Community restoring vandalized African American museum in Louisiana month after founder slain

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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB/Gray News) - Rhythmic drumming poured out of windows at the Odell S. Williams Now And Then African American Museum Saturday. Inside, Jason Roberts-Joseph sat surrounded by several young children cautiously hitting their drums to keep in sync with their neighbors.

Jason Roberts-Joseph says his family will continue to work in sync with members of the community to preserve the Odell S. Williams African American Museum which was founded by his late mother, Sadie Roberts-Joseph. (Source: WAFB/Gray News)

Roberts-Joseph says the drumming is part of a community-building exercise.

“Playing with those kids is really what this museum was founded around, it was allowing themselves a space to open up to the culture,” said Roberts-Joseph.

By drumming in the group, young children learn the importance of building up those around them and working together to create something beautiful.

Saturday marked the first time Jason Roberts-Joseph was able to use the museum as a space to perform the exercise since the death of his mother, the late Sadie Roberts-Joseph.

"That was what she was about. That really made me feel good to be able to do that again for the first time since she’s been gone,” he said.

Outside, community members gathered at the museum were putting that same lesson to use.

Early Saturday, several volunteers showed up to the museum to help remove debris and restore structures that were recently vandalized. They’d heeded the call of Tyrus Georgetown, a Southern University student who’d heard news of the vandalism and decided it was up to the community to help restore the museum.

For several hours the group of long-time associates and new friends worked together to create new beautiful structures for visitors.

Jason Roberts-Joseph says the vandalism could have been a setback to attracting community members to the area. Some already questioned whether the museum would be able to be sustained without Sadie Roberts-Joseph.

Sadie Roberts-Joseph was found slain in the trunk of a car in July. Her tenant was arrested for her killing.

Jason Roberts-Joseph said the actions of the volunteers are a positive sign that the community is invested in preserving the space.

Roberts-Joseph says the museum and his mother’s legacy will continue to foster generosity and fellowship among neighbors.

“The museum is coming back. It’s going to move forward,” said Roberts-Joseph. “My mom pushed it this far, and my sister and I are going to take it to the next step and we’re going to continue. This is not going to stop.”

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