With the Memorial Day holiday the semi-official beginning of summer, the warm weather already has come to south Louisiana, and with it the shootings and killings that mar our communities.
It’s a summer blight, a fact of the calendar that outdoor events either organized or merely casual can be ruined by tempers rising as quickly as the heat. A culture of settling disagreements with gunfire is a miasma over our communities.
While every young person’s life gone is a lost opportunity for our common future, two shootings have been particularly painful in the past week.
Nnamdi Louis was 20, son of a former Orleans Parish School Board member, Heidi Lovett Daniels. He was found slain in a field in New Orleans East.
“All of us are shaken to the core regarding Nnamdi’s loss,” said the victim’s father, Richard Louis, an administrator at Broward College in Florida. “It is my hope that somebody, that anybody who reads about it knows that he mattered, he mattered to us. And to the people who took him from us — that if they’re not brought to the justice of man, that they will be brought before the justice of God.”
Nnamdi’s stepfather is Flozell Daniels Jr., president and CEO of the Foundation for Louisiana.
“Unfettered gun violence must stop because our children cannot keep dying,” Louis said. “My child is gone, but I hope that in the aftermath of Nnamdi’s passing that someone will take a stand and say his life mattered.”
In a grim coincidence, another school system lost one of its own.
A member of the East Feliciana School Board, Broderick Brooks, of Jackson, died at 34. Police and family still are trying to figure out what happened to cause him to be killed in his vehicle in Baton Rouge on Monday.
“We’ve suffered a great loss here, and so has this parish,” said Brooks’ godmother, Vernette King-Cage, standing outside the well-kept yard at 7105 Richardson Loop, the home of Brooks’ parents and his official residence. “He was loved by people everywhere,” King-Cage said.
Experience suggests that these are not the only victims that might end up in the columns of agony in the course of the summer.
What can we do?
In recent months, community leaders have grappled with these issues. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu outlined the problems in a major speech in April. In Baton Rouge, the community leadership group MetroMorphosis held a wide-ranging summit on the challenges facing African-American men and boys.
Both cities are investing in youth, in part through association with the public-private partnerships of My Brother’s Keeper, the 2-year-old initiative of the White House, Urban League and many other supporters.
Yet all that can be done might not be enough. It does not take high-profile victims. Progress can be overshadowed by one argument, leading to a spray of gunfire like that disrupting an informal hangout of young people at Bunny Friend Park last fall in New Orleans.
What can we do?