6 Years,4 Months,1 Day

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March On City Hall, January 2007

It appears no day – not even Mother’s Day – is exempt from the senseless violent crime that continues to plague our city.  Sunday afternoon shots were fired into the crowd at the annual Mother’s Day Second Line in the Seventh Ward leaving 19 people, including two 10 year olds, wounded and bleeding. It’s been 6 years, 4 months and 1 day since the March on City Hall on January 11, 2007 which was spawned by the outrage over the murders of Helen Hill and Dinneral Shavers and here we are, still mired in violent crime all these years later. We have a different mayor, a different city council and a different police chief but nothing has changed in the lives of New Orleanians where gun violence is concerned.

Fortunately, as of now, there were no fatalities in this incident but there easily could have been multiple deaths. So far in 2013 there have been 60 deaths by murder in our city. In a city where murders and shootings are a weekly occurrence I’m afraid we’ve  become desensitized to the horror. Where is our outrage today?

Dr. Andre M. Perry on The Consequence of Missed Opportunities

Reprinted with permission from Dr. Perry
The One Son Who Got Away

By Dr. Andre M. Perry

About a year ago, Ms. Chanda Burks met me in my office to discuss establishing a mentoring program for black males through her sorority Delta Sigma Theta.  Ms. Burks brought along her adolescent son Jared Michael Francis to take in the conversation.  One year later, just a few days ago, I bumped into Ms. Burks at a NOLA for Life event.  There, Ms. Burks informed me that her son Jared died from multiple gunshots in front of their home in the hushed neighborhood of Tall Timbers. He died September 15, 2012.  He was an 18 year-old senior in high school.

After hearing this horrible news, I immediately recalled the robust conversation we had about mentoring and staying in school.  I remembered how encouraged Ms. Burks and her son left the meeting.  Ms. Burks in fact told me during our recent encounter that our past chat made a positive impression on Jared.  But, deep down I knew a conversation wasn’t enough.  I missed an opportunity to save a son.

A balance of regret and responsibility motivated me to call Ms. Burks a few days later. I also wanted to get a sense of what happened in between the time we last met.  Ms. Burks told me that he lived the typical life of a middle-class teenager. She saw few negative signs. Ms. Burks acknowledged the presence of one peer that showed a penchant for trouble. No one as of yet has been charged with his murder.  I told myself that a few more conversations could have reached Jared and his troubled friend.  But ephemeral conversations are not enough.

I like many others have abdicated our community responsibilities to teachers, community based organizations and City Hall.  To a fault, we’ve placed undue responsibilities on police and prisons to restore order. Given the magnitude of our community problems, everyday citizens must unlearn how we made disengagement an acceptable behavior.

According to the report, Building an Inclusive, High-Skill Workforce for New Orleans Next Economy from the Greater New Orleans Data Center, 14,000 youth between the ages of 16 and 24 in the New Orleans metro are neither enrolled in school nor employed. Disconnected youth is the latest tag used to describe this horrible state of anomie. It means that fourteen thousand youth in the New Orleans metro are adrift and disengaged from the social anchors that could instill the type of character that incite youth to fight injustice instead of producing it.

Jared did not qualify as someone who we deem as disconnected, but those we take for granted are receiving the collateral damage of socially dysfunctional communities.  We cannot escape ourselves.

The overwhelming statistics demand intimate and intrusive engagement that rises above fleeting conversations. But they’re reasons why we don’t get close enough to embrace a young man or woman.  We’re scared. The annual murder counts are more than alarming. Murder creates an environment of fear that facilitates a hands-free ethic of care. Consequently, even the best of us essentially drop in from our collective ivory towers only to helicopter out with deliberate speed.  We never become a part of the social milieu. We’ve become what I often refer to as arms-length advocates.

Arms-length advocacy can’t replace the strong hugs our children actually need. We can’t let fear or disengagement deny ourselves opportunities to prevent the unnecessary loss of yet another Jared. The community involvement we need is so simplistic it’s almost insulting to repeat. If more of us who care are fully present, murder rarely happens. If family members, neighbors and friends displayed the courage and love to take the gun away, report the crime and redirect the anger, we would not be our current situation.  If those who are not expected to save a son took every opportunity to act, the ongoing professional work could gain traction.

