Saturday, August 22, 2015

"Together... Apart", 1993 Series of Articles on Race in New Orleans

Endesha Jukali, a housing activist, protests the rededication
Ceremony of a confederate monument on March 7, 1993.
(Kathy Anderson, Times-Picayune Archive)
A couple of articles in to this 1993 series on Race in New Orleans (Together... Apart, The Myth of Race), I'm reminded of how less able we seem to confront race than we were twenty years ago.  I remember organizing with classmates, led by sophomore Tiffany Brown, to get a Black History course at Ben Franklin High School in New Orleans.  

I was particularly reminded of how PC we've gotten by the article "White People Don't Want to Talk About It" by staff writer Coleman Warner.  The title would likely be called racist itself these days, but if you read it, you'll hear a cross-section of leaders in white communities listing salient and rational reasons why white people don't want to talk about race.   They make some very valid arguments about why white folks won't talk about race, and why they must.  It's worth a read... click the above link to get to it.

We may have spent the last 22 years stagnant or going backwards with regard to race...

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


A story in song about violence, vengeance, and the wisdom that can stop it all...

Monday, July 13, 2015

Watermeter: A Glossary of N.O. Terms to Know - Excerpt

The following are notes on places, people, phrases, and things of New Orleans in the order they appear in the book Mass Transit Muse.  These are the author's own opinions based upon lived experience, research, and common sense reflection... opinions.  As such, take it with a pinch of cayenne pepper and enjoy.

Terms from Chapter 1 of Mass Transit Muse

Gentilly:  Flooded with seven to nine feet of water for three weeks after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Gentilly is considered one of New Orleans’ largest neighborhoods, and the most racially and economically diverse area of the city.  Abundant with old growth oaks, plentiful green space, wide streets, ample neutral grounds, family owned small businesses, and schools, Gentilly has great potential for an environmentally, economically, socially, and culturally prosperous renewal. 

This is the neighborhood in which I played park football and baseball (Milne/St. Raphael); participated in innovative and culturally relevant after school programming (RAP—Reading Application and Practice); fought neo-Nazi skinheads (Gentilly Terrace schoolyard); saw the rise and fall of a Black political organization (COUP—Community Organized for Urban Politics); was confirmed in the Catholic church (St. James Major); was put out of a catholic church for wearing a Malcom X t-shirt (St. Roch); lived near the first two Black Mayors of New Orleans (Dutch Morial on Harrison Street and Sidney Bartholemew on Franklin Ave., respectively); went to one of the best elementary schools and one of the best high schools in the country in the city (Jean Gordon and Benjamin Franklin); smoked and drank with my brother’s interracial crew (Wayne, Wade, Germaine, Nolan, and Kenny); was robbed of a fake gold chain at gunpoint (Seabrook); went to some of the wildest house parties in New Orleans (Tamu and Ika’s house on Arts Street); had my first experiences with girls (Gentilly Terrace schoolyard, People’s Avenue Park); where my mother passed (Franklin Avenue) and where we had her going home service (St. Raymond on Paris Ave.); Gentilly is and always will be my home.

Parish:  What most Americans know as counties are called parishes in Louisiana.  this is a holdover from the still dominant Catholic culture of the region.  Parishes are parochial and each has its own personality and essence.  Some are more Creole (Lafayette Parish), some more Cajun (Calctsieu Parish), some may as well be the Caribbean (Plaquemines Parish), others may as well be Texas (Caddo Parish) or Mississippi (Washington Parish).  I'd argue that Orleans Parish (the most African of all Louisiana parishes) is the one truly Louisiana parish... the parish of gumbo, where you can find it all.  Orleans Parish is bounded by Jefferson Parish to the west, St. Bernard Parish to the East, and St. Tammany Parish across Lake Pontchatrain to the north.  Needless to say all of these surrounding parishes are deeply Southern and not so hospitable to some (read:  Black) folks.  More on that later.  

