Voices on Violence: Where's the village now?
Voices on Violence arose as a response to the Mother’s Day shootings in New Orleans that injured 20 people. Comprised of one-on-one interviews with a diverse group of residents, the series explores why and how people live here, how they assess risk, and what specific things they believe can help change the cycle of violence in New Orleans. The interviews will appear daily this week at NolaVie, as well as on air at 4:45 p.m. on WWNO radio, 89.9 FM, the local NPR affiliate. Please join the conversation; send commentary, responses and interview suggestions to [email protected].
To hear Edward Anderson on WWNO radio, click here.
Who: Edward Anderson, 46, a musician, educator, husband and father. Born into a longtime New Orleans family of teachers and pharmacists, he received his undergraduate degree in music from Xavier University, his master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music in New York and, most recently, his doctorate in composition from the Louisiana State University School of Music. He has been a high school teacher and a college professor, and is a practicing musician playing trumpet with several jazz groups in town.
He came back, but is he staying? This is where I grew up. Yes, I’ve seen a lot of things change, some for the better, some, unfortunately, not for the better. But I don’t think that’s any cause to cut and run. This is my home. My children are here and they are happy. So is my wife. This is where we have chosen to stake our claim.
When it comes to personal safety, I think you have to approach that with a sense of balance. Certainly you can’t walk certain streets wearing expensive jewelry. That would be pretty foolish. But at the same time you really cannot allow fear to control your quality of life. You have to make intelligent decisions.
A tiff then is a death now: When I was a kid, there was violence, but we didn’t carry guns. We would have little tiffs over girls or with somebody who went to a different school or looked at you the wrong way. But at the end of the day no one went to the hospital. We were taught that only cowards carry guns, only people who didn’t have the confidence to defend their honor with their fists, so to speak. Now, I’m not condoning violence of any sort. But, to me, there’s a huge difference between our generation of 20 or 30 years ago and today.
It really does take a village: The community really needs to step back and look at our past; look at our cultural greatness that people actually gravitate towards when regarding our city. A lot of that has to do with the personable nature of our people, our citizens. I think a lot of that stems from a sort of village mentality that we naturally have in New Orleans. The community really is a close knit group.
As a child, I remember my summers, for instance, being able to ride my bike with my buddies until 10 o’clock at night and it not even being an issue. We had fun. We went from house to house and the village component was that the mothers really had a responsibility. They were expected to be surrogates. Every one of them was responsible for the kids and they would literally expect respect from us. And we treated them like our moms. It would be unheard of for someone to show up with a gun in his pocket or with drugs in his pocket. These things would bring shame upon your family. We’ve lost that and it’s something that we don’t talk about enough -- the responsibility of not just the parents but the entire community to the kids.
It’s time to tell it like it is: In order to change New Orleans in a positive way, we have to be honest. When kids don’t have any direction, when kids don’t have any recreational activities and are not getting the education that will prepare them for the 21st century, we really can’t act surprised that some of them are acting out. In our plans as we develop this new New Orleans, we really have to include everybody in that plan. It can’t just be those who are in financially better positions to provide for their next generation. We have to really pull folk up because some people don’t know what they don’t know. That’s just the reality.
I’ll use this example: I was a teacher when I first got back to New Orleans from New York. I taught in an under-served school in the Desire Housing area and I went in the first day terrified. I didn’t want to be there. They put me in that school. I didn’t ask to be there, but that’s where the need was.
What I soon discovered was that 99 percent of those kids were sweet good kids despite what you hear on television. Yeah, there were some elements there. But when I showed these kids respect – I was a music teacher – and when I engaged them with music, they embraced me. They used to come to my house. The formative members of the Hot 8 Brass Band came to my house and we would work on music together. Unfortunately, some of them got caught up in the trappings of the street. I really feel like if there had been more efforts to reach out to these sorts of kids, they would respond positively.
Voices on Violence: Conversations about life in New Orleans is a NolaVie/WWNO series that features individual interviews with the city’s residents. If you would like to be interviewed, or to comment on the series, email [email protected]
Sharon Litwin is president of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]