A sick and hateful man killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. My heart goes out to the families of those who have been killed. A community has been wounded, and in some way we are all hurt by such violence. As Maitri notes, we are all in the gutter.

But I didn’t think I’d have anything to say about it myself, until I saw this photo.
Continue reading

Thoughts on the Death of Jeremy Galmon

When I was changing planes in Philly I got two pieces of bad news from New Orleans, the second of which was so harrowing it made the first seem trivial.

First, I learned the Saints suffered their first defeat of the season, in overtime, no less; to the Atlanta Falcons, no less; at the Superdome, no less.

Next, I learned a that a young boy had caught a bullet and had been rushed to the hospital. When I landed in New Orleans I read the news that he had died. His name was Jeremy Galmon. He was two years old.

That certainly does put things in painful perspective, like Cliff says. It’s hard to get too worked up about a football game when you’re confronted with such an atrocity.

And yet when I picked up the paper Monday morning, what did I see? Yes, the story of Jeremy’s death made a front page headline. So did the football game. But the football headline was two or three times as big. I felt a painful dissonance, looking at that front page.

In the days that have followed, we’ve had more coverage of the story of Jeremy’s murder, the grief of his family, the circumstances of his death, the response by authorities, the arrest of one suspect, the hunt for another. We’ve also had plenty of continuing coverage of how the Saints are responding to their loss, bringing in other kickers, and so forth. I haven’t done a serious analysis, but it’s clear that more ink has been spilled on the latter story over the last four days.

I’m sure the folks at the TP would say that they are giving the people what they want. I buy that, but only to a certain extent. Does our media reflect our culture or create it? I believe it does both. It may be true that, as a society, we are more concerned with professional sports than the murder of a child. But this is a time for our media to exercise some leadership. This is a time to provide some in-depth reportage on the underlying causes of violence. Look at the amount of analysis that fills out the Sports section every day. If we had half that much analysis of social problems we’d surely make some progress.

The tragic death of Jeremy Galmon is a story that people will respond to. Such tragedies are also learning opportunities, and we desperately need to learn some lessons. Across the political spectrum, people understand that violence is a problem. We also need to share an understanding of the root causes of this endemic social problem, if we are to come to consensus on solutions.

I’ve been beating up on the media here, but I want to be clear that the real villain in this story is whoever pulled the trigger. Yet the media do have a role to play, and it is a vital one. They need to engage the issues when the public is engaged, and this story is an example.

And why does Jeremy’s story move us so? Every loss of life is regrettable, regardless of age. If a victim is 20 or 200, it’s still tragic. But there’s something especially wrenching when a toddler is a victim of violence. Few of us are completely innocent; we’re all caught up in a web of social complicity to some degree; we all bear some guilt for what we’ve allowed our culture to become. The main exception to this is children. They are truly and unquestionably innocent. (And please don’t talk to me about “original sin.”) I know very little really, about Jeremy, but I can guarantee you this: He never hurt anyone. He didn’t deserve this.

L— H—

I got a call from L— H— this morning. At least I think it was L— H—. In any event it was a man claiming to be L— H— and I have no reason to believe otherwise. Contrary to some comments posted here a couple months ago, he is alive and living in Ohio. He just wanted a chance to explain his side of the story to me. He want to tell his account of what happened on that day back in May of 2004.

He said he let someone else use his car, and that’s why some witnesses identified him as the person who rolled up and opened fire. He said he turned himself in to clear his name, but then some other guys (the real perps, perhaps) tried to stick the murder on him. He was set to go to trial on August 29, 2005, but we all know what happened then.

He was shipped up to north Louisiana for a while. Eventually back in New Orleans he was assigned a public defender from New Jersey. Finally his case was dropped, nolle prosequi, and he was released after three years in prison.

Now, he told me, he’s hanging out in Ohio, trying to keep it positive, trying to contribute to the community, working on his music, maybe even a book.

That was the substance of our phone conversation. Kind of a strange way to start the day.

As I said before, I regret my initial assumption of guilt. When L— H— turned himself in, I jumped to the conclusion that he must have been guilty. That’s a bad assumption. There’s a big difference between turning oneself in and pleading guilty. I don’t know the facts, but I can only hope that L— H— is indeed innocent and that he’s able to get on with his life. I’ve tried to expunge his real name from this blog and replace it with just his initials, so web searches on his name won’t turn up these pages.

