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Tag Archives: New Orleans

Fats Domino’s Piano, Like NOLA After Katrina -Still Has a Ways to Come Back

Worked on the post-Katrina recovery efforts in NOLA and Mississippi. The flooding not only killed the houses and infrastructure, but threatened to kill the spirit of a city whose residents were used to adversity.The story 10 years after is one of gradual rebuilding, but how do you knit the spirit of the town’s communities back together when so many are gone? The even bigger question though in my mind – is if we can’t even get it right in America, right in our own back yard…How exactly can we get it right anywhere else?

In terms of the Fat man’s pianos, one black, one white – one working fully, one not restore-able…Seems like a reflection of the whole city 10 years after.

The Piano That Can’t Play a Tune

If you could see Fats Domino’s piano today—white and gleaming on a pedestal at the Louisiana State Museum in the Old U.S. Mint in New Orleans’ French Quarter—you might think he had been kind enough to donate one of his signature grands to the museum for its music collection. That is, if you were unaware of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago, including Domino’s home on Caffin Street in the largely obliterated neighborhood known as the “Lower Nine,” where the white Steinway once held pride of place in Domino’s living room.

Submerged in nine feet of water from a massive breach in the nearby Industrial Canal, it sat for weeks in the fetid lake that covered 80 percent of New Orleans after Katrina. Curators from the Louisiana State Museum raised $35,000 to have it reassembled and restored, and it now sits beneath a spotlight in an exhibit room as if waiting for Domino himself to sit down and play it. At the dedication ceremony in 2013, Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardanne said, “His beautiful grand piano, fully restored, will serve as the perfect symbol for Louisiana’s resilient nature and ever-evolving musical heritage.”

Well, no and yes. Despite the painstaking restoration, the white grand piano is unplayable. It is this last fact that makes the story of this instrument such a powerful metaphor for New Orleans since Katrina. It is a tale about persistence in the face of government neglect, cataclysmic disaster, and the painful incompleteness of reconstruction. More particularly, it is a lesson about the importance of preserving the material remains of the city’s past even as it focuses on the future.

These objects—some partly restored, some not—are all the more important in light of the city’s record of demolition of many significant musical landmarks, despite the recent efforts of preservation groups to turn the tide. Louis Armstrong’s birthplace, for example, was torn down in the 1960s to build a city jail. Other jazz landmarks are in grave disrepair.

The history of New Orleans music had an additional vulnerability before Katrina: The homes of the city’s musicians and writers held much of the city’s musical heritage. Letters, handwritten scores, photographs, cocktail napkins, matchbooks, and musical instruments were under the beds and in the attics of working musicians and their descendants. Most of Michael White’s enormous collection of artifacts from early jazz musicians—some 50 clarinets, reams of sheet music, reeds and mouthpieces, and taped interviews with musicians—is gone. White’s house near the London Avenue Canal in Lakeview took in water up to the roof. The only things salvaged by volunteers were some of his clarinets. “They looked like bodies,” White told me. “And the ones that were in cases looked like bodies in coffins. They weren’t really about me, they symbolized New Orleans history and culture and the present state of the culture.”

Tending to the artifacts the storm left behind, as White did, can feel restorative. And it is not the same as choosing property over people, something that does not bode well in New Orleans. “The black working class in New Orleans,” the historian George Lipsitz wrote in Katrina’s aftermath, “has long refused to concede that white property is more important than black humanity.” After the storm, neighborhood traditions like the parading of Mardi Gras Indians persisted, despite and because of the challenges of rebuilding those communities. But the preservation of cultural artifacts after Katrina, such as Domino’s piano, was something of a different job.

As show-stopping as Domino’s white Steinway grand is, it is the opposite of the first piano he played, acquired by his family in the 1930s. That piano, Domino told his biographer, was “so beat up that you could see the rusted metal through the ivory, it had been played so hard.” According to the authors of Up From the Cradle of Jazz: “The Ninth Ward blues built off of pianos and horns.” There was an old upright in just about every small music club in the Lower Ninth Ward. The white piano, on the other hand, was not even Domino’s regular instrument. Instead, it was the one that greeted visitors to the house on Caffin Street and was a favored backdrop for family photographs. The glorious grand piano testified to his rise from a part-time musician and factory worker to one of the founding fathers of rock ‘n’ roll.

