Message to the People – How we killed Louis Coleman

Louis Coleman, one of Louisville’s greatest freedom fighters, was buried a few weeks ago. Make no mistake, he was not a favorite son. He was not the most beloved fellow to walk the city’s streets. He was not a man who brought comfort to wrongdoers. He was not easily appeased.

Louis Coleman was a reverend, but he did not pastor the largest church. He did not have much money, drive fancy cars or wear fine clothes. In fact, he wasn’t dapper at all. He wasn’t very refined, tall, sexy or overwhelmingly handsome. Just a plain old pot-bellied street fighter.

Come to think of it, a lot of folk didn’t like Louis very much. Fact is, the man was a damn irritant. He talked too much. He was always marching around protesting and doing inappropriate things. He wouldn’t put that damn bullhorn away and he kept company with other crazy people. 

He was stuck in the past — just wouldn’t let Louisville get over that race crap. Racism’s dead! Didn’t he know there were well-to-do Negroes now? Didn’t he know there were dark folks living in exclusive neighborhoods? Hadn’t he heard of Oprah? Hell, a brown fellow is even the odds-on favorite to be the next president. So, what the hell is this guy complaining about? Troublemaker. Poverty pimp. Race baiter. Hustler. Excuse maker. Nigger!

We didn’t like Louis Coleman very much. Be honest. Admit it! We didn’t like him … so we killed him.

Yes, I said WE! That’s right — you, you, you over there, you, you and me. WE killed him. You there. Yes you, Coward. You killed Louis with your lack of courage. You knew things were wrong, but you never said or did anything because you were scared. You sat in the shadows, complained and waited for Louis to act. You never said a word. You left it all to him. His burdens grew because of you.

You there, Selfish Bastard. You killed Louis with your embryo complex. You think the world revolves around you and never would have anything to do with Louis until something happened to you. Then you sought him out and enlisted his aid. He gave it to you, of course. He did what he could with a smile. It doesn’t matter whether he won or lost your case. The only thing that matters is he gave his help to you when you didn’t deserve it. You burdened him a little bit more.

You there, Bourgeois Negro! Yeah, you. You know who you are. You killed Louis with your escapism. You felt like everything in the world was all right because you were doing OK, so you blamed the suffering masses for their struggles. You were too good for Louis and his ilk. You had “arrived.” Oh yes, you’re good. You have your luxury cars, diamond rings, designer suits, mega-churches and even more mega- egos. You didn’t need Louis. In your world, he created problems. Your condemnation weighed heavily on him.

You there, yes you — Racist. You killed Louis Coleman with the injection of your never-ending poison into the world. I don’t care if you wear a white sheet or a white dress shirt and tie — you’re a murderer. Louis knew you were still there, even though a ton of folks, black and white, wanted to deny your existence so they could feel a little more comfortable. Sleep well. He’s gone now. Damn you. 

Don’t think you’re getting away. Yeah, you — Apathetic Bench-Rider. You killed Louis with your lethargic approach to struggle. You were all too cool with saying to yourself, “Damn, that’s messed up. The Rev. Coleman will handle it.” You know what? You were right, he did handle it … until it killed him. So yes, you were in on it, too.

I saw all of you at Louis’ funeral. Each and every one of you. You, me and the others … killers all. I kept waiting for Police Chief Robert White to stand up and arrest us. We all would have deserved it.

Remember, until next time — have no fear, stay strong, stand on truth, do justice and do not leave the people in the hands of fools. 

Dr. Ricky L. Jones is associate professor of Pan-African Studies at U of L and author of “What’s Wrong with Obamamania?” Visit him at