Monday, August 22, 2011

Effort Launches to Rename Danziger Bridge

From the TribuneTalk Website:

The African American Leadership Project (AALP) will observe the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina at the foot of the Danziger Bridge at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 29—six years to the day after Hurricane Katrina. At the commemoration, organizers will also announce the official kickoff effort to rename the Danziger Bridge in honor of Ronald Madison and James Brissette, the two people who were shot and killed by police officers on the bridge just days after the storm.

“The Madison/Brissette Bridge would be a constant reminder to us all of how important it is to pursue justice until justice is done” says AALP Project Manager Ernest Jones. “In the blink of an eye, lives were changed forever. These families suffered and continue to try and rebuild their lives,” Jones added.

Madison, Brissette and four other civilians were shot by police officers that day as they tried to cross the bridge to safety. The Commemoration will take place at the base of the bridge on the downtown side of the structure. Members of the families are expected to speak. The Mayor’s office and other officials and dignitaries have been invited.

In 2006, the AALP organization began commemorating the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina with “Hands Around the Dome,” a march around the Louisiana Superdome, that iconic structure and temporary home to thousands immediately after Hurricane Katrina. The event was a way to commemorate the human suffering after Katrina and celebrate the hopes of returning New Orleanians. It attracted more than 400 people that year and received national media attention. The group has continued to hold the march each year since.

As the sixth anniversary of Katrina approaches, the organization is revising the “Hands Around the Dome,” theme to “Hands Around Our Own.” AALP Chairperson Gail Glapion, says the change in wording reflects the desire to embrace the families who have suffered over the past six years as they fought for justice for their loved ones.

“Katrina changed our city forever. While we will never forget the suffering, family disruption and broken promises in the aftermath of the great flood, we believe it is past time to demand that these changes be molded into a fairer, more equitable city. Hands Around Our Own, is a way to lift up those who are forcing our city to become better.”

Glapion says that the commemoration at the bridge rightly honors those who died and were injured there, but that it is also intended to remember people like Henry Glover, “and all those whose civil rights and dignity were violated and denied after the storm.”

Aware of the difficulties in trying to rename a public facility, Jones said his first job was to contact the families of the victims to get their reaction and support. “We must have the support of the families that were on the bridge that day,” said Jones. Jones says he has spoken with both the Madison and Brisette families, and that both are in full support of the effort.

Glapion said AALP also plans to reach out to relatives of the late Alfred Danzinger, a Louisiana politician in the 1930s after whom the bridge is named. Glapion is hoping the Danziger family will support the effort.

“From all I’ve learned, Mr. Danziger was a good and decent man; a lover of the arts; and a supporter of civil rights. It is our responsibility to show his family due consideration and respect as we set about this course.” Glapion said. Glapion said she’s not sure how the family will respond, but through no fault of their own, the events on the Danziger Bridge “will always live in infamy, and will always be associated with the bridge that bares their family name.”

The African American Leadership Project, founded in 2002, is a nonpartisan network of community activists and organizations, religious and business leaders, academics and concerned citizens that focus on dialogue and agenda building, policy advocacy, community planning and neighborhood development.

To that end, AALP will also host a forum on the “State of Black New Orleans” on Sept. 3. The location and time will be announced.

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