2021 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration March for Justice and Peace

Kevin’s Gallery

Natchitoches’ first Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration March for Justice and Peace was held Monday, January 18. The march began on campus and extended to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Triangle Park. The Natchitoches Hawg Riders led the procession on their motorcycles. The marchers were led by members of NSU’s Alpha Phi Alpha chapter. Dr. King was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, joining as a graduate student in 1952 at Boston College. The Alphas were joined by members of NSU’s Kappa Alpha Psi, Delta Sigma Theta, Phi Beta Sigma and Zeta Phi Beta. The NSU Chapters of the NAACP and African American Caucus also marched as did Ms. Laura Lyles and several members of the Natchitoches Chamber of Commerce. NSU Head Football Coach Brad Laird led assistant coaches, graduate assistants and members of the NSU football team. They were joined by fellow athletes from NSU Track and Field. Natchitoches Mayor Ronnie Williams and Parish President John Richmond marched as well. The march ended at the Dr. Martin Luther King Triangle Park where the brothers of NSU’s Alpha Phi Alpha chapter laid a wreath at Dr. King’s memorial and sang a hymn. NSU’s Lifted Voices Choir than gave a truly impressive vocal performance. Natchitoches Mayor Ronnie Williams and Parish President John Richmond each spoke of Dr. King’s legacy and accomplishments. As the march ended, the participants went to the newly reopened Legacy Café to enjoy lunch. The event was organized by the City of Natchitoches and the Northwestern State University Center for Inclusion & Diversity.

The photo album is unlocked all of the marchers and their families are welcome to any photos they wish.

State Health Department Confirms First Case of U.K. COVID Variant in Louisiana

The Louisiana Department of Health confirmed on Jan. 16, the state’s first identified case of the COVID-19 variant, SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7., frequently referred to as the U.K. variant because it is prevalent in the United Kingdom, in an individual in the Greater New Orleans area.

This variant spreads more easily from one person to another than other viral strains currently circulating in the United States, though It has not been shown to cause more severe disease. Health experts believe current COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the variant strain.

“LDH has confirmed the state’s first case of the more contagious COVID-19 variant that has been identified in the United Kingdom, and it is urgent that everyone double down on the mitigation measures that we know are effective in reducing the spread of the virus,” said Gov. Edwards. “It was always a matter of time before this new strain of the virus would reach Louisiana, which is why our state health experts have been monitoring cases and working with the CDC to prepare. There is no such thing as taking this too seriously. Our case counts and hospitalizations are increasing daily and deaths from COVID have reached an alarming rate. I implore everyone to wear a mask, avoid people and places that are not implementing the mask mandate, social distance, wash your hands frequently and do not go around anyone if you are sick. Even with the vaccines available, controlling our behavior with the measures that are proven to help keep us safe is our best defense against spreading this virus to our family, friends and throughout our communities.”

The Department conducted a case investigation and contact tracing to identify, inform and monitor anyone who was in close contact with the individual, who has a reported history of travel outside of Louisiana. However, the variant strain has been detected in at least 15 other states and is likely circulating in Louisiana as well.

Because this variant strain is more contagious, it is more important than ever that Louisianans:

Wear masks,
Wash hands,
Practice distancing,
Avoid gatherings,
Stay home when sick,

Quarantine and get tested if exposed to a positive case, and when it is your turn, consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Department has been preparing for this variant strain by participating in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national SARS-CoV-2 Strain Surveillance Program and has been sending bi-weekly samples to the CDC for sequencing since November 2020. The State Public Health Laboratory is also working with clinical laboratories throughout Louisiana to conduct targeted surveillance for suspect variant strains.


State Health Department Confirms First Case of U.K. COVID Variant in Louisiana

Student Gamers’ Guild brings NSU campus to world of Minecraft

Students, faculty and staff are teaming up to bring the Northwestern State University campus to the world of Minecraft.

Jayce Gentry, president of the NSU Gamer’s Guild, a student organization made of people who enjoy playing a variety of video and card games, explains that Minecraft is a PC game where you can build anything you want.

“Think of it like Legos but in a video game,” said Gentry, a junior computer information systems major with a concentration in cyber security from Belmont.

“The game got a huge spike in popularity around 2012 and is now one of the most popular games of all time. Tons of people play it to build anything from skyscrapers to pirate ships or anything else they can come up with.”

Gentry said there are two modes in Minecraft: survival, which is a more objective-driven experience where you beat the game by slaying a dragon, and creative, in which one can build as much as you want. The game set on NSU’s campus in creative mode for easy building.

