Saturday, January 14, 2012

Violence Stalks the City: 47 Shot in 12 Days

This last week in New Orleans has me rattled, and so crime's returned me to this blog, to poem prayers. We began the year here with a deadly crash on I-10—a 40-vehicle pile-up near the Michoud exit that officials blamed on fog and marsh fires. Compared to the last 12 days in New Orleans, the crash was a blip in consciousness: fog and marsh fires happen; natural forces slam humanity as survivors of Hurricane Katrina well know. However, nature will most likely not slay us before we slay ourselves. If we do not find ways to address the rising crime and violence in this city and other cities, a way to address the misery that drives the madness and the misery that's used to excuse it, we might as well return to our ancient caves.

Last weekend, between Friday night, January 7, and Saturday afternoon, January 8, New Orleans had a rash of unrelated shootings that left three people dead and 10 wounded. The bullets have been flying since January 1. The Times Picayune reports that "at least 47 people have been wounded by gunfire in the first 12 days of the year," causing Mayor Mitch Landrieu to hold a press conference. I'm sure he's concerned about the safety of his constituents, but I'm equally sure that with Mardi Gras approaching and rising crime's threat to tourism, he needed to make all efforts to fight crime more visible.

I won't complain about the mayor's eye on revenue. New Orleans needs the money, but it's the pictures and news clips of mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, and lovers weeping and hollering with grief that do me in. I ended up writing the poem that I've posted below and creating the graphic that I've posted above after seeing this picture on the left of Melisa Marshall, 23, at a vigil, grieving the loss of her fiancee, Joe Elliott, 17, who was the father of their six-month-old son.

Under the headline "Barbed comments 'about nothing' blamed for deaths of father and son," reports that Eliott and his father, Joseph Evans, 41, were shot to death after Eliott's mother, Sabrina, asked her downstairs neighbor to stop calling her teenage daughters "whores."

But Marshall's picture alone did not prompt the poem. Earlier this week I shuddered at video of children running across Gentilly Circle, guided by teachers, during the evacuation of Nelson Elementary School due to four gunmen at large, and I cringed at news of a home invasion in New Orleans East that left three people dead. The story of the mother on Elysian Fields Avenue who heard shots outside and cried, "Please don't let that be my child," but it was her child, her 12-year-old daughter, also stirred me.
"Police said the 12-year-old was sitting on her front porch when three gunmen fired multiple shots, striking two women, a man and Johnson's daughter."
The only way to avoid this kind of news in this city is to turn off all electronics and climb under the bed. How many bodies and vigils will it take to wake the village? I'll keep working through with art until I find better way to process horror.

By Nordette N. Adams

Murder prowls,
interrogating black
survival until
every day becomes one
ring. Hope, blindfolded, dies

The City of the Dead
in its season, New Orleans,
waves white hankies: Precious Lord,
take her hand ... Surrender. We
surrender like the lamb
yellow flowers on teens' graves.
Petals on the wind parade.

January 13, 2012
Nordette N. Adams


  1. 47 in 12 days? Speechless and sad. :-(

  2. @Denise Yes, it is sad. Often the murder rate is emphasized, but I think we should talk in terms of number of shootings so that people see the crisis more clearly. If the shooters had better aim ...