That leaves the question of who killed Pissy. There are a couple names floating around. L— H— wouldn’t say, but when I mentioned the names he confirmed them.

The less said on that the better, I think.

What Happened to That Boy?

Note: The title’s a lyrical reference to a New Orleans hip-hop track, and of course there’s a (NSFW) mix if you want some musical accompaniment to what follows.

It is rare for me to remove a post from my blog but it has happened a few times over the years. The most recent case involves something I posted on Wednesday, February 7th, 2007. I am reproducing that post below along with the comments that it attracted. The reprint is verbatim identical to the original with one important exception: I’ve removed the name of the young man in question, and replaced his name with his initials. The old post had become the number one search result for this man’s name. If you read it all, you’ll see why I removed it from its original location. I’ll include a further comment of my own at the end.
Continue reading What Happened to That Boy?

Hellacious Saturday

As I rode my bike to my book club yesterday morning, I wondered idly what name the day might have. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday… surely this Saturday must have a name too?

We had a new visitor to our book circle, a woman named Charlotte. I’d guess her to be somewhere around my mother’s age — certainly our most senior member, if she comes again. How ironic, then, that we were discussing a young adult anthology. But before we discussed the book, we found ourselves discussing religion, prompted by my suggestion of a name for the day: Hellacious Saturday, in reference to the so-called Harrowing of Hell, the idea that Jesus visited the underworld between his death and resurrection.

It made for some interesting conversation.

Charlotte was quite circumspect at first, seeming to think that the rest of us might be devout Christians. She soon loosened up however. We talked quite a bit about various Catholic doctrines. When I said I was raised in a conservative denomination of the Lutheran church, Charlotte said she was too.

“Missouri Synod?” I asked.

She nodded and laughed. “The worst one!”

For the benefit of any LCMS members out there, and especially my own dear mother, I hasten to add that Charlotte did not mean, at least as far as I know, to insinuate that the people of the LCMS are bad, nor to disparage the many good works done by that church. I suppose she meant simply that they are indeed conservative, (though not, of course, as conservative as the CLC) and she had some doctrinal issues which I share, but mainly I record this brief exchange because it gave me a chuckle as I wondered what my mother the church secretary would have thought.

In reality, the Saturday before Easter is known simply as Holy Saturday, or Holy and Great Saturday, or the Great Sabbath. But I didn’t recall that, and I quite liked the idea of Hellacious Saturday. That night as I took a bath I envisioned Hallmark and the candy manufacturers getting on top of this and using it so sell more product, with greeting cards and little cinnamon devil candies and so forth. Needless to say, I’m probably intrigued by the whole “harrowing of hell” bit because it’s a mytheme of the descent to the underworld, which alsoe figures importantly in the story of a certain Greek goddess I know and love.

Then we watched the evening news, and were stunned to learn that for one family, at least, it was indeed a Hellacious Saturday, and no joke about it. I’m referring to the triple murder in Terrytown. Amongst the victims: a baby boy, only a few months older than our daughter. He was shot execution-style.

There are many other lurid details in this story, like that the cops tasered the mother of a six-year-old boy who was also killed because she was creating a disturbance.

And I just saw that they have arrested someone and charged him with these murders.

The notion that someone — anyone — can shoot a baby in the head like that is truly horrific. It’s as clear a demonstration of the existence of evil as I can imagine.

Despite being fed up with organized religion, Charlotte mentioned that she still retains some religious beliefs, in main part because of a desire for what I’d call “cosmic justice.” I may share that desire, but I don’t think desire alone means it exists. I think our yearning for justice issues from our human experience. It reveals our common humanity.

The question is, how can someone venture so far from those human norms, to become such a monster, to perpetrate such a monstrous act? I don’t think I’ll ever understand that, and I don’t suppose I want to.

We Still Miss You, Helen

Today it’s been a year since Helen was killed, and like Cristin, I don’t know quite what to say.