Ms. Burks and I simply can’t let another opportunity pass.  If the community character is not present, we must develop it.  Moral discernment must be taught, displayed and executed.  Therefore, we ask everyone who reads this to take opportunities to build our capacities.

Each year for my birthday (October 12) I try to give back.  I’m privileged. Service is the obligation of privilege.  My birthday always seemed like the perfect date to give back.  This year I asked Ms. Chandra Burks if we could become mentors and direct our friends to deeper mentoring opportunities.  She agreed.  Over the next week we are directing people to the New Orleans Kids Partnership Mentor and Tutor sign-up program < http://www.nokp.org/mentortutor/>.

New Orleans Kids Partnership has coordinated a variety of proven mentoring and tutoring programs across the Greater New Orleans region. NOKP made it very convenient for anyone to choose an organization that fits our busy schedules.  They also provide training and guidance on how to mentor or tutor. We can’t assume that everyone can serve as a role model.  Many “mentors” need mentoring. Nevertheless, NOKP and its partners make youth engagement a safe and organized process.

When you sign up, please indicate in the appropriate section that you heard about NOKP’s mentoring program through Ms. Chandra Burks.

As Ms. Burks and I meandered through our discussion, she could not keep straight the number of children she currently had.  She would say, “My three…I mean my two children.”  She may have lost a son, but she certainly gained a brother.  Hopefully, we will soon begin losing track of how many sons we have gained rather than from how many we have lost.

Andre Perry, Ph.D. (twitter: @andreperrynola) is Associate Director for Educational Initiatives for Loyola University New Orleans and author of The Garden Path: The Miseducation of a City.

Nine Shot 3 Dead. Woman shouts “Enough is enough!” at NOLA Crime

The following piece was originally posted on Nordette Adams’ blog, The Urban Mother’s Book of Prayers on May 30. She has graciously given permission to repost it here.

This is the photo I saw when I visited NOLA.com today. The caption says that a distraught woman is being carried after learning that a seven-year-old girl was shot during a birthday celebration (for a 10-year-old boy) “just before 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 29, 2012. ”  A girl, age 5, and a woman, 33, both died, and the birthday boy himself was grazed by bullets in the face and leg, according to the the Times Picayune, New Orleans’s primary newspaper. Early reports said that in total, five people had been shot, and you may read the full story at the Times Picayune/NOLA.com website. Since then, the death toll has risen.

The photo above unnerved me, but I still recognized that it illustrates one of the concerns of this blog, which is that mothers, wives, aunts, grandmothers–women who want their children and loved ones to survive–are repeatedly caught in the crossfire of rampant violence either as shooting victims themselves or through the loss. The photo, however, did not surprise me because I had already received a notice in email from WWL-TV reporting a “quintuple shooting.” According to WWL, the woman who died was Shawanna “Nonnie” Pierce, mother of three. She was not part of the birthday party; she was on her way to return a rental car.

In the this video , a woman shouts, “Enough is enough!” Who would disagree with her? Coincidentally, the family celebrating the birthday party were interviewed on television just a few years ago during an anti-crime rally calling for an end to the violence. Members said they hoped the rallies worked because something had to be done to stop the violence.

According to WWL, three people died and in total, nine were shot. From the station’s written account, here are some quotes:

“It’s time to end it. Enough is enough,” said Doris Stewart, the victims’ great aunt. “One baby dead, one laying in the hospital trying to survive.”

The mayor and police chief reacted with fury.

“Clearly the cowardice of these shooters must be and will be overcome by the will of the people of New Orleans. We do know that unfortunately when young children are hurt, people do come forward quick, and they come forward with good information,” Chief Ronal Serpas said.

“Both the chief and the commissioner and I and everybody else are calling on everybody who was out here. We’ve got to find these guys, and we’ve got to end this violence in the city of New Orleans,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

The birthday party incident was the last of four shootings on a terribly violent day:

The picture to the left shows Brianna Allen, the 5-year-old who died. She had recently graduated from kindergarten. Brianna’s grandmother also mourns a son who was recently buried.

In other sad news, the City of Chicago experienced a plague of violence over the Memorial Day weekend. There, 40 people were shot and 11 are dead. Mayor Rahm Emmanuel said that there area a “set of economic issues” … and “a set of cultural issues” that feed into the violence that “we are not talking about.” I would say that this is also true in New Orleans, although I know some people get offended when anyone brings up the cultural issues that hurt rather than help. Perhaps we will soon be fed up enough with the cultural issues that factor into our destruction to talk about and address them with power and determination.

