A little more than a year after the 2005 Federal Flood, the crime rate in New Orleans started returning to what unfortunately has become normal around here. Within the spate of a few weeks, Dinerral Shavers, a musician, and Helen Hill, a filmmaker were killed and people took to the streets and to organizing. Silence is Violence grew out of that period and became a force to address what was happening in our city.
Silence is Violence started the Music Clinics in an effort to bring kids into the effort to fight crime here. Shamarr Allen and members of his band, the Underdawgs, took over as music director and instructors. That is where Tin began going a couple of years ago when he was old enough to hold a trumpet. Last night, the Music Clinic held a celebration of the kids and handed out free Jazz Fest tickets to consistent students and invited the Stooges Brass Band to celebrate with everyone in the street. A good time was had by all.
This celebration was happening the same day I had written about three men shot dead and one eight year old boy shot and wounded all in one day, day before yesterday. A friend text me that the man who was killed in the early evening was her half brother’s cousin.
The eight year old boy, I learned today is going to recover.
It’s the agony and the ecstasy of New Orleans life, young, mostly Black men playing music in the streets and enriching our culture, and young, mostly Black men dying in the streets, tearing at the fabric of our society and all of our lives. Music is an outlet for some, but not for all. New Orleans needs to open up a world of opportunity for young Black men to share in the citizenship and equality that white men enjoy without effort.
If we start with the premise that all people are created equal and then we look and see what happens as these kids grow to be men, there is something that happens along the way to cause a group – young Black men – to diverge from the status quo. Early education? Opportunity? How about ownership of the problem by everyone in this city and responsible action towards a solution?
No child is born a racist, but nor can children thrive within the confines of institutionalized racism.