Director of Operations at the Whitney Plantation Museum
For all of us, life has changed. Our usual daily routines have been suspended, and there is much fear and uncertainty in the world right now. Here in southern Louisiana we are not strangers to our lives being upended by unpredictable forces to which we have no defense.
The Whitney Plantation Museum is located in a parish in Louisiana where many of its residents have dealt with this type of uncertainty for generations. The realities of high poverty, high unemployment, and environmental racism have been a constant, and the effect of these issues on the health of its residents has been devastating. Cancer and diabetes plague this community, leaving them with low defenses for COVID-19.
Before this pandemic, we were excited for this year of growth. We are currently a staff of 20 dedicated museum workers, of which the majority are descendants from this area.
The necessity for social distancing to slow the spread of this virus has forced us to close our doors, and our projected revenue loss will be great. However, we are fortunate to be able to continue to pay our entire staff their full salaries through this closure. Most of our employees, including myself, are now the only individuals in our families that are bringing in an income during this crisis.
If our mission is to educate the public on the history and legacies of chattel slavery, do we not have a great responsibility to the descendants of this history whose story has led to the success of our organization?
These times are tough, and we are having to make many sacrifices. However, we are keeping our spirits high and are looking to the history of resilience and community to guide us through this time.
Yvonne Therese Holden
Director of Operations
Whitney Plantation Museum