Last year, one of every 1,700 New Orleans residents was murdered. Just this past January, there was nearly a person slain every day. Twenty-six to be exact. An article published today by CNN tells the stories of several NOLA residents who have had to live with the death of at least one, sometimes several, loved ones.
Out of the 26 slayed in January, more than half the victims had not even seen their 30th birthday. So tragic, so young. This is not a life anyone, especially our youth, should have to grow up in. One child, Keian Ester was only 11, playing video games when a bullet pierced an apartment wall and then his eye. Keian died the next day.
It’s the type of senselessness Cee Cee Davis wanted to escape when she recently moved a few miles west to Metairie. Growing up in the 9th Ward, she doesn’t know exactly how many friends she lost in high school, somewhere between 20 and 30. She has tried so hard to forget the pain she has trouble naming them all.
One she will never forget is Katie, whose name is tattooed inside her forearm between angel wings See photo to the left. A halo is sketched above the letters R.I.P.
Many point to poverty and the accessibility of guns. A mother who lost all four of her sons to violence says race is a driving factor.
Let me restate that: All four of her sons…. No parent should even have to bury their child, especially all their children.
Why all the killings? The pettiness that leads to murder is a twisted trademark of New Orleans’ violence. Several youth lost their lives over the 2009 re-release of the Air Jordan “Space Jam” sneaker. “For just the damnedest of reasons, people kill each other,” Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas said.
While there are plenty of killings over drugs, revenge or disrespect, there is an astonishing rate of what Serpas calls “uncommon endings to very common fights.”
“What appears to be different about homicides in New Orleans are the circumstances of the events — they are in residential areas and outdoors and do not involve the kinds of drug and gang involvements found in other cities,” the researchers said. “In reading the narratives of the offenses, one is struck by their ordinariness — arguments and disputes that escalate into homicide.”
In 200 murder cases selected from a 13-month span between April 2009 and May 2010, the study found 57 were tied to drugs, while 47 were acts of revenge. Gangs were almost never a factor. Arguments led to 37 killings.
I found these results rather surprising. Not the fact that gangs were almost never involved, as many city gangs these days are the new modern day mafia protecting their own. I recently read an article – and I so wish I saved it – about a grad student who was allowed to hang out with an inner city gang daily for many years and study the in’s out out’s of their infrastructure. It was literally ran like a corporation which included very detailed bookkeeping. Additionally, when anyone within this gangs turf was murdered, the family of the deceased would receive a large amount of money from this gang to help pay for the costs of the funeral. Fascinating read, and I will continue to search for it until I find it.
Sadly, this is often not the circumstances in NOLA. For example, the Holt Cemetary allows hand-written signs for the deceased and graves may be dug by hand.
This CNN article continues to tell the story of several victims of slain family members and what some community members are doing about it. A tragic article about life that should not be, but does exist.