Last year, Gentry started creating the Minecraft building of Roy Hall, which houses campus Information Technology Services offices. A lunch with a co-worker got the project going.

“I was telling one of my co-workers Josh Garner about what I was doing,” said Gentry. “He remarked that it would be a cool idea to get all of Gamers’ Guild involved and do the entire campus, and I just fell in love with the idea the moment I heard it.”

Gentry then spoke with the officers of the Gaming Guild.

“We all agreed this would be an amazing opportunity, especially with the COVID-19 Pandemic going on,” said Gentry. “It would be an easy way for any students, even ones off campus, to check out what NSU has to offer from anywhere in the world.”

According to Gentry, creating the campus fits into the game by giving NSU students a landscape to build their favorite parts of the campus.

“It’s a way for people to express themselves and let out their creativity in a fun way with their friends and other students,” said Gentry.

So far, four campus buildings have been created. Gentry hopes to have the entire campus done by the end of 2021. Anyone can sign on right now and check out the world by going to mc.nsula.edu in the Minecraft server address bar in the game. The world is only on Java Edition (PC) at the moment.

Gentry thanked NSU Chief Technology Officer Tracy Brown for providing the Gamer’s Guild with server space to host their world. He also thanked Associate Professor of Computer Information Systems Dr. Eddie Horton and Information Technology Services staff Shawn Parr, Thomas O’Rourke and Heath Fitts for helping with the security and server setup. Gentry said Gamer’s Guild officers James Stanfield and Evan White have been responsible for maintaining the server on Gamers’ Guild’s behalf and fellow Guild officers Tai Fletcher, Chloe Johnson, Ian Gentry and Jordan Mulsow were involved in the planning.

“The fact Information Technology Services was willing to help Gamers’ Guild with this is really cool, and just goes to show how much NSU’s faculty cares for student activities,” said Gentry. “Without them, this would’ve been way harder to accomplish.”

Building is coordinated in their discord server at https://nsula.gg/discord. Gentry encourages anyone who is interested to join in and reach out to him for how to assist.

Gov. Edwards Issues Statement on the Inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

Gov. John Bel Edwards traveled to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 18 and will attend the Inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris this week, representing the state of Louisiana at the ceremonial transition of power from one administration to the next.
Gov. Edwards said:

“Less than two weeks ago, our United States Capitol was besieged by a riotous mob determined to prevent Congress from performing its constitutional duty to count electoral college votes certified by the states. Their insurrectionist actions were patently un-American and mark one of the most shameful days in our country’s history.

But after great darkness comes the light. Congress did count and certify the electoral college votes, and on Wednesday, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will become our nation’s president and vice president. I congratulate them again on their victory, and I am proud to represent the people of Louisiana at this historic inauguration. This ceremony will mark a chance for a fresh start, new energy and bold leadership to overcome the many significant challenges facing our country.

The challenges seem insurmountable some days – the pandemic, racial inequalities, a struggling economy, rampant misinformation and deep divisions in our communities, to name a few. And while it will not be easy to unite our country, that should never deter us from always working to do better, to be better.

I renew my commitment to my fellow Louisianans and my fellow Americans to continue working with the White House and the new President and Vice President to improve our state and our nation. Louisiana has struggled much over the past year, but our people are kind, strong and resilient, and there is no task too big for us to tackle if we put aside our differences and work together.

I look forward to working with President-elect Biden, and I especially congratulate Kamala Harris, who as Vice President-elect, is the living embodiment of the dreams and aspirations of countless Americans, particularly women and people of color, who have long fought for equality and a seat at the table.

I am grateful for the close working relationship I have had with the Trump administration, especially throughout the multiple natural disasters our state has faced. Hurricane recovery, in addition to the COVID-19 response, is ongoing, and I have already begun working with President-elect Biden’s administration to ensure that these important issues remain a priority.

I am also grateful to all of the people working to keep the Inauguration safe, from law enforcement to members of the National Guard, and especially the 174 members of Louisiana’s National Guard who volunteered to protect our nation’s capital to ensure the peaceful transfer of power. They are our nation’s unsung heroes and real patriots.

In Louisiana, we have been in touch with federal, state and local officials about warnings of planned protests in Louisiana and, while so far no violence or lawlessness has occurred at protests in Louisiana, we are prepared and will respond as necessary.”

