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19 people shot at Mother’s Day Parade in New Orleans – which part is me dreaming?

We woke with our Mother’s Day plans to drive to Donaldsonville to visit the River Road African American Museum. We left New Orleans, driving into Ascension Parish, over bayous and swamps and cypress forests following egrets and herons coasting alongside us, with a feeling of fleeing the city and indulging in nature and gaining more insight into the history of our place.

Kathe Hambrick, the museum founder and director, returned to Louisiana from California in 1991. Upon returning to Louisiana, she soon discovered that although some things had changed, other things remained the same.

Like me, Kathe was a byproduct of corporate downsizing and graced with finding her spiritual purpose on earth because of it. Although hers happened 19 years ago and mine is more recent.

Hambrick toured plantations that lined the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. These tours romanticized the lives of plantation owners and their families. Hambrick found that the history of the enslaved Africans was not included in the narratives that were presented on the plantation tours. Upon learning of this grave omission, she vowed to herself – “We must do something to tell our story…”

And again, like Kathe, I too heard the call to tell a story after returning from California to find young Black men dying in New Orleans’ streets daily and everyone seemingly romanticizing New Orleans and its lifestyle – especially when I became the mother of one of those soon to be young Black men.

The visit to the museum got us all juiced up, my friend said it was what she was looking for, a way to get back involved with African American history and helping to tell the story. I was brainstorming about fundraising opportunities to interpret slavery, to interpret A to Z about the journey and how we got here. At the same time, my friend’s daughter said she had just come back from a plantation tour where slavery was not even discussed (as Kathe said, nothing has changed, even 19 years after her return) – the reality of so much to do. I was so excited about the possibilities to help Kathe and to tell this story, but something happened on the way home from the museum (a museum post now must wait) – we returned to our beloved city that has been scarred by yet more violence.

A Mother’s Day Parade with 19 people gunned down including Deborah “Big Red” Cotton, an outspoken filmmaker, writer and speaker about second lines.

Earlier in the day, as we strolled around the grounds of the museum and spoke about how the plantations don’t include the narrative of slavery in their docent tours, how the “good school” across the bridge has few Black kids, a 75% majority Black community in 2013 is being led by whites, how young Black kids are adrift in the street of Donaldsonville with no parks, no swimming pools, no anything to engage them,  – a rural community beset with urban problems – hours later, I came home to my Facebook newsfeed alive with people writing about these same children – young Black men who showed up with guns to settle a score at a second line, but it is dissociated from cause and effect, it has no context, as if those boys/young men are not our boys/young men – as if we weren’t the ones who have failed these kids in every possible way.

I watched a video of Deborah Cotton and I want to do more than rant on Facebook, I want to do more than blog about institutionalized racism, I want to shake people and say, see that evil in the street, that is a reflection of the evil in your sub, semi, mostly conscious mind, you must change, you must see – I want to spit, I want to spit fire, I want to burn this institution down, I want my son to learn about history – NOT RELIVE IT.

In Cotton’s video she says:

The overarching problem is the lack of education and resources and employment opportunities for young people, especially young Black men, and the history of oppression and political corruption that has taken resources and opportunities meant for some of the most vulnerable and the most at risk people in our community and diverted those resources and opportunities to self serving folks in leadership that were supposed to be doling out those resources. So we are seeing the result of that here.

I am a writer and I want to start a REVOLUTION – I need to learn new skills.

A visit to an African American museum one hour from New Orleans where a woman is telling the story that only a handful of people are telling, listening to, learning from juxtaposed against a city of dreams destroying itself at the hands of kids, who don’t have a chance to tell their stories, who don’t know history, who are living history. The legacy is killing us here. We are drowning in Big Red blood.

Was I dreaming there, was I dreaming here, when will I wake up from this nightmare?

photo copy


By Rachel Dangermond


July 4, 2013 - 10:11 am

Vania - Kathe,Thank you for sharing your prasefsionol wisdom of the lessons learned as founder and director of the River Roads African American Museum. The counsel of many advisors contributes to the wealth of knowledge useful for the preservation of our collective heritage. Congratulations on museum’s nineteenth year and continued success in expanding the presence of Louisiana and the mark of the legacies shared throughout the world.Beryl F. HunterElelyon Cultural Solutions

May 13, 2013 - 11:38 am

Rachel - Eileen – Kathe Hambrick wrote and said:

We have failed our children. Until they know who they really are and know about the sacrifices and strengths of their ancestors, they will not know the true meaning of freedom.

I have to believe that we are destined to relive history unless we understand it and unless we know how to move beyond it. Schools are not teaching this – they must – people are scared to talk about the root cause – they must – the world would like to forget about this and move on – but we cannot.

Lots of love – I thought about you yesterday morning with a smile on my face, but I woke this morning with tears in my eyes for our city and our people.


May 13, 2013 - 9:28 am

Eileen - Rachel, you bring me back from this beautiful place where I find myself to the hurt at home in New Orleans. Yes, these young men did this. But Cotton is right on the money. Precisely: the money. It’s all about poverty, lack of education and resources, no dignity, no meaningful work, no future, incarceration or death. It’s about what plagues us as a community. Can we get through the thicket of political rhetoric? How do we turn this around? Each of us in our corner? And together? I ache …

May 13, 2013 - 2:51 am

Rachel - I see someone like Deborah Cotton who stays to fight and gets gunned down at the very event she is trying to uphold and keep sacred. Or today Kathe Jackson walking the streets of Donaldsonville and seeing opportunities to change history. I’m not sacrificing my son for this cause Mudd – no way – but I’m not sure what to do just yet. You know how it goes – if you think you are running away from a problem to be safe, you know what you will run into – your problem. Thanks for your love and good vibrations you always send our way.

May 13, 2013 - 2:47 am

Mudd - I feel your pain, Rachel. And I’ve been holding back… not saying how I’m scared for Tin at times… wondering why you don’t, as you say, run for the hills. But then I think, Who’ll make a difference? Who’ll fight for the other Tins in New Orleans?

You are a force of nature — intelligent, outspoken, determined, a gifted writer, a strong & beautiful woman, a loving soul on what seems to be a predestined path to create change.

I ADMIRE you. I support you from afar with loving thoughts and prayers: more power to you! But if ever it becomes too much of a hellhole, don’t risk your health — RUN FOR THE HILLS!!!


May 13, 2013 - 2:16 am

Rachel - Mudd – a heavy heart tonight. I keep thinking it will work out, we’ll be okay, and then tonight happens and I just want to hold Tin and run, run for the hills. Happy Mother’s Day indeed.

May 13, 2013 - 2:03 am

Mudd - POWERFUL piece — respect!

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