Domino’s upbringing in the Lower Ninth Ward, surrounded by his Creole relatives, inflected his music. His father was descended from French-speaking African Americans who lived as enslaved and then freedpeople in Louisiana’s sugar parishes. Like many Louisiana Creoles, black and white, they had roots in Haiti. When the Dominos arrived in the Lower Nine, the neighborhood was still mostly rural, with unpaved streets, farm animals, and scarce electricity and indoor plumbing. In a recent radio show devoted to Domino, writer Ben Sandmelobserved the artist’s “Caribbean vocal style” in songs like “My Blue Heaven.” “It’s almost like he’s an English as a second language speaker. It’s a very thick regional accent,” Sandmel said. “If you listen to oral histories of people [from the Lower Nine] who recorded around that time there are a lot of thick accents and a lot of French-isms in the speech.” …The rest here

 

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5 NOPD Officers Guilty in Katrina Murders

danziger-defendants.jpg

Five current or former New Orleans police officers were convicted in the Danziger Bridge murder case, and subsequent cover up. They are, from top left: Kenneth Bowen, Robert Faulcon, Robert Gisevius, Arthur Kaufman and Anthony Villavaso.

The wheels of Justice turn slow, and they are often out of alignment, and way too often can be bought –

But every once in a while they actually produce justice…

5 NOPD officers guilty in post-Katrina Danziger Bridge shootings, cover-up

A jury this morning convicted all five New Orleans police officers accused in the Danziger Bridgeshootings, which took place amid the chaos after Hurricane Katrina and claimed the lives of two civilians, and a cover-up of startling scope that lasted almost five years.

The verdicts were a huge victory for federal prosecutors, who won on virtually every point, save for their contention that the shootings amounted to murder. The jury rejected that notion, finding that the officers violated the victims’ civil rights, but that their actions did not constitute murder.

Sentencing for the five officers, all of them likely facing lengthy prison terms, has been set for Dec. 14 before U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt.

Four of the five officers — Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon and Anthony Villavaso — have been in custody since their arraignment.

The fifth, retired Sgt. Arthur “Archie” Kaufman, who was not involved in the shootings but headed the police investigation into them, remains free on bail.

In remarks on the courthouse steps shortly after the verdicts were rendered, lead prosecutor Barbara “Bobbi” Bernstein said she was “in awe” of the relatives of the bridge shooting victims. Without their persistence, she said, the truth about the incident would never come to light.

Lance Madison, whose brother, Ronald, was shot and killed on the bridge, and who was jailed for allegedly shooting at police, thanked the jury and the federal authorities who brought the case, while noting he will never get his brother back.

“We’re thankful for closure after six long years of waiting for justice,” Madison said.

The landmark civil-rights case — one of four major federal cases involving use of force by New Orleans police to result in indictments so far — has been closely watched around the nation.

Because of its sheer magnitude, the Danziger case was the most high-stakes of the nine civil-rights probes into the NOPD the Justice Department has confirmed. Before today’s verdicts, five other former officers, all of whom testified during the six-week trial, had already pleaded guilty to various roles in the shootings and the subsequent cover-up.

The two other cases to go to trial so far — involving the deaths of Henry Glover and Raymond Robair at the hands of police — both resulted in convictions, although two officers accused of different roles in the Glover case were acquitted, and a third officer who was convicted recently had that verdict vacated.

While today’s verdicts close the book on most aspects of the Danziger case, one officer charged in the cover-up still faces charges: retired Sgt. Gerard Dugue, who is set to be tried Sept. 26…

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2011 in Domestic terrorism, News, The New Jim Crow

 

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Investigation Finds Massive Problems in NOLA Police Department

One of the impacts of Katrina’s aftermath…

A Corrupt Beauty

Report Finds Wide Abuses by Police in New Orleans

Justice Department officials on Thursday released the findings of a 10-month investigation into this city’s Police Department, revealing a force that is profoundly and alarmingly troubled and setting in motion a process for its wholesale reform.

The report describes in chilling detail a department that is severely dysfunctional on every level: one that regularly uses excessive force on civilians, frequently fails to investigate serious crimes and has a deeply inadequate, in many cases nonexistent, system of accountability.