Seventh Ward:  Wards are New Orleans city sections that have their roots in the great progress of city planning made in the year 1880.  Because most of the people of New Orleans stay close to social and familial roots, some wards have developed particular cultural characteristics.  Bounded by Esplanade Ave., Bayou St. John, Lake Pontchartrain, Elysian Fields Ave., and the Mississippi River, the 7th Ward is where many creoles of color have lived since early in the 19th century.  Many of these folks (many skilled tradesmen, masons, and carpenters) married as close to their own ( and usually as light-skinned in complexion) as possible. For much of the history of the 7th ward, light skin translated into real benefits in educational and employment opportunities, earning potential, and general social status.  Over centuries of crescent city history, a 7th ward wide caste system developed where ‘light’ skin meant the right skin.  Some older (and newer) generation 7th Ward folks still describe themselves and others as being ‘bright’, having ‘good’ hair and ‘pretty’ eyes (if their skin is light, hair is curly or straight, or eyes blue, green, gold, or hazel).  Some even distinguish themselves as Creole, and not Black.  This ward of mostly family built homes passed down for multiple generations, was filled with up to nine feet of water after hurricane Katrina.  Many residents of the 7th Ward resettled throughout the United States (favorite spots seem to be Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston though some went as far as California) or have moved to areas like New Orleans East.  A wave of righteous, do-gooder gentrification is flooding the 7th ward.  There are now more White people, lesbians, activists, and artists in the 7th ward than there have ever been in the history of shit.  The paper bag test has been replaced with the Whole Foods bag test as there is actually a Whole Foods, albeit small and gritty, on Broad Street in the 7th ward.  Ribs done flown!

WWOZ:   90.7 on the FM dial, WWOZ is the most focused repository of New Orleans living
musical culture as you can find on public air waves.  Unabashedly non-political, WWOZ is unlike many NPR stations you find in major metropolitan areas or college towns.  You won't hear any commitment to changing the world or of offering alternative perspectives or access to those typically denied access to public airwaves.  You won't hear any talk of crime and politics, money and sports (like the stories that dominate, the digital version of the Times Picayune) or community, business, gospel, and activism like what dominates WBOK (New Orleans Black owned and operated public access radio station), or pop culture fluff of Q93 (the city's Clear Channel affiliate).  You will hear what is happening at every single musical venue in the city and veiled vulgarity swathed in the warm accents of local color.  And you will hear the best music collection on earth.  WWOZ knows its lane and it plays New Orleans music or music derived from or relevant to New Orleans, period.  You will hear everything from ragtime, classical jazz, reggae, zydeco, bounce rap, brass band, big band, soul, Delta blues, southern rock, and anything else made in, by, or for New Orleans.  It is always number one on my station presets when I'm home and I rarely change the station.  Except for an occasional pass through WBOK, Q93, and WWL Saints radio.  You can listen on-line at   

Second Line: Sometimes known as a jazz funeral; the syncopated, slide stepping buck jumping march from the end of a life to life goes on; a communal celebration of triumph over death; a liberated zone of joy and catharsis.  Second Lines can be thrown by anyone for any reason and only require a parade permit.  LOL!  The group that hires the band and leads the parade is called the main line.  The wave of people (who may not have known the deceased honored at a Jazz Funeral or the Social Aid and Pleasure Club that throws the non-eugological Second Line) that are attracted to the sounds of the brass band music are called the ‘second line.’  

Second Line dancers traditional moves are without boundaries.  It consists mainly of Footwork reminiscent of a salsa or samba with and quick syncopated steps, shuffles and slides of the feet.  The rest of the dance is improvisational and is so and so in tune with the music that every joint, bone, and muscle of the body rides the many simultaneous rhythms that flow through the funk, jazz, and blues of brass band music.  And you must be able to do it in a crowd moving down a (raggedy) street.  See a rain soaked and fabulous Divine Ladies Social Aid and Pleasure Club Second Line from 2009 here.

Neutral Ground:  a wide grassy median that divides major streets throughout New Orleans.  In the 18th and 19th centuries, the neutral ground served as a non-aggression zone between competing ethnicities.  In good times Genes du Colur Libre (Free People of Color), Germans, Hatians, Filipinos, French, Irish, Italians, Native Americans, and more traded goods on the neutral ground.  In bad times, they traded bullets, blows, and knife wounds.  The below picture is of the  Oak lined Claiborne Avenue neutral ground in 1966, just before it was paved to run Interstate 10 through the heart of the city.  My mother told me of how beautiful it was when she was growing up.  "Black folks Canal Street," she said.  Neutral grounds are literally at the heart of community in many parts of New Orleans.

Sidenote:  I ran my childhood friends Nkrumah and Hasani Dixon, Rodney and Brian Williams, up and down the neutral ground along Dwyer Boulevard when we played “pitch up tackle” in the Michoud section of New Orleans East (where Black and Vietnamese families share the neighborhood, mostly in peace).  Cornernote to the sidenote:  Michoud is the home of Mary Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church, a site of deep and successful community organizing to preserve and improve the neighborhood after Hurricane Katrina.  For a story on it, check out this NY Times article out from right after the storm in 2005.