Xavier faculty member to highlight work of African-American composers

Dr. Aaron Mathews of Xavier University of Louisiana will deliver a lecture/recital on African-American composers at Northwestern State University on Thursday, Jan. 28. He will speak to and play for Northwestern State students at 5 p.m. and the general public at 7:30 p.m. as part of the Louisiana Piano Series International. Admission to the 5 p.m. event is free. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. lecture/recital are $15. The audience is limited to 72 at each lecture/recital with masks and social distancing required.

Northwestern State Assistant Professor of Piano Dr. John Price and Associate Professor of Piano Dr. Francis Yang are co-directors of the of the Louisiana Piano Series International.

Mathews is an assistant professor of piano and artist-in-residence at Xavier University. His former faculty positions were at Allen University and Viterbo University. Mathews has performed extensively as a soloist and collaborative pianist with vocalists, choral and chamber ensembles across the United States and abroad.

In his lecture-recitals and workshops, he curates and analyzes an extensive list of Black classical composers and their piano works to heighten the awareness of Black cultures, pedagogical styles and techniques, and to expand the standard repertoire of classical music.

Mathews has also served as a liturgical musician for over 20 years and has composed several sacred choral and piano works, including his upcoming “Mass for Sister Thea Bowman.” He currently serves as the Project Director for “A New Pentecost: A Liturgical Music Planning Resource for Black Catholic Parishes,” sponsored by the Office of Black Catholics in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Mathews earned his D.M.A. in Piano Pedagogy from the University of South Carolina, his M.M. in Piano Pedagogy from Georgia State University, and his B.A. in Piano Performance from Morehouse College.

Spirit of Northwestern members take part in virtual college marching band show

The Spirit of Northwestern Marching Band was well represented in a virtual college marching band show that debuted during the College Football Playoff National Championship game earlier this week.

Seventeen members of the band took part including members of the Demon Dazzlers who were prominently featured during the video that is available at https://www.facebook.com/intercollegiatemb.

Participants from the Spirit of Northwestern were drum majors Jacob St. Pierre of Laplace, Chloe Farrar of Bossier City, and Abby Kent of Benton, Ben Wilkinson of Bossier City on trumpet, Eric Renova of Mesquite, Texas, on clarinet, Daniel Scott of Benton on saxophone, Austin Pierre of Gray on tenor drums and Caroline Shephard of Frisco, Texas on bass drum. Those taking part from the Colorguard are Alissa Joseph of Pineville, Treyvin Aucoin of Rayne, Katherine Greenmun of Ragley and Faith Wilson and Cameron Kelly of Prairieville. Demon Dazzlers in the video were Alphonse Engram of DeRidder, Sarah Talbot of Baton Rouge, John Jefferson of Shreveport and Ashley Henry of Slidell.

They joined nearly 1,500 performers from 200 collegiate marching bands in 45 states to form the College Band Directors National Association Intercollegiate Marching Band. This unique project combined college marching bands from different confer­ences, regions and styles in a single performance. The band performed “End of Time” by Beyonce. The performance showcased all of the unique aspects of a college halftime show including musicians, drum majors, color guard members, dancers and majorettes.


Health Department: 298 vaccine providers in all 64 parishes will receive COVID vaccine this week

These providers – including 150 chain pharmacies, 112 independent pharmacies, 19 federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), 3 rural health clinics (RHCs), and an additional 14 healthcare sites – represent all nine public health regions and 64 parishes of the state.

While the state was able to resupply the majority of providers that received COVID vaccine doses last week, future distribution is dependent on vaccine made available to the state, among other factors. To stress, there is no guarantee that providers receiving vaccine this week will receive vaccine in the future.

These vaccines will be available only for those in Phase 1B, Tier 1:
Persons ages 70 years or older
Outpatient clinic providers and clinic staff
Urgent care clinic providers and staff
Community care clinic providers and staff
Behavioral health clinic providers and staff
Dialysis providers and clients
Home health service providers, direct support workers and recipients including people with disabilities over 16
Dental providers and staff
Ambulatory care providers and staff, including members of coroner, autopsy, or mortuary teams.
Students, residents, faculty and staff of allied health schools
Participating providers must make available vaccine available to anyone who is eligible. Failure to do so will inform future decisions about distribution.

LDH has published the list of participating providers, along with their locations and contact information, on its website: covidvaccine.la.gov.

In addition, residents can call 211 to find a vaccine provider near them.

Eligible residents must contact a participating provider and make an appointment with them. Patients who arrive without an appointment will not be vaccinated. Do not arrive at a location without an appointment. LDH cannot make appointments for patients; only providers can.