Using the report as a guideline, federal and local officials will now enter into negotiations leading to a consent decree, a blueprint for systemic reform that will be enforced by a federal judge.

“There is nobody in this room that is surprised by the general tenor and the tone of what this report has to say,” said Mitch Landrieu, the mayor of New Orleans, at a news conference attended by city and federal officials.

But, added Mr. Landrieu, who publicly invited federal intervention in the Police Department just days after his inauguration in May, “I look forward to a very spirited partnership and one that actually transforms this Police Department into one of the best in the country.”

The city’s police chief, Ronal Serpas, said he fully embraced the report and would be going over its findings with senior leadership later in the day.

While the report describes an appalling array of abuses and bad practices, it does not address in detail any of the nine or more federal criminal investigations into the department. These inquiries have already led to the convictions of three police officers, one for fatally shooting an unarmed civilian and another for burning the body.

Justice Department officials chose to exclude the information gleaned in the criminal inquiries to keep a wall between those investigations and the larger civil investigation into the practices of the department. But there were more than enough problems left to uncover.

While other departments generally have problems in specific areas, like the use of excessive force, “New Orleans has every issue that has existed in our practice to date, and a few that we hadn’t encountered,” said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

The report reveals that the department has not found a policy violation in any officer-involved shooting for the last six years, though federal officials who reviewed the records found that violations had clearly occurred. The department’s canine unit was so badly mismanaged — the dogs were so aggressive they frequently attacked their handlers — that federal officials encouraged the department to suspend it last year even though the investigation was still under way.

The report details a record of discriminatory policing, with a ratio of arrests of blacks to whites standing at nearly 16 to 1. Calls for police assistance by non-English speakers often went unanswered.

The report also found that the police “systemically misclassified possible sexual assaults, resulting in a sweeping failure to properly investigate many potential cases of rape, attempted rape and other sex crimes.”

 

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2011 in American Genocide, Domestic terrorism

 

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Katrina Convictions

More convictions coming down in the murders by New Orleans Police after Katrina…

Jury convicts 3 officers in post-Katrina death

For years after Hurricane Katrina, relatives demanded justice for Henry Glover, who was gunned down outside a strip mall in the storm’s aftermath. His charred remains turned up weeks later in a burned-out car.

At least one of Glover’s family members didn’t find solace Thursday even though a jury convicted three officers in Glover’s death, the burning of his body and in the doctoring of a report to make the shooting appear justified.

Glover’s relatives were also disappointed that two others were acquitted of charges stemming from the alleged cover-up.

“It’s still not behind us,” said Rebecca Glover, Henry Glover’s aunt. “They all should have been guilty. They were all in on it.”

Rebecca Glover also questioned the jury’s decision to find David Warren, a former officer accused of shooting an unarmed Glover in the back, guilty of manslaughter instead of murder.

“It should have been murder, not manslaughter,” sh Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2010 in Domestic terrorism

 

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First NOPD Officer Sentenced for Katrina Murders

Justice is slow – but at least in this case… It’s getting there.

NOPD Officer Gets Three Years For Cover-Up of Danziger Bridge Shootings

Former New Orleans Police Officer Jeffrey Lehrmann was sentenced Wednesday to three years in federal prison for his part in the cover-up of the Danziger Bridge shootings, our partners at the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported today.

Lehrmann is one of 11 officers who have been charged in the Sept. 4, 2005 incident, in which police officers opened fire on unarmed civilians, killing two and wounding four others. He was the first of five officers to cooperate with federal investigators.

Lehrmann pleaded guilty in February to concealing a crime, after coming forward and disclosing his role in an extensive cover-up that followed the shootings. According to the bill of information filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, Lehrmann “participated in the creation of false reports” and provided “false information to investigating agents.” He is the first to be sentenced in the case and is expected to testify in the trial of other officers.

ProPublica, the Times-Picayune and PBS Frontline have been investigating the circumstances around the shooting of 10 unarmed civilians by NOPD in the days after Hurricane Katrina. In addition to theDanziger Bridge case, the killings of Henry Glover,Danny Brumfield, and Matthew McDonald, and the shooting of Keenon McCann remain open federal investigations.

In August, in response to reports by ProPublica, the Times-Picayune and PBS Frontline, federal investigators also launched an inquiry into allegations that high-ranking officers in the NOPD gave orders authorizing police to shoot looters in the chaotic days after the hurricane .