Regional Transit Authority:  The RTA is the public transportation system in New Orleans.  Buses that could have been used to evacuate people without cars or money were left idle to flood at the bus station after Katrina.  I guess they didn't have gas money. This is one of the many public official failures that occurred at every level of the National, State, and Local governments which resulted in many unnecessary deaths after Hurricane Katrina.  On a more nostalgic note, my friend Ray used to tell girls that “we were catching a ride with Rita” when he wanted to hide the fact that we were catching the bus to dances, parties, or to meet up for double dates.  Perpetually slow and late, the RTA system also includes the famous NewOrleans street car lines which are even slower, but give great views of some of the more scenic architectural landscapes in New Orleans.  I have to say the busses are much, much nicer now and there are new streetcar lines up and in development.  Things are looking up for old Rita.  

Saint Rita:  Considered the patron saint of the impossible, she married an abusive man at a young age and joined the Italian Augustine order after he was (mysteriously) murdered. She was known for the efficacy of her prayers and the many miracles (or murders?) that followed her intercessions.  A possible murderess Italian saint who had that gris-gris?  Now that's a patron saint of New Orleans.  

Central Business District, Ghost Town, Bayou Sauvage:  These places (a district, a neighborhood, and a swamp) each at one edge of the city’s three sides, are listed in descending order (or ascending order depending on if you are an animal or not) from urban to wild.  Bayou Savauge was the settling place of Louisiana’s greatest revolutionary maroon and self-emancipated slave, Juan St. Malo.  More on him later.  Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge was authorized in 1986 and officially established in 1990.  The refuge is located in New Orleans East and encompasses approximately 23,000 acres within the city limits.  It is the largest urban National Wildlife refuge in the United States.  During slavery, it was one of the locations where maroons (people who had escaped slavery) maintained communities and evaded slave catchers for many years.  The most famous maroon was named St. Malo.  In the 1700s, he protected communities of escaped slaves, rescued other enslaved people, raided plantations for food and supplies, attacked military installations for weapons, allied with indigenous ‘Indians’, and struck fear into the hearts and minds of wealthy slave owners.  I think he's still in the race consciousness of some of the more virulently racist Louisiana upper crust.  As he should be.  History repeats and they might wake up with their (figurative, of course) heads on a platter one day.

Doubloons:  Beautiful, worthless colorful aluminum coins tossed from parade floats to the crowd during Mardi Gras time.  The dictionary definition is ‘Spanish coin’, which may relate to how Spanish money became worthless when the French regained Louisiana from them in 1800.  Doubloons also relate to the overall motif of Mardi Gras:  social control.  Toss some worthless coins to the drunk masses and they will be mesmerized by the flashing spin and melophonic, slot machine sound of falling doubloons as they jingle in waves across the ground…
...too mesmerized to even consider challenging the social order.  Damn if they aint' beautiful though.  One of those simple pleasures of titillating sensuality that I miss most about New Orleans.  Use me till you use me up as long as you throwing doubloons, baby.

Pirate Ship:  Booty is an ironic, figurative, and literal reference to the piracy of human bodies that built the “New” world.  Images of the manifests of slave ships show the tortuous, indescribably inhumane, and brutal captivity of men, women, and children chained in the galleys of ships with only enough room to lay flat on their backs with their arms by their sides.  No, mass transit has not always been good to Black folk.  The Louisiana original gangster, Jean Lafitte, who has towns and streets named after him, was a “privateer,” a genteel name for pirates who would hijack merchant ships.  Lafitte’s most lucrative looted booty were the human bodies of enslaved Africans.  He and his brother had a front business in a French Quarter blacksmith shop on St. Phillip Street (now Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop and Bar on Bourbon St. and St. Phillip St.) where he brought in skilled African iron workers from Santo Domingo (Haiti) who, by most accounts, made most of the beautiful iron railings you can see in the French Quarter today.  Lafitte continued to import humans into slavery long after the abolition of the slave trade.  Like many elite (and dastardly) whites of that time, he ended up with a mulatto mistress and child.  I guess once you go black... 

