Jay Banks

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Jay Banks announces his candidacy for the District B seat on the New Orleans City Council on Tuesday morning at New Zion Baptist Church in Central City. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Jay Banks, the director of the Dryades YMCA School of Commerce and a recent king of the Krewe of Zulu, is a 2017 candidate for District B seat on the New Orleans City Council.

Contents

Personal life and career

Banks was born at the former Sara Mayo Hospital in 1960 to Gloria Bryant-Banks, one of the first African-American students to enroll in Tulane University's Graduate School of Social Work in 1963[1], and J. Herbert Banks III. He attended Henry W. Allen elementary school and Eleanor McMain Magnet Secondary School, then went on to receive his Bachelor's of Science Degree from Dillard University in Business Administration and his Master's of Arts Degree from Springfield College in Organizational Management.

Currently, Banks serves as the Director of the Dryades YMCA School of Commerce located in District B, a non-profit organization focused on providing practical programs such as nursing to the community.

No stranger to community organizing, Banks has an expansive background in political organizing[2] and even aided in the election of Dorothy Mae Taylor, the first African-American woman to serve in the Louisiana House of Representatives, to an at-large City Council seat in 1986 with a budget of only $50,000 and served as her Chief of Staff. During her tenure as City Councilwomen, Taylor went on to drive the legislation that forced the city’s Mardi Gras krewes to integrate. [3]

Other prominent political campaigns Banks served on include Rosalind Peychaud's victory in the 2002 election for the Louisiana State Legislature in which Peychaud was able to beat out Jalia Jefferson, the daughter of former Louisiana Senator William "Bill" Jefferson.

He also served as Chief of Staff in the office of former District B Councilman James Singleton, popularly known for his political involvement in the Black Organization for Leadership Development or BOLD political party, an organization in which Banks has also served as political director.[4] Banks described Singleton as his mentor, as well as the only person whose advice he values as much his mother’s. Singleton said his membership on the Louisiana Gaming Commission prevents him from offering an endorsement in the City Council race, but acknowledged their close personal relationship.

“He’s my son,” Singleton said to applause and laughter at a Banks campaign event[5]. “I’ll leave that right there.”

He is married to Artelia Bennet Banks and has two sons, Ryan and Garland.

Zulu Election

Zulu King Jay Banks waves to the St. Charles Avenue crowds. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Banks' transition from a political insider to a public figure Growing up in the 13th Ward of New Orleans, Banks aspired to be a Zulu King in his childhood where he shaved and decorated coconuts when District B local Henry "Bo" Berry was elected as Zulu King in 1971.

He became a member of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club in 2005 and, utilizing his political and organizing experience, made his first attempt to become Zulu King only five years after joining the organization. He earned a significant amount of neighborhood support but lost by 38 votes. He ran again in 2011 and 2012, in which he only lost by seven votes[6].

Though he took a break from running after the loss, Banks continued to participate on various committees in the organization and persisted. His organizing capacity shined through during the time leading up to the 2016 elections. Banks put together parties for the organization, reached out to members displaced by Hurricane Katrina and threw rallies in different Louisiana cities.

After running three times and losing by a narrow margin, Banks was elected king of the Krewe of Zulu in 2016.[7]

City Council Campaign 2017

Jay Banks clasps his hands as he receives a standing ovation from supporters after announcing his City Council campaign Tuesday morning. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

In January of 2017, Banks publicly acknowledged for the first time he was weighing the possibility of running for City council after receiving many calls from the community in light of District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell announcing she was considering running for mayor.[8]

“We have not made a final decision, but it’s certainly exciting that so many people in the community are interested in us doing that,” Banks said. “I’m very excited about the groundswell of support coming for this. I didn’t start this process, but it’s very exciting that so many people think I have the wherewithal to do this."[9]

In April, Banks called himself "99 percent sure" that he would run[10], then set his announcement on June 6, 2017, at at New Zion Baptist Church, more commonly known as the church where the Rev. Martin Luther King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the civil-rights era.[11] During the address, Banks spoke about his deep connections to the Uptown area and the District B community.[12]