In all, there are at least nine open federal investigations into misconduct by the NOPD, most dealing with incidents that took place after Katrina. So far, 16 NOPD officers have been charged. Another two have been charged in a case from July 2005.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2010 in News

 

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Two More NOLA Police Charged With Murder In Beating Death

Two more NOLA Police Officers have been indicted in the beating death of a man 2 months after Katrina. It now appears that the NOLA PD was massively corrupt, and likely corrupt far before Katrina.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, videos caught this 64 year old retired elementary school teacher being beaten by NOLA Police for no apparent reason. This was a harbinger of the behavior of far too many of the NOLA Police, and quite possibly was "business as usual".

Two New Orleans police officers indicted in 2005 beating death

Two officers in the troubled New Orleans Police Department have been indicted in connection with the beating death of a civilian in 2005, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

The federal indictment alleges that Officer Melvin Williams kicked the victim and struck him with a baton, fracturing his ribs and rupturing his spleen. The victim, Raymond Robair, was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Williams and Officer Matthew Moore were also charged with obstructing justice when they submitted a false incident report and failed to tell hospital personnel Williams had beaten Robair, according to the indictment in the Eastern District of Louisiana. Details of the indictment were released by the U.S. Justice Department in Washington.

Moore also allegedly lied about the incident in an FBI investigation in March of this year according to the indictment. Moore is accused of telling federal agents Williams had not kicked or beaten Robair. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2010 in Domestic terrorism

 

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More Charges In Katrina Murders

Wow… They are finally getting around to the Danziger Bridge murders, which conservative “News” hyped as “wild gangs of blacks shooting at rescuers” or a “shootout”…

Now the truth.

Turns out it wasn’t the citizens who were rioting.

Police Charged in Post-Katrina Shootings and Cover-Up

Six current or former police officers were charged in connection with shootings on the Danziger Bridge in the days afterHurricane Katrina that left two dead and four wounded, federal law enforcement officials announced here on Tuesday.

The charges allege that after the shootings, police supervisors engaged in a blatant cover-up of crimes that included the strafing of unarmed civilians and the slaying of a mentally disabled man. The case is one of several that have led Mayor Mitch Landrieu to seek a Justice Department review of the city’s police department.

Four of the officers charged Tuesday — Sgt. Kenneth Bowen, Sgt. Robert Gisevius Officer Anthony Villavaso and former officer Robert Faulcon — were accused in the killing of a 17-year-old James Brissette. Mr. Faulcon was also charged with shooting Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally disabled man, in the back, and Sergeant Bowen with kicking and stomping Mr. Madison while he was dying on the ground.

All of the officers could possibly face the death penalty.

The four police officers along with two supervisors, Sgt. Arthur Kaufman and former Sgt. Gerard Dugue, two longtime homicide detectives investigating the shootings for the Police Department, were also charged with obstruction of justice in what officials described as an elaborate and in places blatantly false cover-up story.

The charges were announced at a news conference attended by Eric H. Holder Jr., the attorney general; Tom Perez, the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division; Jim Letten, the United States attorney in New Orleans; and several federal prosecutors and F.B.I. officials.

The officers charged in Mr. Brissette’s death are in custody, federal officials said.

Five other police officers have already been charged in connection with the killings on the Danziger Bridge on Sept. 4, 2005, when much of the city was still underwater. The first charge came in February, when Lt. Michael J. Lohman pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to obstruct justice.

Four more officers and a civilian have pleaded guilty since then to charges of obstructing justice and covering up a felony.

Last month, five police officers were indicted in connection with the murder of Henry Glover, 31, who was shot to death in the Algiers neighborhood in the days just after Katrina and whose body was later found in a burned car behind a police station.

The police force is the subject of eight federal investigations, some of them for actions years after Katrina.

In early May, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, on his third day in office, formally asked the Department of Justice to conduct the full-scale review of the department, a process that often ends in a consent decree, a binding agreement for systemic reform.

Justice Department officials, who had been discussing such a possibility with the mayor before the formal request, announced shortly afterward that they were beginning the wide-ranging investigation.

Ronald Madison (undated photo) was murdered on the Danziger Bridge by NOLA Police

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2010 in American Genocide

 

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