Journalist and documentarian Deborah “Big Red” Cotton was one of the 19 people wounded in the tragic shooting during a “second line” Mother’s Day parade yesterday. In total, ten men, seven women and two 10-year-old children were injured. Cotton had just launched her own website NewOrleansGoodGood.com, which highlights off-the-beaten path restaurants and attractions normally ignored by mainstream media.
But Cotton also wrote about often-ignored problems in New Orleans concerning violence and poverty. The tragic irony of her being wounded in a second line parade is that she wrote about this very issue often in her blog. When a woman was murdered three years ago after a second line parade, and some journalists attempted to draw causations and correlations between murder and second line tradition, Cotton wrote:
The unfortunate murder that occurred on Sunday is not symptomatic of second line culture. On the contrary, it’s directly attributable to deep social ills that New Orleans has yet to get a firm grasp on: a broken criminal justice system that allows murderers to get off easily and maintains bad cops which in turn undermines residents’ faith in cooperating with authorities; a broken education system that leaves citizens unable to function as adults in the professional world; and an economy based on two sectors that thwart ambition and opportunities — tourism and government. To end the murder culture, one must acknowledge and address the legitimate root problems and depart from racial biases that serve to further marginalize a distressed community.
We can end the story right there and call “church.” Except that yesterday Cotton herself got caught in the crossfire of all of those broken systems that produced her shooter, as did the 18 others who were shot and wounded. In this video, posted eerily almost one year ago exactly by Park Triangle Productions, Cotton expressed her concern about New Orleans violence and also her compassion and love for black men in the city who are too often the perpetrators and victims of that violence:
FBI officials remarked that yesterday’s shooting was “street violence” not an act of terror, but Ariella Cohen, a friend of Cotton’s and editor of Next American City, questioned why that distinction is even necessary. Wrote Cohen:
This distinction is troubling because it distinguishes between crime that is seen as against ‘all Americans’ from crime that is seen as a byproduct of an urban American sub-culture, a subculture that happens to have racial and class associations.
Local attorney Samantha Kennedy, who’s also a capital mitigation specialist who worked in Tucson after the mass shootings there, questioned if trauma services would be available to the New Orleans communities as they were offered in Arizona and Colorado. “We have a multigenerational multi-layered PTSD in this community,” wrote Kennedy on Facebook. “Violence begets violence because trauma begets trauma. We live in a highly traumatized community. When are we going to take the biopsyhochemical and emotional needs of our people seriously?”
Gov. Jindal allowed a behavioral health program in Louisiana that served “at-risk,” low-income children to close, but has proposed legislation that would streamline case management services for that population of children.