Faubourg Marigny:  An economically and racially mixed neighborhood between the French Quarter and the Ninth Ward.  This neighborhood was largely spared from flooding and saw huge rent increases after the storm.  It has still retained a very grungy feel, as though the initial wave of gentrification (LGBT folk and artists) never left.  Or maybe the yuppies never arrived.  It can be pretty sketchy although the nighttime is filled with bars and music spots that keep the bigger streets busy.  But there are streets and corners and spots you don't want to be from dusk to dawn, not with out your swiss army knife.  

no, yeah:  New Orleanians often follow up a particularly strong statement with a negative ‘no’ or affirmative ‘yeah’.  Might be some sort of linguistic tick the Africans, French, or Spanish left us.  The southern English dialect of New Orleans has deep roots in African, French, and Spanish languages.  One of the remnants of the multi-cultural influences is the use of these extra affirmations or negations to add emphasis at the end of sentences.  It's a quick way to repeat ourselves to make sure we are clear.   For instance, “You don’t want to play with me, no.”  or  “You 'bout to get your ass beat, yeah.”  Rapper Juvenile popularized this linguistic structure with his hit song of 1997, Back That Ass Up, in which he ended each line with the affirmative ‘yeah’ as in “you working with some ass, yeah.  Girl, you bad, yeah.  Make me want to spend my cash, yeah, on all of that, yeah.”  Despite the base vulgarity of the preceding statements, the song shows where this little spice of New Orleans talk can be particularly effectual:  dirty talk.  Before you judge it you should try it, yeah.

Lake Borgne:  On average nine feet deep, Lake Borgne forms, along with Lake Pontchartrain (indigenous name meaning ‘wide water’) and Lake Maurepas one of the largest estuaries in the country.  All three lakes are just north of New Orleans.  The city also sits inside a crescent shaped curve of the Mississippi river, which makes the Crescent City basically surrounded North, South, East, and West by water with only two narrow land routes out.  For this reason the city was once called the Isle of Orleans. 

Plagues, Fires, and Floods:  Since European settlement, Katrina represents the seventh time New Orleans and the surrounding areas have been devastated to the brink of destruction.  Great Fire of 1788 destroyed much of the city, 1831 Cholera Epidemic killed 6000 in 20 days; 1853 Yellow Fever Epidemic killed 10,000; 1927 Flood and dynamiting of the levee; 1965 hurricane Betsy; 1980’s oil economy bust; 2005 Hurricane Katrina.  There have been numerous White supremacist rampages (1890s, 1900), big gambling losses (1984 World’s Fair), and 30+ years of heartbreak from the Saints (until 2010, baby, WHO DAT!).  But New Orleans always rises from the muck and mire to buckjump and inspire.

Cancer Alley:   Describing an area within the boundaries of a 100 mile stretch of land along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, "Cancer Alley" is a term coined in the 1980s by Louisiana activists Darryl Malek-Wiley and Richard Miller to describe this pollution-ridden industrial corridor that is home, by some counts, to over 300 major industries, including a who's who of the petrochemical industry:  Texaco, Borden, Occidental Chemical, Kaiser Aluminum, Chevron, IMC-Agrico, Dow, Dupont to name a few.  Louisiana has among the highest rates of cancer mortality in the nation, and many cases are concentrated in the communities near this strip of plants.  The EPA reports that the majority of the 23 million pounds of toxic waste released into the air are in two zip code areas, primarily inhabited by Black folks.  A 1992 National Law Journal investigation found that even when the government enforces the environmental regulations against companies in violation, the fines levied in these areas are significantly lower than those levied in White communities.  Five members of my family (who did not smoke and were otherwise healthy) have died from cancer in my lifetime, including my mother, father, uncle, cousin, and grandfather.  I guess unrestrained, exploitative capitalism is really, in the words of Pope Francis, the "dung of the devil" that "sacrifices the poor at the altar of money."  Damn, my Pope, keep it real.   

Jackson Barracks:  Army barracks originally built at the request of President Andrew Jackson in 1835 to house troops who would discourage slave insurrections (which had been frequent in Southeast Louisiana).  Distrustful of the “Creole” population, the Barracks were placed at what was then the far eastern edge of Orleans parish.  Sidetone:  My mother grew up, and my aunt’s still owns their home one house away from the gate of what is now Jackson Barracks military museum. 

