by Derrick Shepherd
Councilmember Oliver Thomas is the voice of Black New Orleans. He speaks the unvarnished truth and tells it like it really is. A beloved WBOK on-air personality and trusted member of the New Orleans City Council, New Orleanians can always count on Oliver to give them accurate information from the Black perspective while creating an opportunity for important community dialogue. New Orleans needs Oliver Thomas as a WBOK broadcaster and councilmember.
I was saddened and disappointed after reading an opinion column. The New Orleans Advocate’s attack piece was racially insensitive and clearly biased. It suggested that Oliver should not work at WBOK because he also serves on the New Orleans City Council. Nothing could be further from the truth. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives Oliver and every other citizen the right to freedom of speech. Denying Oliver his voice on the radio also denies each of you your voice. It also inhibits Oliver’s ability to support his family, including his young son Oliver Jr.
Many elected officials use the media to communicate with voters. Governor John Bel Edwards has a radio show on the Louisiana Radio Network. Other elected officials produce regular blog posts. Still others utilize Facebook, Twitter and Instagram each day to spread their messages. To suggest that Oliver would personally would benefit from a guest on his radio show is a slap in the face to the hard work Oliver has done to rebuild his life. And it suggests people don’t learn from their mistakes.
Oliver Thomas made history
Oliver Thomas’ recent election to the City Council District E was an historic moment. Born into a working class family in the 9th Ward, Oliver grew up on New Orleans playgrounds. He attended college on a basketball scholarship. Former NORD Coach and Councilmember Roy Glapion Sr. encouraged Oliver to enter public service.
Former Councilmember James Singleton mentored Oliver and excelled on Singleton’s staff. New Orleanians elected Oliver to the City Council District B and later Councilmember At Large. New Orleans East elected Oliver to transform the district. And he is now the only person elected to serve three different seats on the city council. Like many of us Oliver isn’t perfect. He made a mistake for which he served time in prison. But Oliver came home to start a new life and once again serve the community.
As a member of the City Council, Oliver Thomas is prepared to do great things for the residents of New Orleans East and the Lower 9th Ward. He knows government from the inside out and how to bring change. Working closely with Mayor LaToya Cantrell, Oliver will bring economic opportunity and jobs while improving the quality of life. He will work with NOPD Chief Shaun Ferguson to fight crime. He will use government incentives to attract restaurants and retail businesses to serve the families of the district. Oliver will work tirelessly on rebuilding streets and playgrounds. Also he will ensure that progress continues on the old Six Flags site and that the Lincoln Beach redevelopment moves forward. And he will partner with the district’s schools to ensure that every student is prepared for the future.
New Orleans needs Oliver Thomas. Let’s keep Oliver as a servant leader on the radio and on the City Council. I trust Oliver to do the right thing. And you should too.