Monday, May 11, 2009

NOLA's Cassimere Murder: Could this happen to your parents?

I remember how scared I was years ago when an elderly neighbor around the corner from my parents' home in the New Orleans 7th Ward was murdered in her home. It was the first time I'd known someone who died by violence. Today I'm deeply saddened by the murder of an elderly couple in NOLA, people I do not know but who feel familiar.

"Olander Cassimere Sr., 79, and Alphatheda Cassimere, 77, were found shot to death in their home in the 5400 block of Seminary Place"in Pontchartrain Park on Mother's Day morning. The news came via local TV stations and the daily newspaper, The Times Picayune. Pontchartrain Park is located on the eastern side of Gentilly in the Upper 9th Ward in relation to the Gentilly section of the 7th Ward.

Neither my parents nor I have ever lived in Pontchartrain Park, the historic, middle-class, black subdivision in New Orleans, but in the elderly couple I see my parents, hard-working people who saw it as a blessing to live out their years together in peace.

Mr. Cassimere was pastor of the Third Church of God in Christ in the Lower 9th Ward. His wife was a soloist, a soft-spoken woman. Neither of the pair cursed, smoked nor drank, reports the local paper. I can't say my parents lived lives that vice-free, but both lived their lives with reverence to God. My father is still alive, but my mother died last year due to illness.

I heard about the Cassimeres' murder first from my father, 88, who lives with me. From his recliner in my den he yelled, "That's horrible what happened to that old man and his wife. What's wrong with people?"

And then I saw the story last night on the news. What's wrong with people indeed? As I told LoveBabz when I appeared on her Love Talk show last month, "I'm overwhelmed by the crime in New Orleans." My poetry on this blog reflects my floundering. I did not think I'd end up writing mostly about crime, death, and loss when I started The Urban Mother's Book of Prayers. I had hoped I'd write on a variety of topic that impact urban mothers and give hope of solutions. For this crime wave, I don't know what solutions may be offered that would not take years to bear fruit.

We want the killing to stop now! To see the errors and correct ourselves this moment. But the errors are so many, we don't know where to start.

To give you an idea of the kind of crime we hear of every day, this weekend it was the Cassimere murder and this Monday afternoon, it's the slaying of a 13-year-old boy. He's the fifth young person to be killed in less than 40 days, according to WDSU. The police have charged a 14-year-old in the murder of the 13-year-old, who should have been in school at the time of his death.

I talked about a sense of drowning in blood from the crime deaths here when I discussed Chicago's youth dying by violence at the WSATA blog. Furthermore, I considered that New Orleans may need a memorial of stones that the woman in Chicago started and that's drawn attention to the horror of children dying there.

WWL-TV reports that the Cassimeres' family members think the couple's slaying is related to witness intimidation. A family member was allegedly kidnapped last year, reports news sources.

Links to Stories About the Tragedy:

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