“My entire life has been rooted in District B,” Banks told the crowd of nearly 100 people at the church. [13]

Banks was introduced by Darren Mire, president of the Black Organization for Leadership Development, which previously endorsed both Stacy Head and LaToya Cantrell, but opposed their predecessor Renee Gill Pratt and the associated William Jefferson political organization. He also received an invocation and endorsement from New Zion’s pastor, the Rev. C.S. Gordon, as well as praise from Singleton.[14]

Banks is running against former New Orleans School Board member Seth Bloom, urban developer Dr. Eric Johnson and community activist Timothy David Ray for the District B seat.

Policy positions

Banks’ announcement touched on two themes that will likely dominate most of the 2017 election city government elections — crime and economic development.

Crime | During the announcement, Banks argued for an increased focus on prevention while maintaining enforcement efforts against violent offenders.

“I do not believe that the long-term cure to our epidemic of crime can be achieved by arresting our way out of it. By the time the police and the courts are involved, in many instances, it’s too late,” Banks said. “If you talk to some of our young people, one of the most terrifying things that you will walk away with is that many of them have no hope. They do not see the possibility and do not believe that they can be successful."

“…It makes more sense to spend money to keep individuals out of the justice system than it does to spend money to keep them incarcerated,” Banks continued. “Now don’t get me wrong, violent offenders need to be locked up. Those individuals who commit crimes on persons must be dealt with harshly and I have no reservations about saying that, but keep in mind that most criminals don’t start off with violence. Let’s deal with them earlier rather than later.”[15]

Economic Development | Banks said the city should seek to continue welcoming new development while ensuring it does not take place at the expense of its longtime residents.

“Every citizen — no matter their race, their religion, their disability or their sexual orientation, including those who just got here and those who have been here for generations — should have the opportunity to benefit from all this new explosion of interest in Uptown,” Banks said. “We have to make sure that all our residents benefit or, at a minimum, are not displaced by the progress.”[16]

External Links

Notes

  1. Tulane University New Wave: "School of Social Work remembers its role in desegregation" May 28, 2013
  2. Uptown Messenger: If Cantrell runs for mayor, possible District B contenders include former school board member, Zulu king, and economic development specialist" Jan 13, 2017
  3. UptownMessenger.com: "Jay Banks launches City Council run: “My entire life has been rooted in District B”
  4. UptownMessenger.com: "Jay Banks launches City Council run: “My entire life has been rooted in District B”
  5. UptownMessenger.com: "Jay Banks launches City Council run: “My entire life has been rooted in District B”
  6. Nola.com:"Zulu King Jay H. Banks realizing dream of Mardi Gras reign," Feb 4, 2017
  7. UptownMessenger.com:"Zulu and Rex reign over the avenue as Mardi Gras comes to a close" Feb 9, 2016
  8. Uptown Messenger: If Cantrell runs for mayor, possible District B contenders include former school board member, Zulu king, and economic development specialist" Jan 13, 2017
  9. Uptown Messenger: If Cantrell runs for mayor, possible District B contenders include former school board member, Zulu king, and economic development specialist" Jan 13, 2017
  10. UptownMessenger.com:"District B City Council race draws another contender" April 13, 2017
  11. UptownMessenger.com:"Seth Bloom, Jay Banks both set dates for City Council campaign kickoffs" Jan 12, 2017
  12. UptownMessenger.com: "Jay Banks launches City Council run: “My entire life has been rooted in District B”
  13. UptownMessenger.com: "Jay Banks launches City Council run: “My entire life has been rooted in District B”
  14. UptownMessenger.com: "Jay Banks launches City Council run: “My entire life has been rooted in District B”
  15. UptownMessenger.com: "Jay Banks launches City Council run: “My entire life has been rooted in District B”
  16. UptownMessenger.com: "Jay Banks launches City Council run: “My entire life has been rooted in District B”
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