If you don’t know who Lance Hill is, you've missed out. No one did more to turn back the hate politics unleashed by David Duke’s Louisiana electoral campaigns in the early 1990s than Lance Hill. He produced the research and the media resource packets that enabled deadline-harried journalists to disrobe Duke’s fraudulent conversion from Klan-based neo-Nazism to conservative respectability. During that difficult period he spearheaded the formation—and directed—the interfaith and interracial federal PAC, the Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism. The Coalition (according to The New York Times) bluntly defined Duke’s image for the rest of the nation, while mounting an advertising blitz and grassroots mobilization that helped defeat Duke in his face off with Edwin Edwards in the 1991 governor’s election. Afterwards Lance formed and directed the non-profit Southern Institute for Education and Research. Over a 25-year span, the Institute has trained more than 4,000 Deep South teachers in how to use the lessons of the Holocaust to teach tolerance.
Lance Hill has lived those lessons. During Katrina he and his wife Eileen refused to evacuate New Orleans. Instead Lance slapped a press corps sticker on his car’s windshield, donned a “relief worker’s” get-up, then ran a gauntlet of state policemen to deliver water and baby formula to New Orleanians stranded in the Convention Center.
And I haven’t even mentioned his critically acclaimed book on the Black self-defense group, the Deacons for Defense, among other publications.
It’s a remarkable legacy of social justice activism and scholarship stretching back more than thirty years.
Like many social justice activists, however, the cause rather than his bank account was foremost with Lance. When the Southern Institute following Katrina saw a sharp drop in its revenue, Lance slashed his salary to help the Institute regain its footing. As a result, his retirement funds are limited, his monthly social security payment minimal. Today his situation has become dire because of failing health.
In the fall of 2014 Lance underwent back surgery. For thirteen hours he was under general anesthesia. He’s never recovered. In fact, his condition has worsened to the point he is no longer able to work and draw a salary. Lance is suffering from bouts of dementia that require the services of a neuro-psychiatrist. But his Medicare provider doesn’t cover those services. He requires new medications for delaying memory loss and for depression and anxiety attacks. But those drugs are extremely expensive due to high co-pays. Even with a walker, Lance has trouble walking and has fallen a number of times. He is a big man, weighs 275 pounds. His wife Eileen, who has suffered strokes and is hampered by spinal stenosis, weighs only 125 pounds. More than once she’s had to call 9-1-1 merely to get him lifted off the ground and carried to a hospital.
Our goal is to raise enough money to defray the cost of some of Lance’s uninsured medical care, to help pay for his costly co-pays, and to finance part-time home healthcare. The alternative is to institutionalize him in a nursing home, which no one wants to do.
The social justice community has always taken care of its own. One of our dedicated warriors now needs our help. I’m setting a goal of $40,000 for this campaign, although I’m hoping we shoot past that target. The sum will not answer all of Lance and Eileen’s needs going forward. But the financial and health benefits will be real, tangible, and immediate. Most of all, they will provide them the spiritual sustenance of knowing that friends still care and are on their side.
Lawrence N. Powell Read Latest Update
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