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Landrieu, Master P use Essence weekend tobattle violence

8th July 2013   ·   0 Comments

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and former gangsta rapper Percy “Master P” Miller were among a number of individuals who saw the four-day Essence-July 4th weekend as a prime opportunity to stamp out the senseless violence that continues to plague New Orleans.

“Essence is what they call ‘a party with a purpose’ — and the purpose side is starting to get really important,” Landrieu said, “so we’re using this as a platform to bring in the best thinkers in the country to talk about violence on the streets of New Orleans — particularly young African-American men killing young African-American men.”

Event organizer Mike Willis, the city’s scourge of violence, joined Master P in hosting an event in Algiers last week called a “Day Out Against Crime” to bring the community together and raise awareness of the crime and violence that continues to claim the lives of many of the city’s young Black males.

On Saturday morning, during one of Essence Festival’s Empower­ment Seminars, Landrieu was among a panel of mayors who discussed strategies for addressing violence and murder in America.

On Sunday morning outside the Morial Convention Center, Mayor Mitchell invited mothers who have a child to violence in New Orleans to join him for a prayer vigil titled “Love, Loss & Life.” Landrieu told WWL-TV last week that he wants mothers in New Orleans who have lost children to the wave of violence “to just be together to talk, to have some fellowship, to really think about how much has been taken from them and try to inspire a national movement about stopping violence on the streets of America, particularly in the city of New Orleans.”

The Advocate reported last week that the murder rate in New Orleans has dropped for the first half of 2013. As of July 4, the city had registered 76 murders, the most recent being the killing of a 14-year-old boy in Central City.

The first six months of 2013 saw a 22 percent decrease in murders compared to the same period last year.

If the rate holds steady, the city would finish the year with 152 homicides, the lowest murder total the city would have witnessed in two decades. The previous low over that period came in 1999 when there were 158 killings.

“It’s fabulous news that it’s down that much,” Rafael Goyeneche, head of the Metropolitan Crime Commission and a former police officer, told The Advocate last week. “But you can’t declare victory. We’ve declared victory in the past. When you do that, the game is over. You have to be constantly on top of your game, constantly engaging the community, constantly honing your strategies.”

“I’m knocking on wood right now,” Councilwoman Susan Guidry, who heads the council’s Criminal Justice Committee, told The Advocate. “That is statistically significant. But it has been a short period of time. I’d want to see that continue to the end of the year before we start celebrating.”

Opinions vary regarding the cause for the drop in murders so far this year with observers attributing the dip to everything from closer scrutiny of the NOPD, greater cooperation between various law enforcement agencies, the mayor’s NOLA for Life initiative and the efforts of ministers like the Rev. Tom Watson, who recently hosted the 19th annual citywide Black male summit at the Family Center of Hope, an arm of Watson Memorial Teaching Ministries.

Some of the city’s churches have also led grassroots efforts to stem the tide of violence, including New Hope Baptist Church, which buried its pastor, the Rev. John C. Raphael, after losing a battle with cancer last week. Raphael was widely considered the single greatest voice in the effort to stem the tide of violence across New Orleans.

“I think it’s probably a multitude of different things, and if anybody knew that any one or two things were more responsible than anything else, everyone in the country would be emphasizing those items,” Goyeneche said. “So I don’t think anyone can sit there and tell you they know it’s A, B and C.”

Tamara Jackson, who leads the nonprofit group Silence Is Violence, warned against any be­coming complacent about this year’s lower murder total.

“I don’t want to appear to be negative,” Jackson told The Advocate. “But don’t get comfortable. There’s always a calm before the storm.”

This article originally published in the July 8, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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