Assault on Local Home Health Nurse Precipitates Fundraiser/Outreach Program

The HALO Foundation
Holistic Healing for Violent Crime Victims in Healthcare

On Thursday, January 26, 2012 the crime that persists in the City of New Orleans shocked us again. And this time it hit very close to home. One of our own, a home health nurse, who has dedicated her life to home care service, became another Victim of Violent Crime, another statistic in the long list that pervades our community. At 3:30 p.m., in the middle of a beautiful Thursday afternoon, while arriving at a patient’s home, she was robbed at gunpoint, abducted and assaulted.

We all heard the blip on television that Thursday evening and perhaps even a bit through the weekend. But just how many of us paid attention? Just another crime, we all think. And then more information is revealed. The woman is a home health nurse. Uneasiness settles in as she begins to have a face. We realize she is a mother, a daughter, a friend, a caregiver, one like us and the ripple effect begins. For those in the home care and hospice industries, this is a daily fear. For those in healthcare, we recognize we can sometimes be a target. And all of us in the healthcare industry know the unique needs of a Victim of Violence. We are too acutely aware of the long-term effects these acts can have not only on the Victim, but on their families. We know how long and how difficult the road to healing can be.

We call her “Angel” because she needs and wants to be anonymous at this time. She is surrounded by a strong support group of family, friends and mental health professionals. She is comforted, yet gives comfort. Her strength amazes us. She has many needs that encompass the physical, the psychological, the emotional and even the practicality of financial and legal needs. She must process this, begin a path to healing, deal with the stress of the legal aspects and must have a means of support.

She recognizes she needs help, and is willing to accept. She also realizes how this tragic event has affected the home health and hospice community. As a dedicated caregiver who has experienced violence, she seeks a way to care for colleagues who may in the future also become a Victim, and to also work towards better safety systems and policies.

Through this desire, and her need for anonymity, The Healthcare Angels Lifeline Outreach Foundation a/k/a The HALO Foundation was formed on February 15, 2012. A dedicated fund for “Angel” has been established at Regions Bank for donations directed to her. Donations can be made at any Regions Bank to the account of “The HALO Foundation.” 100% of donations made to this account go directly to “Angel.”

We Need Your Help!

Request for Volunteers: We are currently seeking individuals who want to proactively be involved. Our needs are many and we need volunteers and leaders. We have established the following Committees needing volunteers – Program Development, Financial, Fundraising, Public Relations, Information Technology and a Nominating Committee for the Board of Directors. If you or someone you know would like to be involved, please contact any one of us listed at the bottom of this page.

Fundraising: In an effort to help “Angel” concentrate on healing we would like to assist her financially by sponsoring a series of fundraisers. Currently, we are announcing that The HALO Foundation is sponsoring a fundraising event for Angel’s benefit to be held at Mid-City Rock’nBowl on Sunday, June 10, 2012 from 1:00p.m. to 4:00pm. We are in the preliminary planning stages at this time and are working on entertainment and a Silent Auction. We need volunteers and humbly ask that you consider giving us your TIME to help us plan and execute this event, to assist with planning the entertainment or helping to collect donations for the Silent Auction. Please help us in having a successful and fun-filled event by donating your time.

Please share this with your staff, colleagues, family and friends. For More Information:

Mary Kathryn Nichols
President
504-339-9802
MaryKYoung@att.net mail to: MaryKYoung@att.net

Michele Schellhaas, R.N.
Vice-President
504-296-9001
Mds0919@yahoo.com mail to: Mds0919@yahoo.com

Jane Fountain
Secretary/Treasurer
504-236-9925
Tillytoo@aol.com mail to: Tillytoo@aol.com

The Healthcare Angels Lifeline Outreach Foundation
a/k/a The HALO Foundation
Holistic Healing for Violent Crime Victims in Healthcare

Mission Statement
The mission of The HALO Foundation is to provide support, resources and a pathway for holistic healing addressing the physical, psychological, emotional, financial and legal needs for members of the healthcare community who become victims of violent crime while in the service of administering care to others.

Vision Statement
Our medical community will feel free to administer necessary care to others without fearing for their own safety.

Our Goals
Our goal is simple, yet two fold. We want to provide support and comfort to our colleagues and their families who become victims of violence and to give them a sense of empowerment so they may recover to their full life potential. In addition, we want to be proactive in addressing the safety concerns of healthcare workers in our community. To address these goals we have issued a 7-point plan:

• To provide financial assistance to allow victims and their families to concentrate on recovery;
• To provide a peer support network;
• To provide a network of medical and legal professionals to ensure advocacy through law enforcement, judicial, and healthcare systems;
• To offer in partnership, safety, self-awareness and self-defense presentations, seminars and other professional trainings to healthcare workers;
• To promote community awareness of the daily dangers faced by home care professionals in an effort to promote collaborative community action efforts to stop victimization;
• To work to improve policies and procedures of the medical and legal professions in the treatment of victims of violence throughout the crisis;
• To collaborate with law enforcement and healthcare associations/organizations in an effort to affect the Safety Policy and Procedures and Safety Performance Improvement Plans to better protect healthcare providers working in field positions.

Compromise – is it worth it?

I’m up in rural Mississippi visiting family. I’m sitting in a room lit up by the sunshine streaming through the window and listening to the lilt of wind chimes right outside. It’s calm and quiet and I’m loving it. It makes me wonder why I live in a city full of noise, long lines everywhere you go and the daily count of dead bodies  by murder when I could be living where the pace of life is relaxed, coming and going is pleasantly easy and the only people who die violently are car accident victims. And that’s fairly rare. But, it’s only Tuesday – I’ve only been here three days – and usually by about the fifth or sixth day I’m missing the vibrancy, the color, the music, the culture, the life of the city. Nothing is perfect in this world and oftentimes we have to accept compromise in deciding our life’s path. Lately, however, I find myself so incredibly angry and saddend by the unrelenting pace of murder in our city, especially when it involves children, and I think about how it wears on one’s psyche and whether it’s worth being exposed to that every day for the other more beautiful aspects of life in the city. I can’t even imagine being a parent and raising a child here and the worry they must live with everyday.

It’ll be interesting to see how I feel on the fifth day this time.

gang rape redux 2012

So its 2012, yet there are still instances of horrific crimes against people, against nurses who are on a mission to simply tend to the sick. It happened practically a week ago – a 53 year old home health nurse was brutally gang raped in Zion City, in an abandoned house in the 1300 block of South Gayoso during the afternoon of January 26, 2012. The first appearance in the Times Picayune of this incident occurred on Monday evening, and a follow up report indicates there still is no police report on the crime.

Could that be because the owner of the abandoned 4-plex where the gang rape occurred is owned by (ironically) a CEO of a biomedical company who is developing the planned Tulane medical corridor? I find this interesting…

The location where the woman said she was raped is a rundown fourplex owned by Jim McNamara, president and CEO of BioDistrict New Orleans, the state agency charged with redeveloping portions of the Central Business District and Mid-City into a medical corridor. McNamara said police had not contacted him. In fact, he was unaware of the attack on his property until contacted by a reporter. His brother lives in the only occupied unit on the property and also was not aware that anything untoward had happened there, he said. The attack probably happened while his brother was at work, he said. “I’m sure if he would’ve been there he would’ve stopped it,” McNamara said.

The thing that strikes me is, how in the heck is one man going to intervene in a gang rape of a lone female by six adrenaline fueled men?

I think this echoes the pathetic state of the city of New Orleans, the utter breakdown of the moral fiber that can fuel such an incredibly heinous act, in 2012. And we are relegated to wringing our hands, expressing outrage and praying for the victim to recover both physically, mentally and spiritually.

The first thing that came to mind when I read this story, buried in the back pages mind you, was JoEllen Smith. Miss Smith was a student nurse who was making a house call in Algiers sometime in 1973, and was brutally raped and murdered while on a “mission of mercy”.

JoEllen Smith has been memorialized, having a hospital named in her honor and a memorial scholarship still actively bestowing funds to eligible people 39 years later. But it was quite unfortunate that she was killed while caring for the health of others. I am not comparing the two crimes, but instead I ask when will the lurid segment of mankind recognize the actions of those who serve a selfless mission to ease the suffering of others, without feeding their own deplorable, twisted need to commit vicious crimes against nature?

Come on NOPD…

UPDATE: NOPD has made some arrests in this case – read about it here – and the Times Picayune published an editorial piece on how the NOPD handled the incident in today’s paper.