Not Worthy of National Attention: The NOLA Mother’s Day Mass Shootings by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan (in Exile)


Not Worthy of National Attention: The NOLA Mother’s Day Mass Shootings by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan (in Exile)

Not Worthy of National Attention: The NOLA Mother’s Day Mass Shootings

by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan (in Exile)

Amid the celebration of moms across the nation (amid the passage of policies that directly and indirectly hurt so many moms), America was once again reminded that all moms and all people are not celebrated equally; all lives are not worthy of similar mourning and attention. In New Orleans, 19 people, including 2 children, were shot at a Mother’s Day Celebration.

Hamilton Nolan reflected on the narrative that has already emerged (can you imagine how many stories about mothers celebrating with their children would have been on the air had this occurred in West Los Angeles or Manhattan, NY), offering a powerful comparison to the Boston marathon bombing:

A couple of disaffected young men in search of meaning drift into radical Islam and become violent. A couple of disaffected young men in search of meaning drift into street crime and become violent. A crowd of innocent people attending the Boston marathon are maimed by flying shrapnel from homemade bombs. A crowd of innocent people attending a Mother’s Day celebration in New Orleans are maimed by flying bullets. Two public events. Two terrible tragedies. One act of violence becomes a huge news story, transfixing the media’s attention for months and drawing outraged proclamations from politicians and pundits. Another act of violence is dismissed as the normal way of the world and quickly forgotten.

The juxtaposition of Boston and New Orleans is striking given the extent of death, given the violence that occurred within ritualized spaces, and given how each is a communal gathering space. Of course one doesn’t have to travel down South to New Orleans or West to Chicago to see the hypocrisy in the separate and unequal narratives. The lack of national attention afforded to violence in Roxbury, Mass; the lack of interventions in the form of jobs, reform to the criminal justice system, investment in education, and economic development is a testament to the very different ways violence registers in the national imagination. Roxbury doesn’t enliven narratives of humanity but instead those dehumanizing representations.

Yet, don’t we need to extend the comparison to Newtown, Aurora, and Milwaukee? Remixing the above: A couple of disaffected young men in search of meaning drift into spree shootings and become violent. Flying bullets wound crowds of innocent people attending a movie, going to school, or praying at their local temple. How is the reaction to Newtown and New Orleans, to Boston and Milwaukie, and to Aurora and Chicago an indicator of who we expect to commit violence, where we expect to be safe, who we see as a victim, and where we see violence as normalized and where it is exceptional?

One comment in the thread made the link between Boston, Newtown (Aurora), and New Orleans in a profound way:

The difference is, of course, that the media and the public focus on Things That Could Happen to Middle Class White People. Bombs placed at a marathon or a plane hitting a building or a gunman mowing down people in Newtown, Connecticut or Aurora, Colorado are things that happened to middle class white people and show the other white people that it could happen to them. Crime is somehow not supposed to happen to middle class white people; it’s supposed to happen to black people.

Whereas violence is supposed to happen in Chicago, Detroit, and New Orleans, because of “culture of poverty,” because of single parents, because of dystopia and nihilism, because of warped values, gangs, and purported pathologies, the Boston Marathon, an Aurora movie theater, or a Newtown school are re-imagined as safe. These are places and spaces immune from those issues.

The normalization of violence in inner cities is why the suburbs exist; it is why police work to keep violence from entering into those suburban safety zones; it is why police guard the borders, making sure the wrong people don’t cross into the idyllic homeland of the American Dream. It is why white middle-class America avoids “those” communities or activities presumed to be dangerous (or go during the right time with the right people); it is why the white middle-class America reacts when those spaces that are presumed to be safe are simply not.

The movie theater, the school, and the marathon are symbols of Americana and therefore desirable, pure, and the embodiment of goodness. As such, the violence that happens in these “otherwise safe” enterprises and places occurs because of the entry of “dangerous” and threatening people. Outsiders enter into otherwise safe and idealized spaces.

Continue reading at Not Worthy of National Attention: The NOLA Mother’s Day Mass Shootings by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan (in Exile).

Mark Anthony Neal @NewBlackMan: “Where Dey At?”: Bounce and the ‘Sanctified Swing’ in Post-Katrina New Orleans



“Where Dey At?”:

Bounce and the ‘Sanctified Swing’ in Post-Katrina New Orleans

by Mark Anthony Neal | NewBlackMan

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the levees in New Orleans, there were many high profiles efforts to raise awareness about the cultural legacy of New Orleans. Many of those efforts centered on the exaltation of New Orleans Jazz, with many events aimed at providing shelter and support for Jazz musicians dispersed by the tragedy. New Orleans Jazz seemed the most important resource to be protected in the months after Katrina, more so than the people who made the city such a vital and important, ever evolving cultural outpost. Lost in the focus on New Orleans Jazz—arguably one of the nation’s most important cultural exports—are other forms of musical expression that were and continue to be crucial to the survival and spirituality of New Orleans and its citizens, including those who have yet to return.

Though Jazz was a critical component of Black political discourse and intellectual development throughout the 20th century—jazz musicians like John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln are some of the most resonate examples of creative intellectuals—New Orleans Jazz is often depicted as being tethered to some imagined past, in which race relations and the power dynamics embedded in them were far more simplistic.

Indeed recent films like The Princess and the Frog and The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons the television series Treme (despite it’s progressive political critiques) contribute to a nostalgic view that New Orleans Jazz as a dated, static musical form that offers an “authentic” alternative to more commercially viable forms of popular music like rap and R&B music. Much of this has to do with the relationship between New Orleans Jazz and the leisure and tourist industries that were so vital to the city’s economy. In this context, mainstreams desires to save New Orleans Jazz and to protect its musicians are less about strengthening the links between Jazz and Black cultural resistance—a resistance that historically fermented in New Orleans—but maintaining the economic vitality of what Johari Jabir calls the “theater of tourism” in which Black bodies are rarely thought of as citizens but laborers, servants and performers.

In the introduction to the book, In the Wake of Hurricane Katrina: New Paradigms and Social Visions, scholar Clyde Woods places New Orleans Jazz in a much broader context, as part of what Woods has famously described as a “Blues tradition of investigation.” As Woods notes in his essay, “Katrina’s World: Blues, Bourbon and the Return to the Source,” historically the city of New Orleans and the region was “latticed with resistance networks that linked enslaved and free blacks with maroon colonies established in the city’s cypress forests swamps.”

These traditions of resistance would manifest themselves after Emancipation and beyond in the form of “societies and benevolent associations; churches, second lines, pleasure and social clubs; brass bands, the Mardi Gras Indians” and of course New Orleans Jazz. Two practices also linked to resistance in New Orleans are Bounce music and what Jabir refers to as the “sanctified swing,” embodied in the genres of Rap music and Gospel respectively.

Continue reading @ NewBlackMan: “Where Dey At?”: Bounce and the ‘Sanctified Swing’ in Post-Katrina New Orleans.