The Roosevelt Hotel New Orleans a Waldorf Astoria is a beautiful luxury hotel, not a museum. If I want to learn anything about black history I'd go to an institution designed for such history. I say this because Tod Chambers (General Manager of the hotel), said to me that the mural marks an important period in our history. My thoughts were, so does a lot of events. These murals were painted on the walls in the 30's before blacks were allowed to patronize the hotel or restaurant. They were not painted there for a history lesson, they were painted there with ill intentions and nothing anyone says can change that.
The Sazerac Bar is intended for leisure and a luxury experience among other pleasures.
Imagine a black person on vacation, having a meal, relaxing, kicking back having a few drinks with friends. Then looks up and sees a wall tainted with a huge painting of slaves picking cotton in their beautiful destination. I've imagined it would be quite the shock. I'd imagined it's the same way Jews would feel if it were a mural of Jews in a concentration camp. Or any race who has had a history of genocide, or any person that has ever experienced ostracism of any kind. Having a painting of this sort inside of a hotel or bar/restaurant makes me question it's intent.
I understand Black history is Black history and it can not be erased or ignored, neither do I wish it to be. However, there is a certain level of tact to be demonstrated to insure respect and justice for all.
ORIGINAL PETITION: No Colored Allowed In 2011??
This is the depiction of some who have visited the Sazerac Bar and Restaurant inside of the Roosevelt Hotel New Orleans. Why? You ask? This is a picture of the mural that taints the wall at the Sazerac Bar. As you can see it is a painting of slaves in the field harvesting cotton. Also, there is a slave sitting on a donkey backwards, which translates into blunt humiliation in some cultures. Also, it reverts to the term ass backwards, meaning 'being backward'. It means lacking any insight, intelligence, correct action, respect to human rights, cultural sophistication, and most of all common sense/slow or stupid. Employees and patrons alike have found it very offensive. So much so, that a petition was started by a nonprofit organization called Urban Politiks earlier this year after they had learned of it’s presence. After only a short time, the petition lost momentum due to the lack of exposure. Hi, my name is Dee Pittman. I am an employee of the Roosevelt Hotel New Orleans and am not very proud of it at the moment. I honestly feel that this painting is a discrete way of saying no colored allowed. Out of all of the museums in the world, why imprint a painful memory of history here? In the bar of a luxury hotel? A place where people come to forget their troubles, past and present. I had learned about this mural on August 5th 2011 while having a discussion with a coworker. At that time I’d learned that this mural has been the topic to many conversations whispered about among employees. My coworker then shared with me how it made them and other employees feel. This made me very emotional. I asked my coworker, "if this bothered you so, or any of the others, why then wouldn’t anyone talk to someone in charge to tell them how this affects you?" their reply was, "I’m just a little person." By the end of the work day I’d had a chance to run it by other coworkers in my department. They all knew already, I was the only one in the dark. They brushed it off by saying, "oh, everybody knows about that, people have tried to have it removed before but it’s not going anywhere it’s worth to much money." "Worth more than the feelings of people who work here everyday? or more than the people who patronize this hotel?" I asked. One coworker just shrugged their shoulders. My heart was heavy. I felt compelled to speak to Tod Chambers who is the general manager of the Roosevelt Hotel New Orleans. I sent him an email (attached to this article) that same evening. I tossed and turned for nights wondering why this was so. And in 2011? Finally, I’d gotten the reply from Tod Chambers that I’d waited 6 whole days for. I know that you’re thinking 6 days is not a long time to wait for an email from a man in Mr. Chambers’ position. And it’s not, that’s just how eager I was to speak to him. After reading the email, I was very disappointed that he had sent me the same exact email that he had sent to the nonprofit organization, Urban Politiks. I know this because I’d since researched the petition. "This is the email you sent to me?" I thought to myself, "I thought he liked me. I thought he cared more about me than to copy and paste a response to me. Aren’t I the employee that is so vital to the company? Aren’t we all? I thought you were grateful to have us all here contributing to the grandeur and elegance that is The Roosevelt Hotel? That’s what you told us in all the meetings." My mind was racing, my heart was pounding. I had felt let down, disrespected and unappreciated. After thinking a while, I gave Mr. Chambers the benefit of doubt. Maybe he just doesn’t understand how we feel. Maybe I’ll get a bit more personal so that he can fully comprehend the pain that something that he thinks of as just a hard time in history affects us. I replied(email attached) , I poured my heart out. All the while squeezing the tears out of my eyes so that I could see clearly what I was typing. I fell asleep with a crusted face that night, too emotionally exhausted to move. I slept well knowing that he had to have a heart and that we would be soon moving in a direction to have this mural removed. That was August 11th 2011. Today is April 10th 2012. Still no response......
