In New Orleans it doesn’t take much to get a parade going, and Sunday The Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club put together a Mother’s Day parade to honor that most revered of Southern figures.
Then the gunmen showed up.
New Orleans, for all its faults and missteps, is all about family and friends. The city is thick with generations of relatives, because to be from New Orleans is to be born in New Orleans. Not many people leave. There just isn’t anywhere else that has the culture and feel of the Crescent City.
The neighborhoods are full of musicians. You get a trumpet playing outside and others join in and suddenly we’re all walking down the street and dancing. It’s called a second line, and it happens for funerals and for celebrations. It’s an “only in New Orleans” kind of happening.
Unfortunately, anymore you go to a second line or a parade, and there’s a 50/50 chance shots will be fired.
Police officers were interspersed with the over 400 marchers who stretched over three blocks, but that failed to prevent 19 people from being shot Sunday, including two children. Mostly they were graze wounds.
Still, lying on the asphalt in a pool of your own blood is no way to spend a Sunday, whether it’s life threatening or not.
The FBI deemed this incident, “strictly an act of street violence.” There were no indications that this shooting was an act of terrorism.
Seriously?!? Those boys would be lucky to spell terrorism down in some of those neighborhoods. But these kinds of attacks and mass shootings amount to domestic terrorism for those stuck in this wash of continuing violence.
It’s gunshots every night. A bullet has no allegiance – wrong place, wrong time and down you go. So folks hit the deck when the sound of pop-pop-pop echoes.
That’s a hard way to live day in and day out. It takes a toll.
I get why these kids are pissed. They have seen three or more generations of white people exploit the African-American population for financial gain and left them to ruin.
New Orleans is a place where a sizable amount of the population literally can’t read or write. But folks can get by working in the hospitality industry, working in a kitchen, playing music or doing odd jobs.
The kids see this. They know their schools suck. You can imagine the teachers they get in these places. Some are devoted, but how do you turn around 100-years of injustice?
Employment options are few, as are role models, and these kids have a life expectancy of around 17-years, so why not live fast, loose and violent.
For example, I read about Ka’Nard Allen, 10, who is not having an easy year. At his 10th birthday party last May 29, his 5-year-old cousin, Briana Allen, was fatally shot and Ka’Nard took a bullet in the neck. The man accused of this crime was arrested last month, along with 14 others and they are being indicted on gang racketeering charges.
In October, his father, 38-year-old Bernard Washington, was fatally stabbed in eastern New Orleans by his stepmother after Washington allegedly choked and beat her. She has been charged with manslaughter.
Then he gets grazed by a bullet 19-days before his 11th birthday.
How fucked up is that kid?
He has to be walking around thinking eventually a bullet has his name on it.
A story in the Times-Picayune says he’s doing OK overall. Ka’Nard is getting some counseling and mainly wants to ride his mini four-wheeler around the neighborhood.
Well shit yeah, I’d want to have some fun too after getting shot twice at the age of 10. At that age my biggest annoyance was homework and chores cutting into my cartoon watching.
It’s hard to see how the police can make a convincing argument that they can adequately protect Ka’Nard or others like him that are just showing up at public events.
I take my hat off to New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas. The man has done a fantastic job since coming on board in 2010.
He is a stats guy, and can often be seen carrying around binders full of data. In his former job, as Nashville’s chief of police, Serpas was successful in bringing gang violence under control by having a fluid police force that was deployed strategically into high crime areas.
New Orleans historically has had one of the most corrupt police forces of any major city, but that isn’t the case these days.
Credit the Serpas hiring to Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who was elected in 2010, and recognized serious change was needed to get this hurricane-ravaged city back moving in the right direction.
Decreased crime would be a key element in getting Nola’s population back to its pre-Katrina days, and would entice more visitors, businesses and conventioneers. It also would be an indicator that the schools were better and jobs were available.
Landrieu and Serpas should both get high marks for making all these things happen, yet crime remains a serious problem.
The mayor and police chief face the same stumbling block as the teachers. How do you reach kids whose families have been disenfranchised for multiple generations in order to change the culture of violence?
What Landrieu and Serpas are going up against in these neighborhoods is a bit like what the U.S. military faced in Vietnam and Iraq. It’s a decentralized form of guerilla warfare.
You would think the locals would want what the officials are offering – an end to violence and a possible pathway to a better life.
We’re not dealing with philosophical differences as severe as Communism versus Capitalism, or Islam versus Christianity, but for the kids in these neighborhoods they have lives and value systems that are radically out of step with anything the police can comprehend. Plus the government has no street cred. These kids don’t believe them, nor should they – yet.
Street gangs, or “crews” as they are referred to in New Orleans, operate within the neighborhoods, from street to street. They’re nothing as elaborate as the Bloods or Crips, but it’s the same idea: representing your neighborhood, keeping other crews out of it, respect, and an element of belonging.
Having an affiliation with a crew is a reason to live in an otherwise miserable circumstance.
These lost boys have a unique set of norms, dialect, clothing, and language. Their whole support mechanism is in the streets, independent of government or corporate America.
No amount of technical data or enhanced police hot spots is going to matter; these kids see the police approaching from adjoining neighborhoods, and while they may be warring factions in the streets, they all will let folks know when the Po-Po are approaching.
Any criminal enterprises are shut down and moved before the cops even arrive. They’re gone and set up elsewhere in no time, leaving the police to find out where in the next batch of stats.
In New Orleans Lo-Fi still works.
The criminal element can get over on the police and the government by keeping it simple, so finding a solution to the crimes and the killings is a tough nut.
It’s like playing chicken. One side is going to have to front something with no guarantee of reciprocity.
Otherwise the bodies will just keep falling.