The Louisiana Department of Health is coordinating the COVID-19 vaccine distribution effort in Louisiana. As more vaccines become available from the CDC, more individuals and groups will be offered a vaccination.

We want everyone to have the opportunity to get vaccinated against COVID. We are confident that COVID-19 vaccines will be a critical tool in ultimately ending the pandemic.

Northwestern State’s Harry, McDuffie take gold to lead impressive group at Texas A&M

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Despite not competing for more than 10 months and having to duke it out with top programs in a condensed Ted Nelson Invitational, the Northwestern State track and field program didn’t show signs of rust Saturday.

Kie’Ave Harry led a deep group of men’s sprinters as NSU impressed in short distances.

Harry snatched the 60 meters crown to pace three NSU runners in the top four before three Demons placed in the top five in the 200 meters.

In the 60 meters, Tre’Darius Carr and Brandon Letts finished third and fourth at 6.82 while Javin Arrington placed made the final and placed seventh (6.89).

Letts’ 6.82 tied a personal best.

“The men’s sprints group did work today, and we expect big things from this group that didn’t have a great indoor season last year,” said NSU coach Mike Heimerman. “Kie’Ave Harry had the best season opener that he’s had, and a lot of guys did great things today.

“I could go down the list of every male sprinter we had, and they either had a career best or a season opening best, so they really did well. (Associate head coach Adam Pennington) does a great job with those guys, and they want to show that they are the dominant group in the Southland Conference.”

The Demons went three-four-five in the 200 meters with newcomer Destine Scott sounding the charge with a 21.46 to win his heat. Carr (21.56) finished just behind Scott while Kennedy Harrison took his heat at 21.66.

The success continued in the men’s 4×400 relay where the Demons placed third (3:17.81). The quartet of Harrison, Aggrey, Scott and Dejon Blake edged one Texas A&M team and nearly eclipsed second-place Arizona State (finished two seconds ahead).

NSU put together a solid showing individually in the 400 with Scott taking fourth place (winning his heat at 48.36) and freshman Ebenezer Aggrey finishing eighth (48.87).

“We have multiple freshman like (Aggrey) that have never run on a banked track before, and he didn’t look like a freshman today,” Heimerman said. “We had a lot of people like Scott running two or three or four events, sometimes close together, and they did extremely well considering we haven’t competed in so long.”

Thrower Kristin McDuffie didn’t let NSU sprinters have all the fun, cruising to a weight throw win and nearly set a new personal best at 56-6. The mark crushed the 10-person field, which included one Texas A&M thrower and seven Southland Conference members, by more than four feet. The senior was six inches shy of her career best.

“That’s Kristin’s first-ever win, and every throw she made could have won the meet,” Heimerman said. “She knows what it feels like to make good throws, and she should get even better as the season goes along.”

Freshman Hayden Barrios splashed onto the pole vault scene and jumped right over his father Chad in the NSU record books.

Barrios cleared 16-1.25, NSU’s second-best mark ever (including dad’s mark of 16-0), to place seventh.

“He’s a heck of a worker, and he’ll own the school record as a true freshman,” Heimerman said.

The meet, which didn’t feature team scoring, was reduced to six teams and one day because of COVID-19. Host Texas A&M and Arizona State were joined by Southland Conference members Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston and Sun Belt Conference entry UT Arlington.

Lynell Washington certainly didn’t show any rust, blazing a 7.50 to place third in the 60 meters. She just missed her own school record by .06, which she set in her first indoor season. Newcomer Aarika Lister made the finals and finished seventh with a 7.66.

“We thought Lynell was going to win it but she faltered a little bit at the end,” Heimerman said. “She’s going to run fast regardless, and that’s really just her fourth or fifth collegiate meet.

“Lister came close to personal bests herself, and we know this group will be very good as well.”

Lister combined with Jayla Fields in the 200 meters to finish fourth (24.87) and fifth (24.97), respectively. The versatile Fields added an eighth-place mark in the long jump (17-8.75).

Janiel Moore made room for herself in a crowded 60 hurdles field, taking fourth with an 8.68.

Freshman Alexus Harris burst onto the scene in her collegiate debut, winning her 400 meters heat (57.75) and placed fifth overall. Erin Wilson (58.43) also won her heat and came in sixth.

Payten Vidourek topped his best mile, placing seventh with a 4:21.84.

