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William ‘Bill’ Rouselle: Maintaining a legacy of purposeful change

27th February 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Nayita Wilson
The Louisiana Weekly

Few would argue that it’s not how you start but how you finish, and understandably so. Yet there remains a distinct attribute or defining moment in everyone’s formative stage that has the potential to chart one’s course for life—if recognized and accepted.

William “Bill” Rouselle seized his moment in 1968 on a night that was personally trailblazing, universally somber and equally pivotal and historic. On April 4, 1968, Rouselle paid an evening visit to WDSU-TV to get acclimated to the set as the station’s and New Orleans’ first African-American television reporter.

“It just happened to be the night Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed,” Rouselle recalls.


To this day, Rouselle, a former Xavier University student body president, can vividly retell how news wire reports surrounding the King tragedy and subsequent rioting in cities like Chicago and Detroit poured into the station like clockwork that night. He also remembers how a police officer asked the station’s news director not to report the rioting in other cities that night to prevent similar reactions from New Orleans residents. The news director yielded.

“So my first night in the news station was watching censorship,” Rouselle told The Louisiana Weekly.

“I guess I experienced something that kind of shaped the rest of my life,” said Rouselle, who from that point forward made a personal commitment to ensure that people have access to information. That commitment remains evident in Rouselle’s more than 40 years of leading public relations and community-organizing initiatives that have focused on racial equality, desegregation, voting, politics, education and rebuilding New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina.

Throughout his career, Rouselle has worked for the City of New Orleans, the Free Southern Theatre, Parent Community Alliance and Black Collegian magazine.

In 1984, he and his business partner Kalamu ya Salaam founded Bright Moments, Inc., which provides public relations, marketing and advertising services. The two established the company to continue their media relations work on civil rights matters. Today, the company is focusing heavily on community organizing and rebuilding New Orleans in areas such as education and health care under Rouselle’s leadership.

Of his many professional and community contributions, Rou­selle said one of his most inspiring moments came in the 1970s when the late civil rights advocate Oretha Castle Haley helped to cultivate his community-organizing niche around issues of racial equality.

During that time, there was an effort to have a Black person elected to Council District B, so Rouselle and others organized an election system to let Black voters decide their preferred candidate for the seat. The Rev. A.L. Davis won preference and later became the first Black council member for that district.

Rouselle said that experience and Haley taught him how to secure community buy-in through honesty and straightforwardness. “It wasn’t about you—it was about getting them (community members) to the point where they could lead themselves,” Rouselle told The Louisiana Weekly. “At the end of the day, it’s about organizing people to get things done.”

That lesson has guided Rouselle throughout his endeavors as a business owner, leader in the Black community and as proponent for change.

“I’m passionate about having a society that’s truly just and fair with people—particularly my people. I grew up in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement,” he said. “I believe that change is not only necessary, but it’s the one constant.”

Rouselle, 65, is a lifelong resident of New Orleans where he resides with his wife of 22 years, Ethel Rouselle. The couple has three children.

This article was originally published in the February 27, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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