While billionaires publicly pledged hundreds of millions of euros in support of the restoration of the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, a crowdfunding campaign to rebuild three Black Louisiana churches that were destroyed in arson attacks has skyrocketed. The campaign’s GoFundMe total spiked from just below $50,000 on Sunday to above $1.3 million today.
The St. Mary Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church, and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in St. Landry Parish in Southern Louisiana were all consumed in fires in the span of 10 days between late March and early April. The three Baptist churches, regarded as pillars of the local Black community, were reduced to rubble. This week, prosecutors arrested Holden Matthews, the 21-year-old son of a local sheriff deputy, charging him with of arson of a religious building and hate crimes.
The spike in donations came after journalist Yashar Ali asked his Twitter followers on Tuesday to match his donation to the GoFundMe campaign. In his tweet, Ali linked the ample funding of the Notre-Dame reconstruction (nearly $1 billion in donations) and the Louisiana churches’s dire need for help.
A number of influential journalists, actors and politicians answered Ali’s call and helped make the campaign go viral. The list includes Megyn Kelly, Jake Tapper, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, Kristen Davis, Busy Philips, Seth Meyers, and others. However, The largest donation came from philanthropist Robert F. Smith, who donated $50,000.
The GoFundMe campaign was started by the Seventh District Baptist Association last week. The association had initially set a goal of $600,000, but upon realizing that the churches had limited insurance and that they will face higher expenses due to stricter building codes imposed after Hurricane Katrina, the amount was tripled it to $1.8 million. Greater Union Baptist Church was also paying down a mortgage taken out for a recent renovation. “They’re a long way from full recovery, but the generosity of the people seems to be speaking volumes,” the association’s president, Freddie Jack, told the New York Times.