Olivia Sipes set a new personal record in the 800 meters (2:20.89), besting her previous mark by nearly three seconds to finish seventh overall and second in her heat.

The Lady Demons showcased its deep class of pole vaulters as Reagan Darbonne (12-4) captured fourth place in her first competition since her 2019 All-America performance at the NCAA Outdoor National Championships. Arkansas transfer Parish Kitto (12-4) finished fifth with Annemarie Broussard (11-10) coming in eighth. Freshman vaulters Madison Brown (11-4.25) and Karlyn Trahan (10-10.25) each cleared bars in their first meets.

Freshman thrower Briana Washington started off the day with a seventh-place showing in the shot put (41-1.75).

“We really can’t complain about anything today,” Heimerman said. “With all of the precautions like wearing masks, different check-ins and all that, they did everything we asked them to do.”

NSU returns to action Jan. 29 at LSU’s Louisiana Invitational.

CREDIT: Mike Wade Photography

Notice of Death – January 18, 2021

Carla Phillips
January 18, 2021
Arrangements TBA

Deacon George Harris
January 15, 2021
Service: Saturday, January 23 at 1 pm at the Greenville Baptist Church in Clarence

Carolyn Jones Jackson
January 15, 2021
Arrangements TBA

Rebecca Walker
January 15, 2021
Arrangements TBA

Ryan Matthew Braud
July 05, 1983 – January 12, 2021
Service: Tuesday, January 19 at 11 am at the Blanchard-St. Denis Funeral Home

Rodney P. Hoover of Natchitoches, Louisiana
June 28, 1967 – January 16, 2021
Arrangements TBA

Phillip Lyons
January 13, 2021
Arrangements TBA

Brandon Bernard McHenry
December 7, 1988 – January 13, 2021
Arrangements TBA

Tiffanie Lynn Wells
August 19, 1975 – January 16, 2021
Service: Tuesday, January 19 at 10 am at First Baptist Church of Fort Jesup


The Ben D. Johnson Educational Center will participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration’s March for Justice and Peace, organized by the City of Natchitoches and the Northwestern State University Center for Inclusion & Diversity.

On January 18th at 11am, marchers will assemble at the NSU Campus on the corner of University Parkway and Caspari street. The march begins at noon and ends at the Legacy Café where lunch will be available for purchase.

The purposes of this march are to recognize the works of Dr. Martin Luther King, and promote justice and peace in the community. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.” Participation in this march speaks to the BDJ Centers commitment to the pursuit of justice and peace for all in the City of Natchitoches.

On Monday, January 18th, The Ben D. Johnson Educational Center is re-opening the Legacy Café located at 441 North Street. The Café is the social enterprise business of the Ben D. Johnson Educational Center and the hands-on training environment for participants in the Legacy Youth Workforce Development Program. The LYWDP serves young adults ages 17-24 who are out of work and school. Participants learn culinary and life skills while receiving support in removing barriers from their path to successful employment. The next cohort is being recruited and classes are scheduled to start in February.

Claire Prymus, Founder and Board Chair, “We are pleased to support young people in Natchitoches as they build life skills and pursue sustainable employment. We appreciate all the support from the community to keep these programs going.”

Natchitoches Parish Technical and Career Center: Testing Letter

Dear Parent/Guardian,

Your child is expected to participate in Leap 2025 state testing. Leap 2025 is a standardized test required by the state for students to test in grades 9th-12th. If your child is in an English, Algebra, Geometry, U.S. History, or Biology class, he/she will participate in testing. This test is NOT optional. Since your child is a virtual student, he/she will be testing January 15th, January 22nd, and January 25th. He/she will complete one test session per day. All tests will begin promptly at 8:00 AM, so it is very important for your child to arrive on time. Any student that is late will not be allowed to interrupt testing once it begins. It is also imperative for students to put forth their best effort as the results directly affect their possibility for graduation. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call to the school.

Thank you,

Bobby Benjamin
NPTCC Principal

Stephanie Sewell
NPTCC Testing Coordinator

Chelsea Calhoun
NPTCC School Counselor

Natchitoches Lions Club supports Louisiana Lions Camp

Natchitoches Lions Club presented a check for $900 to the Louisiana Lions Camp. Pictured are Mimi Stoker, Executive Director of Lions Camp, Ray Cecil and Michele Waskom. Mimi and Michele are both members of the Natchitoches Lions Club and serve on the Board of Directors for the Camp. Lions Camp located near Leesville is a camp dedicated to the needs of handicapped children. Campers attend at no cost.