Gary Chambers Jr.’s first campaign ad was short and simple: The Louisiana Senate Candidate alone, in a park in New Orleans, sitting in a leather armchair, smoking a massive blunt. The ad landed him a wave of press, all of which, he told Rolling Stone, were part of an attempt to prove that the race to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. John Kennedy was “winnable.”
Now, Chambers is back with more fuel for the viral-marketing fire. In a new ad titled “Scars and Bars,” a first look at which was provided exclusively to Rolling Stone, he douses a Confederate battle flag in gasoline before lighting it on fire. The gesture makes for a striking image on its own, but like the first ad’s stark shots of Chambers smoking in New Orleans City Park, it’s accompanied by a voiceover monologue that pulls no punches.
“Here in Louisiana and all over the South, Jim Crow never really left,” Chambers says, before rattling off statistics about the inequities Black Americans face in his state and across the country. “Our system isn’t broken — it’s designed to do what it’s doing: produce measurable inequity.”
Chambers is no stranger to pushing back against the legacy of the Confederacy. One of his first brushes with public activism — and viral fame — came in 2020 when he delivered a fiery speech at a Baton Rouge school board meeting, castigating public officials who resisted changing the name of the former Robert E. Lee High School.
“I’m from North Baton Rouge, born and raised. It’s the majority Black side of town. I grew up middle class Black, and as I got older I started watching my community be divested in,” Chambers told Rolling Stone last month, describing his turn to social activism and politics.
Chambers said in a statement that he supports legislation that would accelerate compassionate release of federal prisoners over the age of 60, changes to the federal judiciary, national accountability standards for police, and other measures focused on eliminating structural disparities in American society. The statement added that he “fully supports” H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, which was introduced in the House last year by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas).
“Every single day, black people are faced with new challenges that make the American dream harder and harder to reach,” Chambers added. “It’s Black History Month, and as we celebrate the progress of the black community, we can’t ignore the oppressive parts of our history that continue to negatively shape our everyday lives.”