Saturday, January 13, 2007

Trying to keep up with everyone's ideas...

Here I am at last Sunday's planning meeting, trying to keep up with everyone's ideas.

Friday, January 12, 2007

More highlights from the speakers at city hall

New Orleans march highlights, part 2

Here are a few more highlights from the speakers, including Glen David Andrews and Dinerral Shaver's sister, Nakita.
New Orleans march January 11 2007 speakers pt1

Part One of Two: This is incredible stuff, including Reverand Raphael, Karen Gadbois, and Bart Everson.

The March for Survival, New Orleans 1/11/07

"SCLC Justice Now"
Originally uploaded by The Voice of Eye.

Now, why wouldn't the New York Times run a photo like this? Photo by Craig Morse.

The Diversity of Press Coverage

NPR: The march is being seen as a symbol of two distinct communities coming together to oppose Mayor Ray Nagin's assertion that the recent crime wave is mostly "black on black" attacks between drug dealers — and therefore not a direct threat to the city's larger community.

The Associated Press: Residents young and old, black and white, marched in the thousands on City Hall _ unified in their anger and demanding action be taken to stem violent crime that has claimed nine lives this year and left many contemplating their future in this hurricane-ravaged city.

The Los Angeles Times: The racially mixed processions started in various neighborhoods in the city. The biggest group congregated at the foot of Canal Street, a main thoroughfare, and marched just over a mile to City Hall, escorted by mounted police and other officers riding motorcycles.

The New York Times: Thousands of residents here, mostly whites, marched through downtown on Thursday in a show of anger over recent killings and local officials’ ineffective response...Yet it also showed the community’s deep division. Nearly all the demonstrators were white...The monochrome crowd was a surprise to many, and an unpromising augury for any possible resolution of the city’s crime of Thursday’s few black demonstrators, Isadell Icastle, said: “I was totally shocked when I came here, that they didn’t have more black people out here.”

I guess the Times got there late.

Hey Anderson Cooper, where's Dinerral?

Early in the week one of my neighbors got ahold of the producers of Anderson Cooper to tell them about our plans to march on city hall. They called me and told me about their plans to do "something" although at the time they weren't sure what. They wanted to know about Helen Hill, and like most journalists, they assumed that I knew her. After putting them in touch with some of Helen's friends, I told them that they really needed to do something about Dinerral Shavers, who was killed the week earlier, and who was as much an inspiration to those of us organizing as Helen Hill was. Finally they relented, and scheduled interviews with Dinerral's family--which were subsequently cancelled. I don't at this point if they ever rescheduled the tapings, but, of course, there was barely a mention of Dinerral on the show. Julia Reed, on hand as some kind of expert talking head, managed to slip his name in, thank god.

In case you don't know, or haven't figured it out yet, Helen Hill was white. Dinerral was black.

And yet, the march itself was neither black or white. One of the many things that speakers at the march addressed was the fact that we all came together, that it wasn't about black or white, that it wasn't about one death, or two. But some people still don't get it. The New York Times, for example, was curiously absent during all of the planning for the March, which was reported step by step--with accuracy--by the Los Angeles Times. At one point, a media savvy friend explained: "the Times reporter doesn't come to this side of Canal Street; he's afraid."

Since the March was on the other side of Canal, the Times has a report today, though from the spin they put on it, I think I know who was in the helicopter flying overhead. The photograph manages to squeeze only white people in (although, guess what?, they all live in the 9th ward) and nearly every paragraph declares "whites only."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Nagin spins and the media follows

Today is the march, and of course I woke up with a frog in my throat.

Meanwhile, after two ridiculous press conferences, Nagin showed up last night at a poster and banner-making event at Sound Cafe to claim that he's thrilled that we're all doing this because the pressure we're putting on the criminal justice system is making it possible for him to talk about change for the first time.

Um, you're the mayor, you should be able to do this without us. But, as he stood there with his bodyguards, it was clear that...perhaps we have him worried.

Earlier in the week, people from city hall had begun quietly contacting certain community leaders and asking them not to participate. Even our own local paper is choosing to redirect people with their coverage. This mornings story suggests there will be hundreds of people marching in seperately planned events, rather than thousands marching in one unified event. They interviewed me, and although I made it clear that this was not the case, they report that I'm leading a march for my neighborhood (misidentified as Marigny) inspired solely by the tragic death of Helen Hill. Our local ABC affiliate broadcast a piece about businesses closing down to join the march, but focused exclusively on two woman: one runs a Pilates studio, the other an expensive children's boutique. Not a true sample of the community, but it plays well as far as isolating the event as (they hope) something about white people being scared.

I have to say, although I've said it before: I wasn't a close friend of any of the victims personally. People find this unbelievable, I guess because they can't imagine why I would care otherwise. But with several recent reports suggesting that I was a close friend of the white victim, I feel embarrassed and a little outraged. It is an inappropriate assumption, and it feels like a violation of some kind. Not of me, but of the dead.

Anyway, I've got to get coffee, and walk the dogs, and then, it is off to the march.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Battle of New Orleans

The Battle of New Orleans was fought on January 8th, 1815, which doesn't have much to do with what's going on this week, but it is a nice way to begin this post.

Things have been moving so quickly that it has been hard to respond to emails and phone calls that aren't emergencies. Here's some news: Anderson Cooper is marching on Thursday. There's a rumor that Senator Obama is marching. Newman High School is marching. Central City is marching. Mid City is marching. Aboena House day care center is marching. The Garden District is marching. The Hot 8 Brass band, who lost one of their members two weeks ago, is marching. The family of Ronald Madison, who was shot in the back seven times by New Orleans police while trying to flee the floodwaters, is marching. And so on...