The superintendent of police was on TV last night saying that they had a suspect, but he couldn’t reveal anything more about the case. To be honest, my first thought was: He’s lying. It’s been a year, and I despair of ever knowing who killed Helen, much less that the responsible party would ever be brought to trial.

If you’re in the New Orleans area, you might want to tune in to WYES tonight to catch a new film about Helen’s life and art. I guess this will also be airing on other PBS affiliates in time, so check your local listings.

We will never forget you, Helen.

48 Hours

48 Hours Mystery will be running a show this weekend about Helen Hill and Dinerral Shavers and the general topic of violence in New Orleans.

I spoke to the producers a couple of times. One producer told me he was disappointed by the seeming resignation of most of the people they’d interviewed. He was hoping I might bring the rage. I must not have sounded angry enough, though, because in the end they never interviewed me.

Here’s their press release:
Continue reading 48 Hours


I didn’t know Nia Robertson. And now I never will.


Nia was killed at Pal’s Lounge Wednesday night. I first heard about it through Think New Orleans and Metroblogging. Then the story was on the front page of today’s paper.

It’s a sad fact that violent crimes and murders happen on an almost daily basis here. Mostly we learn about these through the news, and shudder, and shake our heads, maybe even cry a little.

But, even though I didn’t know Nia, the story of her murder is more disturbing to me than most of these other stories.

For one thing, there’s the location, Pal’s. It’s a low-key neighborhood hangout that I’ve visited a few times and always enjoyed. It’s not that far from our house.

For another thing, there’s the whole way it went down, the sheer horrifying randomness of it. A psychotic drifter, only in town a couple weeks, freaks out and attacks people with a knife for no reason.

But most of all, what really gets to me are the accounts from people who knew Nia personally. She sounds like a wonderful person, a nice person, someone I would have liked and maybe befriended.

A neighbor named Kristy wrote the following to our Mid-City discussion group this morning, and her words encapsulate the horror, the outrage, the helplessness:

I am sitting here wondering why I am having to write this post. Nia was my friend. I saw her just yesterday. She gave me the same bright wonderful smile and asked how I was doing. She was the last person I talked to before I left that evening. She said she would call me tomorrow. I didn’t hear from her today. Instead I found out that my friend was murdered and I had been sitting next to her murderer for 3 hours. The man that would take the most wonderful beautiful person out of so many lives had been sitting there reading a newspaper and watching CNN without saying a word. How can this be happening in a place that I felt so safe before the storm? How can I be crying with loss that is so senseless? How come he didn’t turn on me? How could I be sitting next to a murderer and not even know it? HOW HOW HOW? I want to know! I watched people gather all night long to cry on each others shoulder and ask why! To most she is a story that happened close to home. I am sitting here wondering what I will do without ever seeing her smiling face again. What is this city coming to? When is someone or everyone going to step up and do
something about all this? My friend held her as she died. NO ONE SHOULD HAVE TO GO THROUGH THAT!

Some of my fellow citizens are feeling the rage now. I’m angry too, but for once I find myself thinking: This could have happened anywhere, and nothing could have stopped it.

And mainly today I am full of sorrow for a friend I never met. If any of Nia’s family or friends read this, you have my sympathy.

Another neighbor, Heather, gives eloquent voice to what so many of us are feeling.

I did not have the pleasure of knowing Nia Robertson in her life. But last night I lay awake wondering if my optimism about our city has been short-sighted. I wondered if the gems who make this city sparkle, with their radiant smiles and warm welcomes, are really so vulnerable. And how does one integrate senseless tragedy into an otherwise fervent will to create a nurturing and resilient community? Have I been naïve?

This morning, I awake to the image of a sincere smile, the manifestation of the way so many mourners are describing Nia, who I will never get to meet. People also describe me by my smile, and I feel a kinship with her. I hope she knew how loved she was. I hope she knew that she was a light in people’s lives. And I remember that the answer to my vexing questions has not changed. It resounds now more than ever.

Today, I recommit to being the change I want to see in my community. I will not make decisions based on fear. I will not hide in my house and I will not be more reserved than usual when I encounter strangers. Instead I will go boldly into the world and step up to shine a little brighter, because with Nia’s passing, we lost some of our light. It will take many of us, shining a little brighter, to forge goodness from this devastating loss. So let this intolerable bitterness shepherd us to be the better selves we wish we were.