St. Bernard Parish:  This parish was formed in 1807 and named to honor St. Bernard of Clairvaux, yes the patron saint of mountaneers.  With a 2010 Census population of just above 35,000.  After Katrina, The St. Bernard parish council infamously passed a law barring anyone from renting a single family home to anyone other than a blood relative without the government's permission.  The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center sued, led by my high school classmate, homeboy, post-Katrina Mayoral candidate, and husband of CNN political talk show host Melissa Harris-Perry, James Perry.  St. Bernard Parish was forced to pay $2.5 million in a settlement due to the law's discriminatory intent and impact as the Parish's pre-storm population was 93% white and the irrational and short-sighted bigots running the parish aimed to keep it that way.  But Mr. James Perry et. al. said hell to the no.  Fucking well right, James.  "The Parish" as it is called by folks from the Lower 9th ward, which is the last New Orleans neighborhood before you reach St. Bernard, is known as full of stone-bone racists.  The Parish was once dominated by Leander Perez and his spawn, descendants of Canary Islanders or Islenos who immigrated to Louisiana in the 18th century and some of whom got rich subleasing the mineral rights to Coal and Oil companies that pollute St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parish to this day.  Leander Perez's claim to fame was enforcing and protecting segregation.  So yeah, racism runs deep in the Parish.  

Arabi:  A small town located in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana made famous the Fats Domino song, The Sheik of Arabi.  It is mostly working class poor White and was nearly wiped out by Hurricane Katrina.

Chalmette:  A small town located in St. Bernard Parish Louisiana devastated by hurricane Katrina.  People from Chalmette are affectionately and/or derisively called Chalmations in reference to their mixture of damn near every type of person on the planet including folk you wouldn't expect like  Canary Islanders, Croatians, and Filipinos.

Gris Gris:  Meaning grey in French, in the Santaria traditions of Louisiana often called "voodoo", a gris gris is a spell or a hex which can be either positive (juju) or a negative (mojo).  So as not to get punished for opining on that which I do not know, I will stop here.

Rigolets:  From Wikipedia and generally true... (for a deeper truth visit  Weather Underground's  16 part series on Katrina's Aftermath.)   "The Rigolets is a 12.9 kilometer (8 mi) long strait in Louisiana. "Rigolets" comes from the word rigole, French for "trench" or "gutter." The name is now locally pronounced "RIG-uh-leez." It begins at 30°10′40″N 89°44′40″W and follows a generally eastward course to Lake Borgne, a lagoon in the Gulf of Mexico, and finally to the Gulf of Mexico, where it ends at 30°09′16″N 89°37′31″W. Along with nearby Chef Menteur Pass, the Rigolets connects Lake Pontchartrain and Lake St. Catherine to Lake Borgne, and then to the Gulf of Mexico.[1][2] It forms the boundary between New Orleans (Orleans Parish) and St. Tammany Parish."

Boudin:  More Wikipedia for you since I have never and would never touch this stuff.  Boudin (pronounced BOO-danh, IPA bu-dæ~) describes a number of different types of sausage used in French, Creole and Cajun cuisine. There is little in common between French boudin blanc and boudin noir, but the Cajun varieties differ only by the addition of blood in the case of boudin noir. Boudin noir:  A dark-hued French blood sausage or Cajun sausage containing pork, rice, pig blood, and other ingredients.  Boudin rouge: In Louisiana cuisine, a sausage similar to boudin blanc, but with pork blood added to it. It originated from the French boudin noir.  (

Saint Francis De Sales:  At St. Francis De Sales Catholic church in uptown New Orleans, I was baptized into the Black Catholic, Gospel mass tradition.  My mother was a long time member, at one time the president of the gospel Golden Voices choir which traveled all over the world as a marvel of cross cultural catholic universality.  My father taught Sunday school and sang in the men’s chorus, The Sons of Thunder, which he invited me (and I gladly accepted to spend some QT with my daddy) to join when I was losing myself in seventh grade.  Father Guste, the White priest of the seventies encouraged the merging of African American gospel traditions into the celebration of mass. 

The church was strong, drawing people from as far away as Little Woods and the West Bank.  At St. Francis, I remember seeing women (and sometimes men) catch the spirit (holy ghost) dance, wail, and pass out in the aisles.  We had hootenannies.  Later on, the church fractured over a personal beef between the dominant Father Cheri, the Black priest many parishioners welcomed like the second coming of Christ, and Ronald Lee James, the choir director who had as much or more power.  The church fractured again when Father Cyprian arrived as the second Black priest with a very effeminate manner.  The church never fully recovered from losing so many members over these challenges.  Power struggle and homophobic flight.  Life at Saint Francis was life in New Orleans incarnate.  Just exchange the homophobia for racism, and voila, decades of decline.  But I digress.  

