Less than three months passed between the arrest of George Junius Stinney Jr. and his execution. The whole Stinney trial took only one day – including jury selection. The year was 1944 in Alcolu, a South Carolina town established by a lumber company in the late 19th century. All of the townsfolk worked for the mill; and in fact, were paid in metal coins emblazoned with the letter “A;” legal tender accepted at the company store to pay for everything from groceries to a doctor’s visit. Stinney was 14 when he sat in the electric chair using the Bible he carried into the death chamber as a booster seat.
What do you say to someone who has spent 10,950 days — 3 decades and his last 30 birthdays — wondering if today would be the day he would be put to death for a crime he did not commit? “They give you a $20 debit card and say, ‘I’ll be waiting on you,’ ” said John Thompson, who spent 18 years in prison, 14 of them on death row, wrongfully convicted of murder. On March 11, Thompson welcomed home fellow exoneree Glenn Ford, Louisiana’s longest-serving death row prisoner. Ford was released from death row and exonerated after an informant told police that the real killer — one of the original suspects — confessed to the 1983 murder. “I was playing chess, when they came and got me to leave,” said Ford, spreading out his many pencil drawings, a testament of how he spent his time locked up, on a wooden table at the Resurrection After Exoneration (RAE) House on St.
The fanfare surrounding 31-year-old Torence “Lil Boosie” Hatch’s release from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola after a four-year sentence on drug charges has been surreal. A video of his daughter, a wide-eyed girl in ponytails and bows, feverishly expressing her anticipation over her dad coming home went viral. The clip, sweet at heart, was highly problematic though, because of the little girl’s repeated and casual use of the N-word — and it embodies the contradictions in this whole story. Boosie became a trending topic on Twitter and yesterday there was a #Boosiespeaks press conference streamed lived on the Internet, held at the same time Gov. Bobby Jindal opened the 2014 Louisiana Legislative session. It seems that Boosie received far more attention than Jindal, even while some celebrities spoke out against the excitement surrounding Boosie’s release.
As the celebrities and athletes who came to town to party during the NBA All-Star Weekend board planes heading back to their posh lives — after they Instagram images of themselves looking fabulous and doing fabulous things like eating beignets and shooting hoops with underprivileged youth — New Orleans remains as bloody as ever. This week in violence, counting backwards:
On Monday, four people were shot in separate incidents across New Orleans –- near City Park, Gentilly, Uptown, Lower Ninth Ward. No one died (by the time of this writing) but two of the victims were critically wounded. On Sunday morning, a New Orleans Police Department officer shot a man four times at a corner store in Hollygrove. There was some confusion about whether he was shoplifting.
Standing somewhere in between the Blue Runners and Trappey’s Butter Beans, a woman in Rouses asked me had I heard that wind gusts were supposed to reach 100 mph. I was in the supermarket, like everyone else, buying provisions for an intended few days spent home due to sleet, freezing rain; and hopefully, snow, but mostly what’s expected to be an icy mess of local roads and bridges. But I hadn’t heard that. The lady continued her weather report: Her co-worker, a fellow teacher, had told her so. There was a look of worry on her face – and now mine.
I took my son to hear Amiri Baraka speak at Dillard University back in 2010. I was excited. He was 7. Before the event, I tried to pump him up about going to see Amiri. I told my son that he was a great writer who spoke his mind no matter what other people thought.
It’s 34 degrees at daybreak; and the temperature is rapidly dropping. The day is as dreary as it is gray, but not even the hawk — or the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) — can keep Brandan “BMike” Odums away from the Florida Projects. He’s not breaking and entering in the name of creation this time around. The visual artist, who is equally dexterous with spray paint as he is with acrylic and pen and ink, is there to reflect on #ProjectBe, an organic participatory art odyssey that began last summer. #ProjectBe sparked debates among the arties — and authorities – about what makes “legitimate” art and whether a weather-beaten public housing development can ever be more than an underground thrill.
It’s the weekend before Christmas at Dennis Photography, a quaint picture studio. It’s the calm before the storm, a studio attendant explains, before the gallery is packed with crying babies, active toddlers and parents filling out picture packets on one of the busiest Santa Claus picture-taking days of the season. Seventh Ward Santa, as he has grown to be known in his 43 years, is nowhere in sight. According to his business agent, Fred Parker, Santa is in between photo shoots as is typical during this time of year working to make as many appearances and greet as many little ones as possible. He’s been on call since Nov.
A few nights ago, my 10-year-old son turned to me and said, “I hate that everybody thinks Santa is white.”
“In every TV show and movie besides ‘Martin,’ Santa is white… the real Santa is white. The only time he’s black is if a black person is entertaining black kids,” his musings continued. “Santa Claus could be skinny and doesn’t like cookies. What if he just has a moustache?”
My son’s questioning of the mainstream mythology and direct rebuttal of the monolithic template of the man in the red suit made my heart proud. You see, I never taught my son to believe in Santa Claus.
LaTanya Killingworth was fresh out of Alfred Lawless High School when she found out she was HIV positive. She casually took a test while visiting a health center with a friend. Weeks later, after she had forgotten all about it, she was called in to get the results. “The day I found out I was positive I cried because I thought I would never have kids. It was a death sentence at that time,” Killingworth says.