22nd April 2014 · 0 Comments
By Edmund W. Lewis
We’re inching closer to a year since Faubourg Marigny resident Merritt Landry, a City of New Orleans employee whose father is a former St. Bernard Parish elected official, shot 14-year-old Marshall Coulter in the head for trespassing in Landry’s back yard and the criminal justice system has still not managed to find the integrity and courage to charge him with attempted second-degree murder. Meanwhile, Marshall Coulter lies in a vegetative state, barely alive and awaiting justice that may never come to him and his family. We are also just months away from the ninth anniversary of the 2005 murder of Henry Glover, 31, by former NOPD officer David Warren less than a week after Hurricane Katrina. Warren has been acquitted after his retrial and the Orleans Parish Coroner, Orleans Parish District Attorney and State Attorney General have failed to lift a finger to bring Glover’s killer to justice. The Glover family, surrounded by a small army of supporters and friends, continues to fight for justice.
Time continues to roll forward after the NOPD killings of residents like Steven Hawkins, Adolph Grimes, Justin Sipp and Raymond Robair with very little justice on the horizon.
The powers that be hope that the passage of time and the unrelenting wave of festivals, second-lines, Saints games, parades and other excuses to party will make us forget these miscarriages of justice. So far, it has worked out well for them with Black people not holding elected officials accountable for the various encroachments on our individual and collective constitutional rights. We have acted as though the district attorney has nothing to do with the problems we find in the criminal justice system or like the mayor has nothing to do with the dysfunctional, unconstitutional NOPD.
For the record, these officials have everything to do with what’s going wrong in New Orleans.
Some of us have never forgotten what has been done and what is still being done to control, exploit, oppress and destroy Black people. In a world teeming with mindless pursuits and hedonistic distractions, we can’t afford to forget or take our eyes off the prize.
We can’t keep allowing ourselves to approach elections like they’re popularity contests without giving serious thought to the issues and the records of incumbent elected officials. That’s a recipe for oppression and misery. The more we allow these elected officials to get away with, the bolder they will become in steamrolling over the people and their constitutional rights.
We also can’t allow ourselves to forget local victims of unconstitutional policing, political indifference and and an inept criminal justice system. We need to remember that there is an African proverb that says to forget is the same as to throw away. We cannot afford to forget or throw away the struggle that has been our legacy in this strange land, for it is that struggle that has shaped our collective history, strengthens our resolve to honor the sacrifices made by our forebears and gives us a sense of purpose. It is the heat and pressure from that struggle that will ultimately transform us into Black diamonds. We need to acknowledge these miscarriages of justice and remember those who have lost loved ones to discriminatory polices, police brutality and incompetent, corrupt or cowardly elected officials. In remembering them, we honor them and keep their spirits alive. Those memories will one day be the spark that lights the flame that finally brings revolutionary changes to this city of broken dreams and unfulfilled promises.
Let us also remember to ask the questions that need asking and to search for a way out of this darkness. Here we go:
• Exactly who was Congressman Rand Paul talking about recently when he told ABC’s “This Week” that the U.S. “can’t invite the whole world” into its borders?
• Why can’t most Western historians and Americans understand that the original “illegal immigrants” were European colonizers?
• How do you think Louisiana state legislators who voted down a raise in the minimum wage and rejected efforts to place a cap on interest rates for payday loans feel about poor and working-class Louisiana families?
• Why do so few people seem to be able to see that the nation’s most wealthy families are laying a draconian foundation of laws, rules and customs to keep people of color and the poor at the bottom of the economic, political and social totem pole for the foreseeable future?
• Are you happy with the way the NORD Commission has worked out since the mayor took office?
• Have you noticed that the same Black people keep getting chosen for various posts on local boards and commissions over and over and over again?
• Who, besides the mayor, thinks NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas is doing a great job?
• How can anyone expect NOLA for Life when so many of the city and state’s laws, ordinances, rules and practices promote Oppression for DEATH?
• How can public safety improve amid rampant political chicanery, unchecked wage discrimination, unconstitutional policing, prosecutorial misconduct from the federal level down to the local level, a dearth of opportunities for Black contractors at City Hall, inadequate mental health care, an underfunded, overcrowded school system and dead-end jobs for the overwhelming majority of the city’s residents of color?
• Who thinks the monkeys, elephants and lions at the zoo deserve better housing at a time when safe, affordable housing is hard for New Orleanians to find?
• When the City of New Orleans goes after residents who earn a few bucks by selling parking space on their property to Jazz Fest-goers and nitpicking with cab drivers, doesn’t it feel like the infamous Italian dictator Benito Mussolini is running things in New Orleans?
• Wouldn’t it be nice if New Orleans elected officials and leaders of the business community fought as hard for justice, constitutional policing, a livable wage and NOPD reforms as they do for tourism dollars, the promotion of a magical, quixotic image of the city and Super Bowls?
• Whose back-room decision do you think it was to get the New Orleans City Council to weigh in on the domicile rule before the majority-Black City Council is sworn in next month?
• Why has Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizarro been so eager to talk to the media about rape charges against former New Orleans Saints player Darren Sharper but has said absolutely nothing about the cases of Merritt Landry who shot a 14-year-old boy in the head for trespassing on his property, that of former NOPD officer David Warren, who killed Henry Glover just days after Hurricane Katrina?
• What are your thoughts about the petition filed last week against the United States by the Onondaga Nation and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (The Onondaga, Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga and Seneca Nations), which seeks to hold the federal government accountable for its role in cheating Native Americans out of this land and the return of 2.5 million acres of land in upstate New York?
• Why is it considered unreasonable for descendants of enslaved Africans and oppressed Native Americans to fight to be compensated for historical wrongs sanctioned and carried out by the federal government but normal for white American institutions and the federal government to pretend that these racial atrocities never actually happened?
• How many Recovery School District administrators, BESE board members or charter school administrators would let their children to a school built on toxic waste, filled with mold and chock full of a host of other health- and safety-related issues?
• Where is OUR Chokwe Lumumba?
This article originally published in the April 21, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.