By Helen Higginbotham

Bobby HigginbothamBobby is the former Mayor of Waterproof, Louisiana and is unjustly incarcerated. There is a petition on the Color of Change.

I suspect that many of you recall in 2007 when I traveled south in search of my roots and in support of Jena 6. I took my time in my travels and made an excursion of the trip. I call it Part II of my southern trek. I stopped and visited friends and did Black History tours all across the south, including Nashville, Memphis and Jackson before heading to Jena, Louisiana. As usual, I was traveling solo. I befriended some woman who answered the phone at the hotel I where I planned to stay and she shared with me a back road route to Jena from Jackson that would be a little shorter. What she did not tell me was that I would travel through the middle of no where and often times not even have cell phone service.

As I traveled along taking in the scenery, mesmerized by the cotton crops, wanting to stop and take a picture of it, get out and pick it in honor of and in tribute to my ancestors who endured such cruelty and back breaking work simply so that I can be... I began seeing signs, "Bobby Higginbotham for Sheriff". Of course, considering the "neck" of woods I was in, quite naturally I thought it was some White guy running for sheriff in some small town. I passed one sign, then another or two before I decided that I should at least stop and take a picture of the sign bearing my name in the middle of no where. One of the benefits of having a unique last name like Higginbotham is that you take notice when you see it, when you hear it. So I turned around and just as I did, the sign now facing me had a picture of this Bobby Higginbotham. Lo and behold, Bobby was Black! So you know what I did. I ventured out to find this Bobby Higginbotham who was at the time, Mayor of Waterproof, LA. He was running for Sherriff of Tensas Parish. They don't have counties in LA, they have parishes.

Not noticing Higginbotham Plaza right across the street, I went to the competitor's store to ask where to find the Mayor. I explained that I was a Higginbotham passing through and that I wanted to meet him. Of course they did not tell me to go right across the street. They asked had I come in on the main road. Of course if my life depended on it, I still cannot tell you what is the main road. They were all country roads to me... Anyway, they directed me to the Mayor's office "over yonder". Again, I enter city hall and tell the clerk the same story, that I am a Higginbotham and I want to see the Mayor. She directs me back to the Plaza, across from the store I had just left.

I walk in and give the same story. Someone goes to find Bobby. He comes out and of course he is skeptical. I show him my license, tell him a little about me, why I am in Louisiana, we share a few stories, cannot establish familial lines but almost immediately we hit it off like old friends. Our bond is immediate and so natural, I'm thinking, we must be family... I meet his employees, his brother Edgar, his campaign workers, etc. I shoot the breeze a bit more and head out to find Jena. My cousin Dan, the family historian, later confirms for me that Bobby and I are not family. But I love him just the same. We became fast friends, talk all the time and have seen one another many times since then.

I promised Bobby I would return to help him campaign. Election day was just over one month away. I don't think he believed I would return but I am a woman of my word. Before heading back to NJ, I returned to Jackson and spent another day or two more with my girlfriend's Mother and then continued on my trek heading out to Birmingham, Selma, Montgomery, Atlanta and Durham, before stopping in DC at the Congressional Black Caucus convention. As promised, one month later I boarded a flight and headed back to Waterproof to help Bobby. It was a wonderful and hopeful day. I worked along with Bobby and loads of other volunteers helping him to get folks to and from the polls in his campaign for Sheriff. Little did we know that most of the folks we were carting to the polls, whose hands we were shaking, on whose doors we were knocking, were people who likely voted for his White, significantly under educated and unsympathetic opponent.

I was more hurt by the defeated mindset of the Black majority than I was by Bobby's decisive defeat at the polls. They just didn't get it. Blacks are the majority in the Delta but hold no true positions of power. Bobby is not the first Black Mayor to be accused of malfeasance, imprisoned or run out of office. The towns people could not see that Bobby was trying to empower them. True to form, like crabs in a barrel, they did not stop in their pursuit to tear him down until he ended up in his present predicament, behind bars on bogus charges. I suppose they are happy now. I suppose too that they think they broke him, broke his spirit. NOT!!! I am happy to report that I visited Bobby at the correctional facility this past Thanksgiving. It did my heart good to see just the opposite. His spirit is not broken. His head is not bowed!!! He is as proud as ever and committed to continue his fight for justice.

I remember Bobby sharing with me advice that his Mother had given him to "leave them as he found them". She was talking about the people in Waterproof, people trapped in the Delta. Sadly, people trapped in ignorance. She was a wise woman and she understood the depth of envy. The Higginbothams for the most part have been very successful and certainly well educated. The average annual income in Waterproof is reportedly between $10,000 and 15,000. Bobby has been a very successful businessman for many years and provided employment for many in the Delta and otherwise and he very generously provided for his Mother's every need until her last day. Thankfully she is not here to see the truth of her prophecy...

Those who did support Bobby however, have been real troopers. You would be hard pressed to find a more supportive family or better friends than Ms Watson, Kim or Maurice. It warms my heart to know that he is so loved. They have kept me apprised at all times of what was happening with Bobby. Earlier today, Bobby was sentenced to 21 months and ten years probation. It is a travesty! Bobby convinced a friend, a decorated veteran, to be town Chief of Police for Waterproof. As the story below indicates, the "d.a." and the sheriff did not appreciate these educated and professional Black men having the audacity to serve as a beacon of hope to mostly poor and/or uneducated Blacks. How dare they! You know, kinda' sorta' like our President! How dare he! I'm Just Sayin'...

Chief Jenkins still awaits his day in court. He has already been subjected to ten days in the local jail where he previously sent criminals. How does a man serve his country and come home a celebrated veteran and wind up in jail when all he wanted to do was serve and improve his community? Only in America folks and especially in the Delta! You know, kinda' sorta' like after so many wars when our men fought on the front line only to come home to no respect, no job, no gratitude, no future, no love... I'm Just Sayin'...

Bobby has been in jail since the day he was convicted, some ten months ago. Because he is a "flight risk", I guess that means because he is a Black man with a passport and a Mercedes??? I digress... He was denied release on bond while awaiting sentencing and now while awaiting appeal. The "judge" in this case was recused because he apparently had such little confidence in the d.a's case, in the jury to do the "right" thing, that he wrote "guilty" on the poll slips before delivering them to the mostly White jury in the mostly Black parish. Essentially he instructed them to find Bobby guilty of the 2 remaining and obviously weak charges. Originally, Bobby was indicted for 44 counts of something. By time for trial, all but two were rescinded.

Again, this whole thing is such a travesty. Not that I am convinced that it will make much difference, because the good ole' boys in the Delta, in Tensas Parish are mean, heartless, hateful to the core and obviously yearning for days of old, but please sign the petition being circulated by Color of Change and linked in the article below. National attention needs to be given this matter, the ills of the Delta in general. Americans who are shocked and appalled and critical of the lack of democracy in other parts of the world, need to look more closely in our own back yards. As the caption on an old cartoon featuring the image of a hanging man drawn inside a car rearview mirror reminds us, "objects in the rear view mirror are closer than they appear"... Seems like the more things change, the more they remain the same... A friend recently described it as "dynamic status quo", things are constantly changing in order to remain the same. So the story goes...

Let's help Bobby.
Let's help the Chief!
Let's convince mainstream media that this is a story of importance and worthy of coverage...

Thank you for listening and of course, Please Pass it on...

Here is the Link. Vote Your Support of Bobby...

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