Photos: Rally supports Jewel Newman Center director

More than 70 people gathered Saturday morning in the plaza of the Jewel J. Newman Community Center in Scotlandville to show support for longtime center director Carl Slaughter as well as to call for the removal of Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks-Daniel from office.

Banks-Daniel, who was elected last year, has said she wants to make changes and improvements to the center for which she is accountable and has questioned Slaughter’s leadership.

Slaughter, who has been the center’s director for more than 30 years, said Banks-Daniel is trying to fire him so she can put a crony of hers in the job.

Neither Slaughter nor Banks-Daniel attended Saturday’s rally, but Slaughter’s friends and relatives as well as members of the community thronged the front of the community center to support the facility’s director.

The event featured attendees holding signs that read, “Recall Chauna Banks-Daniel,” “Support Carl Slaughter,” and “Save 34 Years of History.”

“There is a power struggle going on I think. He’s run this place for 34 years and there’s never been a problem before,” said Patrice Slaughter, Carl Slaughter’s wife.

Patrice Slaughter said a big part of the problem with Banks-Daniel started when she ordered Carl Slaughter to take down years of photos from the gymnasium lobby walls.

Banks-Daniel sent written notice to center director Slaughter last month saying she wanted all photos in the center’s gymnasium lobby removed “to present a clean appearance for all visitors.”

Carl Slaughter has said that during the past three decades, he has posted photos and other memorabilia from weddings, funerals, birthday parties and reunions to memorialize the occasions for the community on the lobby’s walls.

Slaughter also said many of the photos taken down originally had been taped to the walls and many were damaged or destroyed in the process of being removed.

Scotlandville resident Jimmy Harris, who attended Saturday’s rally, said photographs of his son — a 19-year-old college basketball player today — were taken down from the lobby display.

“I’m 49 and have been coming to this community center since I was 11,” Harris said. “My son grew up here playing league ball. His photos were up here. This place is part of him and what he has become. It’s a shame that Chauna Banks-Daniel can come here and just take all this memorabilia down.”

Saturday’s rally was led by James Slaughter, Carl’s brother and a former District 2 Metro Council candidate who ran unsuccessfully against Banks-Daniel last year.

“Carl came home one day and said he wanted to start a summer camp for children. Our mom told him to find children in the community and go speak to their mothers,” James Slaughter told the rally attendees through a megaphone

Carl Slaughter’s day camp turned into the Jewel J. Newman Community Center Summer Day Camp, a program that served more than 200 children and allowed Carl Slaughter to take Scotlandville kids on exotic trips to places such as Jamaica, the Bahamas, Disney World, Chicago and San Francisco.

“He wanted children to see the world beyond Scotlandville,” James Slaughter said.

Carl Slaughter’s only child, daughter Dominique Slaughter, told the rally crowd she always had to share her father with the community because of his role as director of the community center.

“I think Chauna Banks-Daniel needs to worry more about her community than this community center,” Dominique Slaughter said.

Before 2011, Baton Rouge mayor-presidents were in charge of the operations of the five community centers in the parish.

The Metro Council moved control of the community centers from the Mayor-President’s Office to the individual council members in whose districts the centers are situated. Because of that change, Banks-Daniel is responsible for the operations of the Scotlandville center.

Slaughter is the lone community center director who is a classified employee in the city-parish civil service system. Because of the classification, Slaughter’s attorney, Jill Craft, maintains Banks-Daniel has no authority to fire Slaughter.

Banks-Daniel has made accusations of mismanagement against Carl Slaughter and said revenue for the community center went down in 2010 under Slaughter’s direction. However, James Slaughter countered that revenue went down because of three significant events in 2010.

The community center’s biggest tenant, Earl K. Long Medical Center, moved out of the center in 2010; a roof leak in the gymnasium forced officials to close the venue for events and a major rewiring had to be completed for adult education computer classes, James Slaughter said. James Slaughter said Saturday he has received official recall documents and instructions from the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office and he expects to start collecting official signatures on the recall petition in the coming days.

In another development, Banks-Daniel sent out a news release Friday seeking residents to become members of the Jewel J. Newman Community Center Advisory Board.

Members are appointed for a two-year term and their role would be to advise the community center director on issues concerning community center programs and to lead efforts to provide a community center environment that is both inclusive and fun, according to the release.The first advisory board meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sept. 30 in the community center. After that, the board will meet on the fourth Monday of each month.

To obtain an application, call (225) 389-8331.