St. James Major:  In a city like New Orleans, there are a few questions that can say a lot about you.  What high school did you go to?  What street did you live on?  What church did you grow up in?  Answer those and you have thoroughly described yourself as a New Orleanian.  St. James Major was the Catholic church nearest to my Gentilly home and I made my Confirmation there.  It was all the confirmation that I needed that I did not want to continue being Catholic.  I remember arguing with the teacher about my non-Catholic friends going to hell and resolving that whatever god she worshiped was a wicked bastard for making that rule.  My mom, in her wisdom, said that after confirmation it was my choice as to whether I would continue to go to church.  I actually did go for a while.  But the overwhelming stuffiness, encased in the whiteness alabaster of St. James Major, at the time very traditional church, didn't work for any of us.  We came from St. Francis De Sales, and quiet was not our culture of Catholic mass.  And then there were ugly looks from everyone from the priest to the ushers.  Um, good and bye.

Our Lady Star of the Sea:  A Black Catholic church in the St. Roch neighborhood of the Seventh Ward, this seemed like it would be a place for us after we left St. James Major.  Except that the white Priest there, once confronted me outside the church for wearing a Malcolm X shirt.  This was 1990 for god sakes.  He told me that I could not come into his church wearing a shirt with the face of a violent man on it.  I told him Malcolm X went to jail for burglary, not violence.  He said Malcolm X stood for hate.  I said Malcolm X stood for self-defense and black independence.  He said I couldn't come in.  I said I'll sit outside and wait for my mom on the street.  On that street, I saw prostitution, addiction, and poverty, things Malcolm X would have been out trying to snatch people out of.  I did not return to that church and neither did my mother once she found out I had to sit outside.

St. Raymond:  St. Raymond, another Seventh Ward church, right across the street from what used to be the St. Bernard housing project and since Katrina is Columbia Parc "mixed-income" development, ended up being just what my mother was looking for:  a priest from Africa, a small earnest choir, and a spirit of service.  It was too late for me though.  I had started checking out Christian Unity Baptist church, where my father was now directing Bible study, where pastor Webster was a brilliant and learned orator, and the music was banging.  But when the choir director, a charismatic and talented young drummer, pianist, and vocalist committed suicide after the facade of his church life crumbled publicly, I was pretty much done with church.  Add that my hard praying mother died of cancer after a clean life, a Christian life, and that I had to walk into St. Raymond clutching my nephews to keep from collapsing under the weight of the loss, and I was all done.

Cursive script medallion:  These were a beautiful and precious part of my childhood, I remember staring at my grandmother's, aunts, and sister's gold medallions, usually names or initials shaped in gorgeous cursive.  These were pretty common in New Orleans and I haven't seen them anywhere else.  They were equal parts sexy and classy, beautifully tasteful and still showy in their craftsmanship rather than gaudy flash.  Know where to get them?  Hola at ya boy.

Black Tragedy:  The story is older than Othello, Odysseus, and Osiris, but somehow in present day U.S. collective consciousness, Black folks invented violence.  No we didn't.  But we sure do keep the story going.   Like many urban centers in America, New Orleans is plagued with violence and, in particular, murder.  But worry not.  It's rare, though certainly not impossible, for a tourist to get touched by this part of New Orleans' narrative.  If you keep up with the city as I do, you will find that many of the murders are of a personal nature.  Conflicts, mostly interpersonal conflicts that spiral out of control in that Shakespearean way that defies logic and makes so much bloody sense.  In a city so deeply familial, in which people don't leave or even go very far from the neighborhoods they grew up in, beefs don't die easy.  Add to real social conflict the internal stress of struggling to make it in a poor city and you get what we got:  Among many other sad facts of a life and violent death in New Orleans, double the national rate of women murdered by men in the state with the 4th highest rate of domestic violence.  You will hear many people belie Black on Black crime as the result of a Black "culture of violence," but these are human tragedies colored Black by our own focus on skin deep symptoms rather than root causes.  I don't know much, but I know 1+1= 2.  Take the poorest state with some of the easiest access to alcohol, and most limited access to mental health and educational opportunity, add heavy duty drugs and surplus army guns coming off boats in one of the busiest ports in the world and you get what we got.  An ongoing, downward spiral of human tragedy shaded Black to cover our collective responsibility.  Message.

To experience how these people, places, and things puzzle together to energize the flow and rhythm of Mass Transit Muse, get the book here. For the complete alphabetical list of more than 250 glossary terms and notes of a native son, subscribe to for updates on the upcoming release of Watermeter:  Glossary of New Orleans Terms to Know here.