Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Cultural Traditions Continue to Face Unjust Linkage to Violence in New Orleans’ Streets

By Alison McCrary
Louisiana television and print media continue to falsely link the violence in New Orleans to its rich cultural traditions.

Fox news and numerous other media outlets inaccuratley report that a shooting at the corner of St. Bernard Ave. and St. Claude took place at Sunday’s secondline and as a result of the secondline. In one article, Fox news writes, “The shootings have once again raised questions as to whether the [secondline] tradition, is worth continuing.”

Local cultural artist legend and co-founder of the Black Men of Labor Social Aid and Pleasure Club., Fred Johnson, says, “We were long gone when the shooting took place. It was nearly an hour after the parade had passed. We were already at Sweet Lorraine’s when the shooting took place. This is unfair reporting.”

Sustaining Rich Cultural Traditions

The Black Men of Labor parade annually on Labor Day Weekend and are the first secondline parade at the start of each new season. They intentionally request that their members and musicians come to the parade dressed respectfully and play only traditional secondline music to keep the parade peaceful.

Johnson explains, “The parade is well-attended by all races and all nationalities. We treat the parade with the same respect as the culture that is comes out of.”

“We’re not about violence. We’re about being certain that we can maintain and sustain the culture of New Orleans.”

Inaccurate and Unfair Reporting

The inaccurancies in reporting perpetrate a system that criminalizes New Orleans’ backstreet cultural traditions.

“If the journalists claim to be ‘equitable,’ then they need to get both sides of the story,” argues Mr. Johnson. “We need fair and equitable reporting about the situation.”

“The media needs to get the facts straight. For 16 years, we have been parading with no problem. I explained to Channel 4 News that they can check the record. We put the music on the streets that makes New Orleans known all over the world.”

“The reporters need to be more diligent in getting the facts,” argues Mr. Johnson. “Our culture can’t be miscontrued by the media.”

“When there’s an incident, we’re all sorry for it but you can’t blame it on the parade when there’s an act of violence.”

Media Attacks Local Music Venues

In addition to falsely linking the shooting to the secondline parade, the media has attacked the local nearby bar, Sidney's Saloon, advocating for its closure. The shooting took place on the streets near the bar.

“These smaller community bars are the places where musicians gather and bands first start” says attorney and cultural rights advocate, Carol Kolinchak.

“The little neighborhood bars nurture the development of the music in New Orleans. When crimes happen in clubs on Bourbon Street, no one argues for those bars to close.”

Getting to the Root of the Problem

“We live in a high crime area,” says Kolinchak. Mr. Johnson agrees, “Violence is a societal problem. When men and women get killed on our streets, it’s a societal problem not a Black Men of Labor or secondline problem.”

“When there’s a shooting at a Mardi Gras parade on St. Charles Avenue, the journalists don’t put it on Rex or other krewes. This is racism.”

“It’s a societal problem because the same killings happen on non-parade days” argues Johnson. “Who failed us? Our institutions? Our church? Our education? Our criminal justice system? Don’t try to take a culture that’s an economic engine for the city and mark it as something that is dark, ugly and bare. That’s very sinister for the media to do it like that.”

Photo by Abdul Aziz.

1 comment:

Red said...

Second lines cause violence!?! The absurdity would be laughable if it wasn't so predictably in line with the government's long history of intervention into the cultural lives of people of color and the poor. Thank you for being on this Alison.