Who is not marching: Mayor Nagin and Chief Riley.

For those who want more info on what we are doing and how you can contribute, you can go to

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Los Angeles Times covers the plans to march on City Hall; Nagin goes to the movies

The Los Angeles Times has a piece today about our plans to march to city hall on Thursday, and it is really well-balanced. The Tampa paper and others are reprinting it without registration required:

Week of homicides racks New Orleans
The police chief said Jan. 1 that violence was on the wane. Eight people have died since, and residents are angry.
By Ann M. Simmons, Times Staff Writer
January 7, 2007

NEW ORLEANS — A spate of killings that has swept this city in recent days — six of them in less than 24 hours — has terrified even some of the most crime-hardened residents and spurred a group of citizens to launch a protest aimed at forcing city leaders to "face up to the violence that is strangling our neighborhoods."

An unidentified woman found shot to death in her home Friday morning became the eighth person found dead — seven of them shot — since the start of the new year. Police said officers responded to a call of a residential burglary and found the victim on a bed with a shot to the head.

Altogether, 12 people have been killed since Dec. 28, undermining a New Year's Day announcement by Police Supt. Warren J. Riley that the violence that had afflicted New Orleans in the last several months had been tempered.

Stella Baty Landis knew two recent victims. Dinerral Shavers, 25, a teacher and drummer for the Hot 8 Brass Band, was fatally shot Dec. 28 while driving with his wife and two children. Helen Hill, an independent filmmaker, was killed at her home on Thursday. Hill's husband, physician Paul Gailiunas, was shot three times in front of their 2-year-old son. Gailiunas survived, and police said the toddler was unharmed.

"This is the first time that I've been scared to live in New Orleans," said Landis, who teaches music at Tulane University and is the proprietor of a coffee shop and bookstore in the city's Lower Marigny neighborhood. "Two people that I know murdered within a week is terrifying. I feel it's the worst it's ever been. I feel it's a war zone."

Landis is among several organizers of a march on City Hall planned for Thursday.

"We feel that there hasn't been focused attention on the part of our elected officials with regards to the escalating crime and murders," Landis said. "Our main goal is to coerce attention for an acknowledgment of the problem, and try to get it dealt with in an open forum."

Ken Foster, a writer who is another rally organizer, said, "Our point of view is that we can't not do something. We must make our voices heard."

Last summer, Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco deployed the National Guard and state police to help city police patrol the streets, and they are scheduled to remain through June. But many residents have questioned the effectiveness of the additional law enforcers.

The office of New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin did not respond to requests for comment. In a local television interview Thursday, Nagin said most of the crime was "black on black" and "it's unfortunate."

Police said several of the incidents appeared to be drug- or gang-related and mainly involved young men and juveniles. But neighborhood activists pointed out that of the eight people found dead, two were men older than 40 and two were women, and some of the slayings occurred in areas not typically considered crime hotspots.

Riley told reporters Saturday that a curfew was being considered to help curtail violence.

Police have also appealed to witnesses to come forward, particularly since some of the crimes occurred during the day. Officials from Crime Stoppers said the usual $2,500 reward for tips leading to a conviction would be raised to $3,500.

"Witnesses to these crimes are not only in fear of individuals who commit the crimes, but they fear being ostracized by members of the community who think that it is wrong to step up and give any information to police at all," said the Rev. John C. Raphael Jr., who last week staged a three-day fast to protest the crime in his Central City neighborhood. "That is rooted in distrust of the police."

The pastor expressed disappointment over the lack of community action. "The outrage is there, but it's just not heard," Raphael said. "There is not a united response."

Tourism and business officials said they were closely monitoring the crime situation but were determined to allay fears that New Orleans is not safe.

J. Stephen Perry, president and chief executive of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, said his organization was advising its clients, including convention organizers and tour operators, that the violence was confined to areas where tourists do not typically go.

"It's not really impacting our visitors," Perry said. "We have one of the lowest rates of crime on visitors and tourists, compared to other cities."

There is crime in many urban centers across the United States, Perry said, but the incidents in New Orleans make headlines because the city has had a national profile since Hurricane Katrina.

Many community activists believe city officials are in denial about crime.

"The city is so scared of scaring people off — tourists, potential investors — that it is reluctant to publicize anything negative," Landis said. "But I don't think it is fair to invite people to come here under false pretenses."

Landis and other residents said that the latest violence, and the seeming inability of authorities to quash it, had made them rethink whether to remain in New Orleans.

"It definitely raises a question about whether this is a place to want to be," said Landis, a New Orleans native. "It kind of makes you feel like a stranger in your own home."

"There is so little response. It makes you think, is it worth it?" Foster said. He moved back to New Orleans in July 2005 after an eight-year absence, a month before Katrina slammed ashore.

Lee Arnold, manager of the Hot 8 Brass Band, whose drummer was slain, said he was particularly concerned. "It's hitting close to people I know. It's become real."

"You just don't feel safe, and you just don't feel anyone can do anything about it," Arnold said. "We're crying out for help. We're tired of talking. We're tired of promises. We're tired of the crime. Something needs to be done."

Bennie Pete, a tuba player and leader of Hot 8, said the violence was so pervasive and incessant that "it makes you feel like you're waiting in line; like your turn is coming up next."

Pete said the band members had played jazz funerals for many people killed in gun violence, and had watched friends and relatives grieve.

Saturday, they buried one of their own.

Meanwhile, after leaving his morning press conference to attend a king cake party, Mayor Nagin was seen in the afternoon taking in a movie at the Canal Place shopping center.