programs for adults, child care for mothers unable to work or work effectively because they do not have someone to watch them, or continuous care for our elders who don’t have anyone to look after them — except for community members who provide space? 

The question of racial reconciliation is a prism of shiny and complex angles, however there are many like Queen Mother Moore who did not believe in racial reconciliation, but racial solidarity, Black upliftment, sustainability, and building communities based on African-centered practices. 

About Reflections on Reconciliation

Reconciliation, and what role education should play in it, has become more than a political hot potato. It has engulfed, even swallowed whole at times, both thought and tendency to acknowledge deeds of the past. We find ourselves in denial, and sometimes entertaining fiction and fallacy.

We asked a wide spectrum of commentators to consider reconciliation in the context of education, using this prompt: 

What is the importance of racial reconciliation in today’s world, and what role should education play?

Ruth Foote, collection editor

One of her last efforts before she passed away was to create a monument that would be a school dedicated to the improvement of African people globally on land she called Mount Addis Ababa in upstate New York to memorialize the millions who lost their lives to slavery. This is one of the many forms of reparations she believes people of African descent should receive for their years of enslavement, in addition to the 200 billion dollars she demanded from the United Nation in 1957 through her organization, Universal Association of Ethiopian Daughters. 

Her early political development was impacted by her experience with the UNIA in New Orleans where she heard Jamaican activist Marcus Garvey speak. It was in those spaces she saw Black people take a radical stance towards racism, violence and disenfranchisement in the South. 

Queen Mother Moore frequently remembers the time when white police wanted to disband a meeting with Garvey. Audience members had guns and shouted “Speak Garvey Speak!” unintimidated by the militarized law enforcement who would infringe on their First Amendment right to freedom of speech. She saw Black people unapologetically resist the urge to conform and be good Black American citizens — people who questioned if it were even possible in a country that openly waged war on the Black population. 

Two women hold a portrait of Queen Mother Moore
Audley and Judith Warner, Queen Mother Moore’s granddaughters, hold a portrait of her painted by local artist Antonio Loston at the 2022 Queen Mother Moore Legacy Symposium and Celebration in New Iberia.

After hearing about so many lynchings, discriminatory acts and a lack of socioeconomic opportunities, one begins to lose faith in the American Dream and creates a space that is culturally safe and nourishing for the soul. 

For her and others like Marcus Garvey, going back to Africa, creating our own neighborhoods based on our own cultural practices and educating our students with a real history not one simply glossed with slavery and freedom was necessary. Racial reconciliation was an idea clouded by blood soil from unruly negroes who would not abide by the law or their “place” in society. Queen Mother Moore represented a faction of Black people in America who believed that their safety lay in their hands alone. 

While racial reconciliation was not her primary goal, within New Iberia there have been many efforts to create a space for racial healing. The Iberia African American Historical Society is a diverse organization with white members who have a better understanding of their role to support in the preservation of Black history. Under Dr. Phebe Hayes’ leadership, the organization provides the closest example of racial reconciliation — people working together. 

The Da Berry Fresh Market managed by Mr. Carl Cooper, a community store and cultural heritage institution, where I first saw a picture of Queen Mother Moore, works with diverse community members to address food insecurity issues. You can see Black, white, Asian and all people working in the garden together to grow crops for the community. Next to the store is the elementary school, Johnston Hopkins, where you will find teachers of all kinds caring for students. The Shadows On The Teche Museum has made a lot of effort to include the narratives of Black people in their exhibits with a wonderful team that includes Jayd Buteaux, Jordan Richardson, Breighlynn M. Polk and the new executive director John Warner Smith.

There is hope. As my late mentor Reverend Mama Sandra proclaimed about the spirit of Black people, “We shall live and not die…” I ask that we remember the legacy of Queen Mother Moore, who questioned political racial reconciliation from her vantage point, and even mine.  There is still so much for us to do.