As sun set at the intersection of Frenchmen and North Villere streets, 200 people gathered at the site of yesterday's Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club's annual Mother's Day second line, which ended prematurely as 19 people were injured in a shooting. Mayor Mitch Landrieu, members of New Orleans City Council, community leaders and others spoke into a microphone at the center of the intersection.
"Everybody on this street knows that what happened yesterday has nothing to do with the cultural beauty of New Orleans," Landrieu said. "It happened during a sacred event. ... We all came out here to reclaim this spot, and to say what happened yesterday does not reflect who the people of New Orleans are or what we're about."
Members of the Big 7 pledged that the second line will return, possibly next month. The organization's business manager Dismas Johnson told Gambit that organizers have met with the mayor's office and NOPD about picking a new time and location. "It's something that's got to go on," he said.
Speaking to the crowd, Big 7 member Edward Buckner echoed that pledge as he introduced Jason, an 11-year-old boy who attended yesterday's parade and ran from the shooting. "It sounded like a big ol' explosion," he said. "At least my family was safe. At least nobody got killed. I wanted to say, a solution is if you got a gun it means you're scared."
His mother Monique Foucher said Jason ran when he heard the shots. "He wasn't scared," she said. "We asked God to protect us and put a shield around us."
"Yesterday was a symbol of a much, much deeper problem, and the people are here to say that it is unacceptable. It has to stop. It is deep, it's wide, it's generational in many ways," Landrieu said. "Ain't nobody here at fault, but everybody is responsible. It's our responsibility to do what is necessary at a personal level, with families, with the faith-based community, with the recreation department, with the police department, with the government, with the private sector, to do what we have to do to make New Orleans a beautiful city we know it can be."
"It's not a black problem, it's not a white problem, it's a community problem," said Black Men of Labor president Fred Johnson. "Black on black crime affects everybody."
Other speakers addressed a host of issues contributing to the culture of violent crime in New Orleans, from parenting and education to severe mental health and drug abuse. Speakers also addressed the need for more vocal communities. "We have to see and say," said City Council president Jackie Clarkson. "That is critically important."