Today, I create change the only way I can: by starting with myself.

Thank you, to those who mourn Nia today, for letting me share how she touched my life, without ever having met her. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Update: Alan makes the case that Nia’s murder could have been prevented.

Murder Map

I’ve been fiddling around with the new nopd.com crime-mapping feature. It’s pretty interesting stuff. You can put in an address and see all the crime reports for the vicinity. You can specify the radius and the time frame and filter by different types of crime.

So, for example, I was able to learn that so far this year there have been ten or eleven murders committed within one mile of our house — walking distance, more or less.


click map to enlarge

The site says eleven, but I think it’s ten, because Anthony Placide’s murder seems to be listed twice.

There have also been 51 assaults, 114 auto thefts, 217 burglaries, 46 robberies and 259 thefts — for a grand total of 698 incidents so far this year.

Mind you, these are only the incidents for which NOPD has actually filed a report. The actual numbers are undoubtedly higher.

For an excellent, thoughtful analysis of what NOPD’s new crime mapping means, please read Brian Denzer’s new essay on Digital Democracy.

Update: Strangely enough, when I checked the map again today (Aug. 20) there are now only nine murders listed in this radius from the beginning of the year.

Nolle Prosequi

A new phrase has been added to my vocabulary: nolle prosequi, Latin for “unwilling to pursue.”

The District Attorney said nolle prosequi about David Bonds’ case last week. Bonds was accused of killing Dinerral Shavers. I never knew Dinerral, but I was disturbed by news of his murder, which I wrote about in December.

The official line is that the prosecution couldn’t make their case because the young witness is being prevented from testifying by her mother. But it’s surely more complicated than that. Ken Foster says “no one felt it was their responsibility to get a conviction.”

That got me thinking about L— H—’s case. L— was accused of killing a young boy near our home in 2004. I wrote about his case in February. Yesterday I checked Docket Master, and sure enough, nolle prosequi.

03/22/2007 LONDONC

After three years in prison, L— has been released into a city that’s been devastated by disaster. How strange that must be. The murder rate in New Orleans is higher than when L— went into prison. In fact, it’s higher than anywhere else in this nation. Much higher.

Postscript: Natasha Robin of Fox 8 interviewed me yesterday about a recent string of violent incidents. I told her I am not an expert on violent crime, but she said she wanted to get “the voice of the people.” They shot some footage of me distributing flyers for a community BBQ. I wasn’t able to catch the news so I don’t know how it played.

B Stupid Cops a Plea

I read in the paper last weekend that B-Stupid copped a plea.


In exchange for pleading guilty in federal court Thursday to drug-trafficking and gun crimes and his agreement in state court that he was involved with a friend’s murder, a 22-year-old New Orleans man will face a possible sentence of 25 years instead of life, according to federal prosecutors.

Following his 2006 arrest in Kenner on a fugitive warrant, Ivory Brandon “B-Stupid” Harris called his associates from jail asking them to try to track down the witness who had fingered him in the Fat Tuesday 2006 slaying of Jermaine “Manny” Wise, the prosecutors said in documents handed to the judge.

I work with Manny’s mother, Donna. I wondered what she thought about all this. She was out Monday and Tuesday, and I figured maybe she was upset by the news. But today when I talked to her she said the deal is fine by her. After all, the witness had to be moved three times already — who knows how much longer she could have held out, especially as B Stupid was trying to discover her identity for presumably nefarious purposes.

Donna says she plans to speak at the sentencing hearing.

Remember Manny

Donna comes and cleans my office every day. Her son was killed last Mardi Gras. We talk about Manny frequently. She’s strong, but the pain and distress in her life are evident. She was looking for some grief counseling resources. With the help of Howie and his lovely wife I think she’s got a line on that. Thanks.

Today is the one year anniversary of Manny’s death. Donna took out a memorial notice in the paper, and she was wearing a commemorative t-shirt. I asked if I could take her picture.

Donna Remembers Manny

I was confused, because Manny was killed on Mardi Gras, which was last week. Then I remembered that Mardi Gras moves around the calendar, of course. February 28 will always be a special day of memory for Donna. And for me too. And I asked if I could share her picture. I think it’s important to remember.

Yesterday Donna shared with me the autopsy report, which she’d only just received herself. I’ve never read such a document. It was chilling. Manny was shot eleven times, but only one bullet was fatal.

I wrote about some other details of Manny’s case a couple weeks ago.

Endless Outrages

I was just talking to a lady who works a janitorial detail here at the University. Her son, Jermaine Wise, was murdered last Mardi Gras by none other than B Stupid, aka Ivory Harris. Remember him? He was public enemy #1 until he got arrested March 20th. She pointed out he’s being charged with second degree murder, which she didn’t understand since it was apparently a premeditated slaying. There’s a witness to this murder who is actually willing to testify (a rarity) and who is being protected by the D.A. Here’s what really got me. The guard assigned by the D.A. to protect this witness attempted to rape her. I’m at a loss for words. Somehow “outrageous” seems inadequate.

Blood & Ink

Monday’s Times-Picayune carried a story in the Metro section about a young man named Chivas Doyle. He just turned 24 last week. He was attending Delgado Community College. He was a practical joker. Everyone called him Tank because he was 7′ tall.

He was found dead in his FEMA trailer in the Upper Ninth Ward, shot in the back of the head.

The details of the story are heart-breaking, but also frustratingly few. For example, the article states that Tank was a “community activist” but doesn’t elaborate.

E.J. was ticked off about it yesterday. I held out some vague hope that there would be a bigger story about Tank in today’s paper. I was hoping against hope to see something on the front page. But no. Instead, the front page is dominated by this headline: “Disheartened by the disfigured city, many Katrina survivors are turning to plastic surgery as a pick-me-up.”

The coverage of this man’s story is simply inadequate. With all respect due the grieving family, New Orleanians deserve to know more about how he lived and what we’ve lost. Instead, we get face-lifts and tummy tucks.

One of the ideas put forward by the organizers of last week’s march on City Hall was to “Recognize the Tragedy of Each Victim.”

Each violent death is an individual and immeasurably tragic loss. We must treat each victim with the respect due to each valued member of our community, not as a number.

What we can do:

* Put pressure on the press to follow the stories of individual victims, name victims whenever possible, and treat each victim as a valued individual.

What our leaders can do:

* Victims of violent crime (except in cases where the victim wishes to remain unnamed) must be named publicly. We are calling for a public information board at City Hall that lists each murder victim in the city and tracks the progress on their case.

I’m contacting Bob Ussery, the reporter who wrote about Tank, to give him some encouragement that we need to have more coverage of this story. Read the article yourself. Bob’s contact info is at the end of the article, if you should be inclined to give him a call or drop him an e-mail. I realize editors call the shots at a newspaper, so maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree. But it’s a start.


I’m speaking at today’s march for five minutes, a task for which I feel utterly inadequate. I’ve been trying to collect my thoughts. Here’s what I’m planning to say:

Helen Hill was a close personal friend of mine, and her murder affected me deeply. Helen’s funeral took place yesterday in South Carolina, and today we’re marching in New Orleans. But make no mistake: We’re not marching just for Helen Hill. We’re marching for Dick Shavers. We’re marching for Jealina Brown. We’re marching for Steve Blair and Corey Hayes and Eddy Saint Fleur and Monier Gindy. We’re marching for Don Morgan and Larry Glover and Mike Frey. We’re marching for Preston Turner, a 15-year-old child who was gunned down in broad daylight on the street corner near my house in Mid-City, back in 2004. And does anybody remember that day in June of 2004 where nine people were killed by guns in just over 24 hours?

This is not a new problem. It’s not a Katrina problem. Katrina just provided a momentary interruption. This wave of violent crime has been on the rise for years and it had left us feeling sad and scared and very, very angry. I’m still sad, but they tell me you learn to cope with that. I’m still scared but anyone who’s lived in New Orleans for a while knows you learn to cope with that too. But the anger sticks around. And that’s why we’re here. Fear keeps you in your house, but anger drives you out into the streets.

But there’s another feeling that doesn’t get talked about as much and that’s shame. I think we all feel a sense of shame — or we should — because this murderous violent society is our society.

