Family, And Community Gather to Honor African American Museum Founder, Activist Sadie Roberts Joseph
By Stephanie Anthony
Prior to officially meeting her, I had seen Sadie Roberts Joseph around but I didn't have the opportunity to have a conversation with her until she was running for congress. I surveyed her with curiosity. Veteran Baton Rouge community activist Annie Smart had taken the same bold move years. But here is this little woman wearing high heels, appearing to be taller as she was very petite. She had a mini afro and she spoke just above a whisper. She had a big toothy smile and she spoke with intelligence and I could tell she had a passion for her community. She was a woman of vision. She was a missionary.
She did not serve as a government official but she went on to tirelessly serve the people. She raised her soothing voice in countless meetings, forums, and summits on race, crime, education, equity, and transportation.
Ms. Sadie had a passion for history, children and storytelling. We shared a love of Kwanzaa. She helped develop a large Kwanzaa celebration with Afrocentric Focus/Maat on the Southern University Baton Rouge campus, while I held a yard program for kids. Sadie would arrive early with a large sack, to gather pamphlets and booklets which we all knew would be on display at one of her programs. In actuality, this was a compliment, as she was hungry for good information to share with others. Sadie rushed around town picking up and dropping off tidbits of information with a big wide smile, and grace.
I never heard her say an ill word about anyone. If she did, she didn't say it to me. She would quickly tell me about some upcoming important activity and inquire about getting it in the Baton Rouge Weekly Press Newspaper or WTQT- Radio Station which I was affiliated with for decades.
She loved sporting her African apparel in her everyday life and back in 2007 when I lamented at loosing my whole collection in Hurricane Gustave she reassured me in a way that only a fellow sister of the culture could. Sadie rarely talked about herself but she made you feel you knew everything about her. People thought of her as a neighbor no matter where they lived. You expected to see her wave and smile and it was as if you had a whole conversation rather than a passing hello.
While Baton Rouge in particular and the state of Louisiana as a whole prepared for Hurricane Berry on the afternoon of July 12th someone suffocated the life out of Sadie and put her little body in the trunk of her car. The police investigation is has concluded and the culprit has been found however the city is in outrage. Those who knew her are frozen in disbelieve that this could happen in a town she held so dear. National news outlets as well as local and regional are focused on what happened and why.
The first Facebook post regarding Sadie's death came from State Representative C. Denise Marcelle. FB friends close and obscure commented on their shock. Rev. Raymond Jetson came out of retirement to post the words from the R&B group The Spinners song Sadie, “Sweeter than Cotton Candy”.
Baton Rouge NAACP president Eugene Collins called for justice. State Representative Pat Smith appealed for Sadie's family. Judge John Michale Guidry urged the community to remember her life rather than her tragic death.
Sadie was a woman of peace and pride. Before Martin Luther King's Day was a holiday she petitioned that this Noble Peace Prize winner and assassinated leader be honored in this historic way. In a letter to the editor published by The Drum Newspaper in 2018, she explained how proud she was of Baton Rouge for answering the call for a Day of Peace in celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. and how for that small moment in time there were no killings in our community.
Sadie was born on April 30, 1944, in Mississippi but her family soon moved to Louisiana. As with many of us, Sadie was all too familiar with segregation but was not bitter. She was a founder of Citizens Against Drugs and Violence or CADAV. She held an annual Veterans Memorial Day service at the National Cemetery in Port Hudson. She was the mother of both a son and a daughter. Arrangements for her funeral services are expected to take place on Monday, July 22nd. Details will be forthcoming.