The names of New Orleans’ murder victims since January – 140 in all – kept flashing every five seconds on the large video screen.
The disturbing, 12-minute memorial made the “Saving Our Sons (S.O.S.) NOLA” campaign even more urgent to the 1,500 people who attended the presentation by Mayor Mitch Landrieu at the UNO Lakefront Arena Sept. 17.
Archbishop Gregory Aymond was among the city’s religious leaders who attended to pray for the people behind the statistics.
“Behind each number is a name, behind each number is a life,” Archbishop Aymond said. “And that is a great loss to our city and to our society.”
Landrieu urged participants to sign up as mentors in a citywide initiative that will target African-American youths who are at risk. In 80 percent of the murders, Landrieu said, the victim and perpetrator knew each other, and the victims were mostly unemployed African-American males with previous criminal records.
Since 1994, 4,000 people have been murdered in New Orleans, he said.
“Each murder has started more hate and revenge and created an unholy and vicious cycle of violence that has poisoned our city and drowned us for too long,” Landrieu said. “It must stop. It has to stop.”
Archbishop Aymond said the city’s initiative will dovetail well with the plans now being develop by Catholic Charities to provide qualified mentors for at-risk youth and teens.
The effort will start first in three church parishes: St. Joseph the Worker in Marrero, Blessed Seelos Parish in Bywater and Holy Family in Franklinton.
“Those who volunteer to be mentors will be trained by certified people,” Archbishop Aymond said. “Wouldn’t it be a wonderful dream if we had something like this in every parish, regardless of culture or race of socioeconomic makeup?”
One of the names that flashed on the screen was Marvin Watts, a former intern at Café Reconcile, who was shot to death in his car. Watts had gone through the hospitality program at Café Reconcile and was on his way as a rising star in the kitchen of Restaurant August, owned by chef John Besh.
Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.