Fueling our anger is the perception that our leaders do not share our fear and our sense of shame. And so today I want to say shame on you, Mayor Nagin, Superintendent Riley, District Attorney Jordan. You’ve really let us down. You have failed us. The criminal justice system and the government is broken. And I want to communicate to you the level of outrage that my friends and neighbors are feeling, because we don’t think you get it. Families that have lived in New Orleans for over 300 years are talking about leaving. People displaced by the flood are saying they are afraid to come back. That is the level of hopelessness and despair. They’d like you to step up and just do your jobs — but they don’t think you can. They’d like you to step down and resign — but they’re afraid you’d be replaced with equally incompetent people. Many of my neighbors believe that we need to see the federal government step in and literally take over New Orleans, or at least the criminal justice system. The feeling seems to be that even FEMA couldn’t screw up any worse than we have. At first I thought that was a joke. But it seems more possible every day, and there’s nothing funny about that.

Leaders, you need to do something that many of us think you can’t do. You need to be honest. You need to admit that what you’re doing isn’t working, and plan a return to true community policing. I’ve got an article here from six years ago that praises New Orleans as a model for how to reduce violent crime. Between 1994 and 1999 the murder rate here went down 65%. The credit goes to something called community policing, decentralizing personnel into neighborhoods, with increased responsibilities and accountability for district commanders. Of course to do community policing we will need more police, and that means better pay, so that a cop can get assigned to just one or two zones and really get to know that neighborhood, and neighbors can know them. Let’s get back to that.

But we also need to think of creative solutions outside traditional law enforcement strategies. We desperately need to experiment with some kind of decriminalization, to eliminate the black market for drugs. Some will say that’s too radical, but we say there’s nothing too radical when the stakes are this high.

Of course we want action, not rhetoric. Above all we want results. We must have a higher felony conviction rate. The national average is 57%. Our current rate is 7%. We must see a reduction in crime, and especially violent crime, and that is the bottom line. But how will we know whether or not this is being achieved? That is why we must have full, independently audited, disclosure of crime statistics.

We know that law enforcement alone can’t solve these problems. We need long-term solutions too. We must have better schools. We must have an economy beyond tourism. We must pay workers a living wage. We must fight racism and classism. It will take all of us. It will take community involvement. Well, look around. The community IS involved. And we will stay involved. To our political class: You’re on notice. We will be watching.

Edit: Just after I posted this, my old boss and friend Todd S. called me and advised that the final sentences (about coming back to City Hall with pitchforks and torches to “burn the castle down”) hit a discordant note. He was right. I deleted that portion immediately. Thanks, Todd.

Update: I will apparently be bringing this message to Anderson Cooper 360 tonite. CNN, show at 9PM, I’m on at 9:20 or so. That’s Central time. I’ll try to rise to the occasion.

Update: Geoffrey posted audio of all the speakers at the rally. Scout Prime posted the video of Editor B on AC 360.

Horrible Tragedy

This is the worst, most impossible news I’ve had occasion to pass on. I frankly am having trouble believing it’s real. Paul and Helen were Mid-City residents until their home was flooded. ROX viewers will know from episode #90, Fat — the cute vegan couple with the pet pig. I wish it was a bad dream. They just stopped by our house Sunday night. I’m too scared and angry and sad to even say more at this point, but plenty more must be said and done.

First, excerpts from nola.com, then words from Robert Thompson that begin to express what I’m feeling but can’t articulate.

In the sixth murder New Orleans murder in less than a day, a woman was killed and her husband shot in their home this morning at about 5:30 a.m., said New Orleans police, who found the bleeding husband kneeling at the door of the couple’s home, holding their two-year-old son in his arms.

The toddler was not hurt; the husband, 35, underwent surgery at Elmwood/Charity Trauma Center, police said, where his son was also taken for examination. The woman, 36, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The slayings, for which police offered no motive, capped off a wave of bloodshed severe even by New Orleans standards, and comes three days after Police Superintendent Warren Riley called a year-end news conference to put a positive spin on last year’s murder total of 161, which he called the lowest in 30 years. On a per capita basis, however, even the most optimistic projection of the post-flood city’s drastically shrunken population makes that murder rate an increase over previous years…

— At 5:30 a.m. Thursday, police were called to the Rampart Street killing. Neighbors of the couple later identified them as Helen Hill and Paul Gailiunas, a married couple who first came to the city more than a decade ago, and just moved back in August after a post-Katrina exile in South Carolina. The neighbors said Gailiunas was a doctor and Hill a freelance animator and filmmaker.

