Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hearts broken, but we can't give up

Jarvis De Berry is an awarding winning journalist and editorialist at the New Orleans Times-Picayune..He along with members of the New Orleans Times-Picayune Staff recently won a Pulitzer Prize for their amazing reporting post-Hurricane Katrina and also for an open letter to Mr.Bush concerning the Hurricane Katrina Fiasco entitled Dear Mr. President...Mr. De Berry like W.E. A.L.L. B.E.'s founder and Minista of Information R2C2H2 Tha Artivist is an alum of Washington University and The John B. Ervin Scholars Program...Mr. Deberry can be e-mailed at or called at (504) 826-3355

On a Saturday night in December 1997, mothers Joycelyn Powe and Eloise James stood next to one another on a second-floor landing at the Fischer public housing complex in Algiers.

They had already watched James' 21-year-old son be wheeled away on the paramedics' gurney. He had been shot three times in his thigh and lower legs, but was expected to be OK.

The two mothers were standing next to one another talking to me. They came together after I had asked the crowd of onlookers two questions.

First: "Does anybody know who got shot?" James raised her hand and said, "My son got shot."

Second: "Does anybody know who shot him?" Powe raised her hand and said, "My son shot him."

Just as James told me all the things I wanted to know about her son, Powe was just as open in answering my questions about hers. She had, she explained to me, been asking officials to pick up her 16-year-old boy since the week before when he'd dropped out of a juvenile rehabilitation center. "And now this happened," she said.

Then she leaned over and placed a kiss on Eloise James' cheek. "I'm sorry that happened," she said. "I didn't raise him like that."

The mother of the victim accepted the gesture. She said, "We're only mothers. It's not our fault."

I lingered on that exchange for years. I was struck by the gesture and the apology that it communicated. I had to admit that, in a way, the mother of the victim was right. Both women had already admitted to being so unnerved by the violence around them that they spent most of their time indoors. So she was correct to say it wasn't their fault.

On the other hand, the way she said it, with such a tone of defeat, suggested that she thought that there was nothing that could be done, that the violence was inevitable and that the best thing to do was to lock her doors extra tight.

No comments: