On April 15, 2019, a devastating fire destroyed much of an international landmark, the 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.
The fire drew worldwide attention as global onlookers mourned the loss of the sacred historical building.
But on Mar. 26, April 2, and April 4, 2019, fires also hit three historically black churches of St. Landry Parish in and around the 16,000-strong town of Opelousas, near Lafayette, Louisiana. Unlike the Notre Dame blaze, these fires were set intentionally.
Many questioned why the Louisiana fires weren’t garnering as much attention and pointed to the successful GoFundMe campaign in support of rebuilding Notre Dame as proof.
Read on to learn more about the crowdfunding campaigns to rebuild the cathedral, and the newer campaign to rebuild all three Louisiana parishes.
Arson in Louisiana
The Louisiana arson case devastated locals and church leaders. 21-year-old Holden Matthews has been charged with arson and related crimes in the case.
The son of a sheriff’s deputy, Matthews had previously expressed white nationalist beliefs according to some sources, and the crime is believed by some to have been racially motivated.
Butch Browning, Louisiana Fire Marshall, and FBI agent Eric Rommal, who is assigned to the case, have not called the acts of arson hate crimes, but the investigation is still underway.
The crimes reminded many Louisiana locals of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, during which black churches had been burned.
The GoFundMe Campaign to the Rescue
Despite evoking quite a bit of sentiment from locals and church leaders, the GoFundMe campaign set up to rebuild the southern churches was initially not gaining much traction.
Meanwhile, the GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign aimed at rebuilding Notre Dame from the ashes of its own recent destruction quickly raised over $1 billion from donors.
Writer and activist Yahsar Ali tweeted about the Louisiana churches, pointing out this discrepancy and calling for donors’ generosity.
People flocked to the crowdfunding campaign in response. Now, the campaign has raised over $2 million, and rebuilding is slated to begin soon.