Two enormous bloodmobiles — one in neon chartreuse, the other, well, blood-red — stretched down Frenchmen Street from the Apple Barrel to the Spotted Cat May 22. The event was called "Frenchmen Street: Roll Up Your Sleeves," and it was a replacement blood drive for the 19 victims of the Mother's Day second-line shooting in the 7th Ward — a shooting that had occurred seven blocks away down Frenchmen Street May 12.
More than 100 people preregistered to give blood between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., according to Amanda Chittenden, The Blood Center's public relations manager. "But the first 12 people we got were all walkups," said Erica Dudas of the New Orleans Musicians' Assistance Foundation, the group that staged the blood drive.
The event — held in the concrete pad that's home to the Frenchmen Art Market — was busy from the start, with would-be donors lining up and musicians David and Roselyn serenading the crowd with a song appropriately called "Kiss It and Make It Better."
"New Orleans has given us a lot," Roselyn said. "Helping other musicians is just what you do."
Among the first donors were Janine Waters and Christie Jourdain of the Original Pinettes Brass Band, who said they'd heard about the drive on Facebook and TV news. Both are friends of second-line chronicler and Gambit contributor Deborah Cotton and said they showed up in tribute to her. Cherice Harrison-Nelson ("Queen Reesie") of Guardians of the Flame and Queen Rita Johnson of the Mohawk Hunters also came out to donate, as did Ed Buckner of the Original Big 7 Social Aid & Pleasure Club, which had staged the Mother's Day second line.
The clubs on Frenchmen Street were open, with Ben Polcer playing at the Spotted Cat and the Washboard Chaz Trio at d.b.a., along with other bands. Jeff Broussard, bar manager at Snug Harbor, donated ice and opened the club's bathrooms.
"I was worried the rain would keep people away," said Liz Freeman, a volunteer with the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic, "but it's not. This is great."
After the jab, donors with "I Gave Blood" stickers on their shirts received free Radiators CDs and restorative snacks and juice. The goal of 50 pints was reached and topped within the first two hours of the drive, according to Dudas. And neither threatening gray skies nor a swarm of Formosan termites kept people from donating. By the end of the evening, 117 pints of blood had been collected by eight volunteer nurses, and nearly 200 people had tried to donate, according to The Blood Center.
"This is definitely the best blood drive I've been to," said Jocelyn Ninneman of OffBeat magazine, one of the event's sponsors. "Only in New Orleans could you have a blood drive that has three areas of live music and local food."
Chittenden, of The Blood Center, said she wasn't sure how much blood would be needed to replenish the amount used by the shooting victims, but that the "replenishment" was largely symbolic. The Blood Center is called upon to donate 300 to 350 pints of blood per day to New Orleans hospitals, Chittenden said, adding, "In cases like this, people want a way to help and we provide it."
— Additional reporting by Megan Braden-Perry