EMAILS BETWEEN TOD CHAMBERS AND I: LAST-FIRST
Sent from my HTC on the Now Network from Sprint! ----- Forwarded message -----
Date: Thu, Aug 11, 2011 9:36 pm
Subject: Re: Dee Pittman...Mural in Sazerac Bar
To: "Tod Chambers" Tod, these are all places I would expect to see art of this kind. Universities, museums, unions, train stations. We are a luxury hotel that serve people of all nationalities. This is a place where people come to relax and forget the troubles of the world be it past or present. Do you honestly feel that this is appropriate in a hotel like ours? There are patrons that have complained about how it made them feel. Shouldn't that be enough to rethink its appropriateness? There are designated places people go deliberately to learn of our history, its not a secret. All I am saying is that this is not the proper place for a history lesson, not one of this nature which brings pain to patrons and employees alike. Furthermore, you've sent me the same exact response that was sent to the group that started the petition earlier this year. Not very heartfelt or genuine. I understand that this may be a difficult topic for you as it is most people. However, I am hoping you have a heart. I know it may be hard to imagine for you, being that slavery is not the history of your ancestors, but try to imagine how I feel. When I look at this painting it reminds me of the story I was told by my grandmother as a young girl. How her mothers mother, my great great grandmother, was Hung from an oak tree in front of her own house. Her lifeless body hang there for my great grandmother to come home to as a little girl. Imagine her living with that image in her head for all 100 yrs of her life. Although my great great grandmother was not born into slavery, those times were very hateful. This event affected her life tremendously, which affected her children and her children's children. Emotionally detached, abandonment, anxiety disorders mild to severe, these are symptoms that plague my family all due to one traumatic, hateful event in my family's past. The scar runs deep. And though it gets better with every passing day, it still hurts. I don't need a daily reminder. I know, we know all too well. Will you help me? Help me talk to someone who can possibly make this change. I'm not asking that this mural be destroyed, only that it be removed and preserved elsewhere. I am not the only one that feels this strongly about this mural, everyone has their own emotional trigger when reminded of slavery. I asked an employee after learning of the mural, "why haven't you said anything? If it hurt you, why didn't you talk to someone?" Their reply was "I'm just a little person." I cried that night.
Sent from my HTC on the Now Network from Sprint! ----- Reply message -----
From: "Tod Chambers"
Date: Thu, Aug 11, 2011 4:48 pm
Subject: Dee Pittman...Mural in Sazerac Bar
Dee, Thank you for taking the time to utilize our open door policy and sharing your feelings regarding the Paul Ninas paintings in the Sazerac Bar. Your feelings are extremely important to us and I want to ensure that you I take your comments very seriously. While I understand your feelings about the content of one of the murals, I would like to assure you that the murals, which were painted on the walls of the Sazerac in 1939 were created and installed during a time of significant challenge as the nation recovered from the Great Depression. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) recruited artisans of all types to build roads and parks, write books and, among other things, create fine art. The artistic style of the period is reflected in murals such as these, which hang not only in private collections, such as The Roosevelt, but also in public locations, including Allen Hall on the campus of Louisiana State University, the Union Passenger Terminal in New Orleans, Rockefeller Center in New York, union halls in Detroit and elsewhere. In fact, the Nassau County Museum of Art in New York presented a major exhibition of WPA-era art just a few years ago, acknowledging the importance of this style of art. The collection of Mr. Ninas’ murals, have been viewed by countless New Orleanians and visitors of all backgrounds and appreciated not only for their craftsmanship but also as representations of the human condition, including post-Civil War America, changes brought by World War I, the hopelessness of the Great Depression and slavery. The hotel also displays additional works of art that link our historic property with other periods from the hotel’s past. Among them are works by living New Orleans artists which speak to our society today. While we cannot erase this painful period in our nation’s history, the historic Paul Ninas murals can and should remind future generations that this is a past we should not repeat. I appreciate your taking the time to share your concerns with me. Thank you again for taking the time to bring your concern to my attention. I value your opinion and appreciate your service at the Roosevelt Hotel New Orleans. Tod R. Chambers General Manager 123 Baronne Street New Orleans, LA 70112 Direct (504) 335-3033 Fax (504) 585-1295 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.therooseveltneworleans.com/">The Roosevelt New Orleans Website "An Era of Grandeur and Elegance is Reborn" From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, August 05, 2011 06:42 PM
To: Tod Chambers
Subject: Dee Pittman...Mural in Sazerac Bar
Good evening Tod, its Dee Pittman from the spa. Until today I was unaware that the mural in the Sazerac was a depiction of slaves picking cotton. I'd only seen this painting shortly during our initial tour of the hotel during orientation and did not study the details. I learned today that this painting is whispered about among black employees. This painting is very offensive and is a painful reminder of the racism that blacks struggle to deal with everyday. I've learned from a Google search of the painting that this has long been an issue. I can not fathom why it has not since been removed. Now that I know that you are fully aware that this mural is an issue, you have a responsibility to all employees of the Roosevelt Hotel to ensure respect of one another. Black employees should not have to walk past this painting and feel inferior or ashamed. I am proud to be black and I am proud of how far we have come as a race but I am ashamed now to be an employee of The Roosevelt Hotel New Orleans an E.O.E. that would allow employees to feel stripped of their pride by a constant reminder of a painful past. I always thought our goal was to boost morale, Honestly, now it seems like a joke. I am asking of you today to move in the direction of having this mural removed for the growth of us all. Thanks in advance for your promt attention to this matter, Dee Pittman L.M.T.