New Orleans Violence #2: Two Black Gay Men, 1 Transgender Bodies ID’d

A few weeks ago, a friend in New Orleans, a Black gay man, emailed me about a very dustrubing scene. He was in the French Quarter, and ran into a young boy, no older than the age of 12, hustling on the street. My friend spoke to the boy, and emailed me asking me what he should do. I told him that he probably couldn’t stop the boy from turning tricks if that’s what he had to do for whatever reason, but he should make sure the kid had his number in case of emergency and that he should try to keep tabs on him until some plan of action could be employed. Letting the New Orleans Police Department throw this 12 year old in jail, in a state that’s been sued for abuses inside its juvenile facilities by the US Justice Department was simply not an option either of us wanted to use, which would likely make the situation worse. It’s not a choice anyone wants to have to make.

In any case, the next time my friend saw the boy, he was being punched and slapped around by his mother, on the street somewhere. My friend intervened, and seeing that the mother was high on some substance, it became clear to my friend why the boy, as he told my friend the first night, bursting into tears, he could not stand to be at home.  My friend a few days later ran into the mother, who had sent the boy to live with his father, and broke into tears about the need to clean up from her addiction. She promised for forward along my friend’s info to her son.

Unfortunately, this is not the last bout with violence this child, if he is in fact gay or queer, is likely to face. The threat of violence is omnipresent for us, and is too often manifest in the most gruesome of ways.  Around the same day my friend made a new friend of this mother after her son was sent away, two Black gay men, and another Black queer (maybe transgender, maybe just in drag) were found murdered in the house they were renting in New Orleans. As Rod 2.0 originally reported, apparently the three were originally from Mississippi, and were identified as Felix Pearson, 19; Kenneth Monroe, 27; and Darriel Wilson, 20. According to the news piece in the Times Picayune, the bodies were discovered when someone saw half of a “man’s” body hanging out of one of the windows.

There is speculation as to whether this was a hate crime or not–a distinction that makes little sense to me. But the facts of the case, besides the fact that all three were killed, look like the very ways that most gay men and trans women die:

1. No signs of forced entry. Usually this means it was a person that the victim knew in some way. Often for gay men, it is men who they’ve already had some kind of sexual relationship with.

2. Usually there is extra-violence or desecration done to the bodies, or the victims are killed execution-style.

One of my mother’s best friends, a Black gay man, was murdered similarly in 1986, and I’ve seen this pattern way too many times over the years.

Speaking of things I am tired of living through and writing about, few days before the New Orleans murders, a lesbian in Richmond, California was raped by four men, and seems to have been specifically targeted because of the rainbow flag on her car.

New Orleans: Army Corps Washed Away Accountability

My good friend Davell Crawford (the Piano Prince of New Orleans) recently covered a classic Randy Newman song called Louisiana 1927 (you can hear it by going to his home page). The lyrics chronicle the Mississippi Flood of 1927, and in Newman’s lyrics, he declares “They tryin’ to wash us away.” Davell re-writes a lyric originally about President Calvin Coolidge, and replaces him with George W. Bush.

Maybe they really are trying to wash “us” away again. It’s interesting that yesterday, John Edwards chose New Orleans to announce the halting of his presidential bid, that a federal judge begrudgingly threw out a clas action suit by the people of New Orleans against the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Associated Press reported that “Judge Stanwood Duval said he was forced by law to hold the Corps immune even though the agency failed to ‘cast a blind eye’ in protecting New Orleans and ‘squandered millions of dollars in building a levee system … which was known to be inadequate by the Corps’ own calculations.’ But, Duval said, ‘it is not within the Court’s power to address the wrongs committed. It is hopefully within the citizens of the United States’ power to address the failures of our laws and agencies.'”

What’s so sinister is the ruling was based on a law written conspicuously after the 1927 flood–the Flood Control Act of 1928–which made the federal government immune from lawsuits when flood control projects like levees break.

* * *

I was in the 9th ward just a few weeks ago–the week leading into MLK Day. It was the first time I had been back since Spring of 2005, and I had lived in New Orleans for a year. The failures of the city, state and federal government are so egregious that it is difficult to imagine that they are in fact, failures, and not actually a contrived negligence. And the failure, conspiracy or negligence (you choose!) that caused the death and displacement in the aftermath of the hurricane Katrina, is not so much about the weather. It’s about the profound racism that forced hundreds of thousands of Black people into the conditions that would mean their certain demise just by virtue of being redlined for generations on the downside of a canal, or kept in substandard public housing. Or warehoused in Orleans Parish Prison.

I was accosted one night in the French Quarter during my trip 2 weeks ago by 2 unidentified plain clothes security officers who looked like professional wrestlers–and I know they were not the NOPD. I was accused of trying to rob my friends I was just a few feet behind on my bike. So for those of us who weren’t washed away in the storm, or carted off to destinations all across the nation–the prison and the jailer awaits.

They tryin to wash us away–and absolve themselves of the responsibility.