Saturday, June 2, 2012

Black People, All People, Bleed Red, By Greta Gladney

On Tuesday, I returned home after ten days travel. I use my time away from the office and New Orleans to recharge, re-energize and refocus on my life and my work.

I called Cynthia Wiggins, CEO of Guste Homes Wednesday morning to confirm our first Friday of the month Mobile Market and learned of the shooting on Tuesday outside the building. The woman who died in the car, from two gunshots to the head, was the daughter of a Guste resident. She told me that a five-year old girl also died.

Last night we continued our African American Women: Breaking Silence series of speakers with Terry Mogilles, RN, a mental health provider and executive director of Positive Living Treatment Center. Terry’s co-presenter, Brandon Williams, was a young African American man, a first for our series. He presented on racial disparity while those of us in the room realized that he is an outlier, an African American male under 35, and holder of an advanced degree in public health who works in IT at Ochsner Hospital and volunteers at a mental health transitional housing facility.

During the question and answer period, our conversation turned to the recent shootings in Central City and the publication of photos in the Times Picayune, the one of a 5-year-old girl in particular.

I found a link to the photos online.

I believe that there is a psychological impact on every New Orleanian who watches the local news, sees these photos, witnesses violent death, and continues to live and breathe in this City. Black people, all people bleed red and everyone in this City is suffering.

I did not want to see the child lying on the ground as Vera Warren had described her last night. But I did. I was not prepared to see the photos of the car, including a close up of the auto interior; its driver’s side airbag covered with the blood of a woman I did not know who had just visited her mother, a resident whom I have yet to meet, from a community the Renaissance Project serves at Guste Homes.

I did not digest the news well or at all.

As an organization, are we supposed to stop providing our food pantry and fresh markets at Guste? Can we live, individually and collectively, in conscious fear of driving through the City and stop providing services to the poor? Is it time to throw in the towel and close shop?

I wanted to leave town again.

Last week our presenter Deon Haywood of Women With a Vision had her office burned the night of her presentation.

And the previous week our presenter and videographer Ashley Jones learned while setting up the projector that her home had been burglarized for the second time in less than ten days. Vera Warren, owner of Community Book Center, asked me to consider the potential connection between our Racial Healing presentations and recent acts of theft and arson. The incidents are correlated with and connected to the relationships we have established as participants in the Breaking Silence project. We know the intimate details of each others lives.

Residents, who simply like to socialize, will be restricted from congregating outside the building, a further disruption to our well-worn social fabric. Bulletproof glass will replace the office windows soon.

Everyone, across race, creed, and orientation, must respond to our call to action to alleviate poverty and reduce racial disparity in New Orleans. For our part, we will connect Positive Living and Pyramid Wellness to the Guste Community for mental health services to begin a process of healing. Our June presentations for African American Women: Breaking Silence to Heal Ourselves and Our Communities are under preparation as I speak. We will continue to provide food banking, fresh markets, SNAP, Medicaid, Medicare enrollment and racial healing story circles to low-income families in New Orleans.

Chanel Lafarge of George’s Produce delivered and we sold watermelons, bananas, oranges and strawberries to the residents today.

Greta Gladney is Executive Director of The Renaissance Project.

No comments: