Friday, January 11, 2008

March to city hall...a year later

Today at noon we'll be at city hall for a brief press conference in which we will read the names of each murder victim from the past year. Mayor Nagin will be attending a ribbon cutting for the reopening of Pirates Alley in the French Quarter.

Tonight, at 9pm, there will be a concert at the Howlin Wolf with the Hot 8, Soul Rebels, Rebirth and more. Proceeds go to the Dinerral Shavers Educational Fund.

UPDATE: Here are my remarks from earlier today:

Last year, when we decided to march to city hall, we did it without having any clear sense of how many people would join us. And when we announced the plan, there was skepticism. That morning I parked my car at Canal Place and looked down at the announced meeting place in front of the World Trade Center. No one was there. And then people did appear. Sitting on the steps at first, just watching. And as more people arrived, those who were lingering on the sidelines began to rise up, make signs and join the march. But I remember most is walking through the CBD and seeing men and women who had come down from their lunch breaks to watch us pass. They stood just watching at first, and then I could see something change in their faces—a transformation—and they joined in.

Later, journalists asked me to talk about my relationships with Helen Hill and Dinerral Shavers. “I didn’t really know them,” I explained. This was, apparently, bewildering to them. Why would have become so deeply involved if it wasn’t personal? I tried to explain, but in most cases, it wasn’t the story they wanted to hear. Of course, I did know Dinerral and Helen, but not in a personal way. I knew them as members of the community, as friends of friends, and I saw, instantly, what their loss had done.

To survive as a community, we can’t wait until things become personal to us. We need to act now, we need to contribute, we need to understand how what happens in someone else’s neighborhood affects our own, and how someone else’s grief is ours too.

Here are my tips:

1. Don’t wait to be invited to take action.

2. Your physical presence will be required. Email doesn’t take action for you. Nor do anonymous comments left at the bottom of news reports on

3. Developing conspiracy theories is nearly always a waste of time. Get together with friends and develop concrete actions that you can take toward solving the problem. You may be surprised at how many people join in after you make the first steps.

4. If you don’t know where to start, attend a neighborhood association meeting. Or go to city council. Despite what you have heard, there are usually plenty of extra seats.

5. Visit your local precinct and introduce yourself. Visit your neighborhood schools, even if you don't have a child who attends there. Go to the courthouse and watch the system in action. Pick up the phone and make some calls. Write an actual, physical letter—nothing is more shocking than a message delivered in print.

6. Never forget.

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