From: Robert Thompson
Date: January 4, 2007 1:33:48 PM CST
Subject: [FaubourgStJohn] Horrible Tragedy

News has just arrived of the murder and shooting of two of the most kind and generous people who this community has ever seen. I met HELEN HILL at our coffeehouse community space where she was teaching class for the New Orleans film collective. I’ve never met a more pleasant person. She now lies dead from being shot in her Marigny home. Dr. Paul Gailiunas was also shot while carrying their newborn child. The child is unharmed, but Paul is seriously injured, but likely to survive. Paul’s clinic saw many poor people, including some of my employees in an Esplanade clinic. He has received numerous Community Awards for his work with homeless and under privileged. His band, “The Troublemakers” entertained with a progressive political commentary, a testament to love and action against injustice.

These people didn’t deserve this! We don’t deserve this! When will this insanity stop? A lifetime of love snuffed for who knows what. I wish Paul and Helen had made the selfish decision and stayed in Canada or wherever…how could we waste their gift…and this is the fifth murder in the last 14 hours. I can’t believe this couple wants our bowed heads or silent prayers. What they would want is action. I can’t take this anymore. Does anyone else feel this level of outrage? Does anyone else feel we must get the guns off the streets, we must eliminate privileged and underclasses, we must stop drug exploitation, we must not tolerate racism, violence, hate…

I for one believe that unless we do something to make fundamental changes, we have pulled the trigger and fired the shots that have killed and destroyed these beautiful beings. I’m taking this one personally.

Robert Thompson

Cognitive Dissonance

In the paper today:

Prominent musician killed while his family watched

Dinerral Shavers, 25, died from a gunshot to the back of his head at about 5:30 p.m. while behind the wheel of his black Chevrolet Malibu in the 2200 block of Dumaine Street, police said…

Although critically wounded, Shavers continued driving four blocks up Dumaine before stopping.

By 6 p.m., Shavers lay motionless on his back in the middle of the street just outside the open driver’s side door as red and green holiday lights blinked rapidly on homes behind him, and a few patrons of the Magnolia Meat Market at the corner looked on.

Shavers was taken to a hospital, but died within an hour, police said.

Shavers was the snare drummer for the Hot 8 Brass Band and the music teacher at L.E. Rabouin High School, where he had recently begun the school’s first-ever marching band. “I’ve got 80 kids marching — we’re making history at Rabouin,” he said proudly in an interview earlier this week…


Big Easy is billed as ‘Fun Spot’

With the media spotlight on New Orleans as the Saints gear up to vie in the National Football League playoffs and as Louisiana State University takes on the University of Notre Dame in the Allstate Sugar Bowl next week, local hospitality leaders announced Thursday a campaign to promote the city as safe, fun and open for business.

Fun spot. Murder capital. Do I even need to explain what I mean by cognitive dissonance?

It’s also Xy’s birthday today, but it doesn’t feel very festive with headlines like these. Xy sent flowers to the funeral of a three-year-old child this morning, the little brother of one of her students who had been ailing for months. Not a happy way to start the day.

Of course, cognitive dissonance is a way of life here. People know how to combine tragedy and celebration without giving short shrift to either. I think that’s the part of New Orleans culture that I admire the most, even though it doesn’t make sense to the puritans, even though it makes us look irresponsible, even though some days it makes me angry.

So, yeah, happy birthday, baby. Let’s try not to get murdered in this “fun spot.”

Murder Hits Home

Taisha is a young girl who lives across the street from us. She and her mother moved in a few weeks ago. Before that she used to attend the school where Xy teaches in Algiers, though they didn’t know each other there.

Girlz of N. Salcedo

Last Friday Taisha’s older brother was gunned down in Central City.

Double Murder

This incident merited four sentences in the next day’s paper. It always gets me to see murders reported so briefly. There’s something deeply wrong with our society, that such violence has become trivial.