In New Orleans, Too Many of Us Know Victims of Gun Violence (Video)

BlogHer Original Post

On Mother's Day morning, I found the Sunday edition of the New Orleans Times Picayune on my lawn. The picture here shows that day's front page. The headline of the feature story on the left reads, "Mothers talk about losing a child to violence." For many readers this is already yesterday's news, overshadowed later that Mother's Day by another mass shooting injuring 20 people, but as a resident of New Orleans, I can't simply shelve it away and move on.

The woman in the upper right corner of the graphic holding a picture of her daughter is Margaret Washington. Margaret is one of my church members. Earlier at church, before I had opened the paper and seen the front page, I had hugged her tightly. She is one of the few non-relatives I come in contact with who knew my mother. My mother passed away in 2008 and was almost old enough to have been Margaret's mother. They weren't close, but they knew each other as Dillard University alumni and as members of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

Mother's Day front page of Times Picayune, New Orleans
Front page of the New Orleans
Times Picayune, Mother's Day 2013,
featuring mothers who've lost children
to gun violence.

 

I knew Mother's Day had to be difficult for Margaret. On October 1, 2012 her daughter Marguerite, a student at Dillard, was shot to death while visiting her boyfriend in New Orleans East. I still remember getting the phone call from my aunt. Someone out to murder the boyfriend, Justin Alexander, shot through his window, wounding him and killing Marguerite.

Later on Mother's Day, I went with my daughter when she drove my son to his job in the French Quarter. Around 3:15 p.m., on the way home, we drove down St. Bernard Avenue in the southern part of the Seventh Ward at the edge of the historic Treme neighborhood. We live in the northern section of the ward closer to Lake Pontchartrain.

I had forgotten about the parade, so my daughter and I ended up driving through part of its route. The parade hadn't started yet. The crowd waited. Groups of friends laughed and talked. Some already had their beers out. Folks grilled food on corners. Extended families with children and elderly among them joked around. Some trucks on the side of the road had "Happy Mother's Day" signs, and women strutted about in heels, some of them still in their Sunday best. Behind it all shotgun houses—some with peeling paint, some refurbished—and hole-in-the-wall eateries and bars served as a backdrop for a sunny afternoon with typical New Orleans festivity.

It was not the first time I'd been in a car crawling through a parade crowd, and I doubt that it will be the last. I considered filming the scene with my iPhone as I've done before, but I decided not to. I had that creepy feeling that something bad was going to happen; however, I kept it to myself. My children, both adults, tell me that I worry too much about crime in New Orleans, and my worry makes them anxious when all they want to do is live their lives and have fun.

We arrived safely at home, and then my daughter went to work. At 5:15 p.m., I received a news alert in email: "At least 12 people were shot at a Mother's Day second-line parade in the 7th Ward. The youngest victim, according to [Police Superintendent] Serpas, is 10 years old." As the evening went on, the number of wounded went up; eventually it reached 19. By Friday, the number was 20, according to NOLA.com. Fortunately, no one died.

When I heard the news on Mother's Day, I wish that I could have been as shocked about the shooting as people who don't live in New Orleans. I wish I had the privilege of gasping, "My God! Who shoots into a crowd of parade goers?" Unfortunately, all I could muster was, "Lord. Here we go again."

Is New Orleans Another Newtown?

On Monday, the day after the shooting, I received an email from BlogHer's News and Politics Editor Grace Hwang Lynch looking for people willing to write about the Mother's Day shooting. Immediately, I was angry in a way I couldn't understand. I figured that people not from here thought the incident was another "mass shooting story" like Newtown or Aurora, but I knew better.

I figured New Orleans would be all over the news for the wrong reasons again, CNN, ABC, NBC up in our faces aiming their cameras at our freakish dysfunction. I kept thinking, these people aren't here. They won't understand. They don't love us. Some of them will just watch like we're a train wreck, too. Oh, I hope they catch these guys, lock 'em up, and throw away the key.

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