Mail Call

Jan 16, 2007 by

I would like to share a piece of mail I received today. It was forwarded to me by my editor Nathan Morrison and I think it is indicative of the questions being asked in other parts of the country. After all, there is not much beyond soundbites and highly condensed (and usually ill informed) mainstream media on the subject.

This is probably the way that most people outside of NOLA see the situation. I hope I have done some justice to these questions. The original author’s name has been removed along with the headers.

Ok, Nathan, I watched the video documentary you said all should see. My question is…why?

T______, Loki here, hopefully able to provide sufficient answer to your questions (which are good ones, by the way). I am cc-ing Nathan Morrison on this and cross posting it on my column as well since these are common questions. I hope you do not mind. Let’s take it point by point.

I have read some bloggs by people in NO and realize that the situation there is not what the media has lead us to believe. What I am not clear on is how this situation has been blamed on Katrina. Some of the incidents that the people interviewed referred to were 10 years old. Are they blaming the city, state and federal governments and their lack of action in regard to Katrina, for incidents that happened so long ago?

I refer you to Bart Everson’s speech at City Hall, “This is NOT a Katrina problem.” The lack of leadership from our elected officials has allowed it to expand to disturbing proportions in the wake of the Storm. The March occured because the deaths of two particular members of the community, Dick Shavers and Helen Hill, galvanized both the black and white poulace to anger over the ridiculous body count in the city. Shavers was a member of the Hot 8 Brass Band, a coach and a teacher who was highly respected. Helen Hill was a local film maker and has been involved in working with the disadvantaged here for many years. They were only two of ten, but the esteem in which they were held was a catalyst to action for many.

I thought that the crime issues that these people are enduring were the result of the local and federal governments failure to take care of the people after the hurricane.

That contributes to the situation, yes. 80% of the city is still uninhabitable wreckage, and the much vaunted federal monies have not reached the people they were supposedly intended to help. The Road Home Program for instance has issued only about a hundred checks. Anderson Cooper did some decent work on his 360 program the other night that included this very topic.

It sounds to me as if this state has been out of control for much longer than Post Katrina. Also, I would like to know why the government is being blamed for it’s citizens and their lack of respect for people and their property?

The government is being blamed for lack of leadership and lack of action. If you look at the text of the speeches made you will fid that they address both community AND governmental accountability. The last straw was Warren Riley, our Superintendant of Police, sating that crime had dropped by almost twenty per cent in his New Years address to the media. This was not just simple spin, but a blatant lie as the actual per capita numbers reveal a 60% increase in violent crime in NOLA.

The blame should be placed on the criminals. Or is it believed that it is not the criminals fault that they do not obey the law? Is it the governments fault that these people were not educated enough to know what the laws are and how to live within them?

That is not the simplistic issue it would seem at first glance. There are many generations of economic and cultural issues that have created the culture of violence we see here today. Bottom line though is that our friends and neighbors are dying in unprecedented numbers and we all share the blame, leaders and community alike.

So, what is this video really about? What are they protesting? Has the government really failed them or are they failing themselves by not teaching their children to obey the law and respect others and their property? Is this the previous generations problem for raising a generation of delinquents? What can a local government really do with people that believe they are above the law. Ok, tell me what you think about my rantings and tell me how off base I am. I can take it. Let me have it. T______

T________, I am not going to “let you have it,” These are valid questions from someone who is unfamiliar with the situation and has little data to work with. The video Dambala made was an attemtp to document an historic event. Getting 5000 people in NOLA, across racial boundaries, unified and mtivated for something like this is a first in our city’s annals (be that for good or ill). The failures you ask about are our own, both government and community. As to what the local government can do, they can start by doing their jobs.
Yes, there is violence and corruption aplenty. (Sounds a bit like DC when you frame it that way, doesn’t it?) The problem is that the system here is broken and has been for awhile. The criminal justice system does not work, look at our 7% conviction rate to see that.I would like to invite you to check out the Media Roundup that my fellow blogger Maitri has compiled at I think you will find a lot of food for thought. Please also feel free to contact me either through the comment box on my page at Powers and Morrison, my own blog at, or via email humidcity (at) gmail (dot) com with any further thoughts or questions.

-George “Loki” Williams
New Orleans Correspondant, Powers & Morrison

ADDENDUM: This speaks succinctly to the broken state of the criminal justice system in NOLA, please give it a read.

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