Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Staying Safe in New Orleans

I spent last week visiting my son in New Orleans. We had a great time together--good conversations in many venues, from the First Cup Cafe to the Boulangerie Restaurant, from Jimmy John's Subs to Buffa's Bar. Every time I visit NOLA (this was my 5th, since Katrina/The Flood of 2005), I am impressed by the creativity, the vibrancy, and the pluckiness of the residents. I love the food, the music, the art; the array of eateries and "drinkeries" (my new word for bars and cafes), used bookstores, vintage clothing shops; the charter schools, non-profit organizations, and community gathering spaces.

On Monday, March 4, however, the under-side of New Orleans rose to the surface at the edge of the Broadmoor neighborhood where my son works. Avram stepped outside into the back courtyard to take a phone call; at 2:22 p.m., he heard several gunshots fired, very close by (Google Maps indicates less than a tenth of a mile away). He came inside, told us all, and said he expected to hear the sirens any moment.

Fairly soon we pieced together the barest outline of events with a brief online police report and eyewitness testimony from Will Bradshaw, president of Green Coast Enterprises, who had been on the scene moments after the shooting that left a young man dead on the sidewalk. (Longer, more recent police report here.)

Less than an hour later, my son and his colleagues (who work for a community development corporation) received this email from Will, their landlord and a partner in their development work in Broadmoor. I was so impressed by Will's immediate, empathic, and practical response, that I asked him if I could share his message with y'all. Permission granted:
As you all know at this point, yesterday just after 2 pm, 21-year old Kendall Williams was shot and killed in front of Kajun Express Seafood. We are deeply saddened by this event, all too similar to too many other events that take place throughout our city with shocking and numbing regularity. But this is not regular, and it has to stop.
Already, we have been in touch directly with Councilmember [LaToya] Cantrell and the Mayor's senior staff to aggressively address issues of crime and safety at our corner. 
Working with other area business owners, we have formed the South Broad Business Coalition, and we continue to address safety as a top priority within this group. We encourage you to participate in the next SBBC meeting, the third Thursday of this month at 730 am in the Rhodes pavilion.
But most of all, we thank you for the commitment we have all made to change through our work and with our presence here at Washington and Broad. Every day, through our individual and collective work, we are forging a new path for our city and its people. That is what inspired us to invest here, and it is the thing that gives us hope in the face of self-inflicted tragedy. We will come back tomorrow and fight for better schools, better buildings, better neighborhoods, a better justice system, better lunches for our kids, better healthcare, and so much more. That hope is the light that propels us forward in the darkest of times. Thank you for bearing your piece of that light.
I am currently working on a poem about the murder. I did not know Kendall Williams, but I do know he was a son and a brother, and his untimely death is the source of much grief and sadness for his family, and his community. I also know that led by Will Bradshaw of Green Coast, NOLA City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, Broadmoor Development Corporation Executive Director, Santiago Burgos, and Broadmoor Improvement Association President Kelli Wright, the area near Washington and Broad will change for the better, and soon.
Stay Safe.

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