Effort aims to end black-on-black violence
BY DANNY MONTEVERDE
New Orleans bureau
October 05, 2012
NEW ORLEANS — Late Tuesday night, 24-year-old Jovan Johnson’s life came to an end when someone fatally shot him on an Algiers street. He was the 151st person killed in the city this year, another black male, according to the Orleans Parish coroner’s office.
Johnson’s death came hours after Mayor Mitch Landrieu and director Spike Lee launched “Flip the Script,” a public awareness campaign designed to end what Lee described as a “modern-day genocide” in regard to the number of young black men killing other black men.
“The numbers are the numbers. The facts are the facts,” Lee said. “We’re doing it to ourselves.”
The effort, in partnership with the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, is part of Nola For Life, an initiative that aims to reduce the number of killings in the city by stopping shootings, investing in crime prevention, promoting job opportunities, neighborhood rebuilding programs and improving the New Orleans Police Department.
Landrieu said the campaign is meant to be “provocative.”
The goal, the two said, is to once again sensitize a population seemingly numb to the city’s inexorable murder rate unless innocent bystanders or children are killed.
“We have to get to the point where anytime someone gets murdered it feels like a blood relative,” Lee said during the debut at the Joy Theater on Canal Street. Landrieu approached Lee about the “Flip the Script” campaign, which the filmmaker agreed to do for free through his Spike DDB advertising agency.
“For far too long ... we have tried to stick out heads in the sand,” Lee said. “We can no longer stand silent because we think it’s going to look bad.”
“Flip the Script” features the stories of people such as Patrina Peters, whose son, Demond, was gunned down in May 2010.
“Too many mothers like me stay awake at night praying our kids come home,” she said. “Unfortunately Demond did not.”
After her son’s death, she said she needed to get bypass surgery. “My heart was broke so bad I was literally dying,” she said.
She still keeps in touch with her son’s friends, she said. “They can accomplish anything in this world,” she said. “They just need us to continue to love them. They need us to support them while they change their lives. I believe they can flip the script.”
Lee and Landrieu said they also want to show the hope for young black males in the city.
Ryan Dalton, an 8th Ward man, was shot but survived, unlike his brother who was killed this year.
Dalton said he was one of the lucky ones in his neighborhood. “I was one of those at-risk youths,” he said. “I was blessed to find my way out of the cycle.”
He founded the P.U.S.H. Program (Perseverance, Understanding, Success, Healing), and is now using that program to help other young people.
TV, radio, print and billboard advertising will be used in conjunction with digital media to spread the campaign’s message.
Billboards that will go up around the city will include headlines such as “18-YR-OLD BLACK MALE IS GIVEN LIFE SENTENCE WITHOUT HOPE FOR PAROLE.” Some of the words are grayed out, leaving “18-YR-OLD IS GIVEN HOPE” as the predominant message.
Part of the campaign is the Nola For Life Fund, which will be used to fund programs to support the program’s mission of reducing murder in the city. Chevron donated $1 million on Monday night. The city said it will match tax-deductible donations dollar for dollar up to $250,000.
Additionally, a portion of sales of jewelry and clothes designed by Mignon Faget and Fleurty Girl will go toward “Flip the Script,” as will the sale of special Nola For Life T-shirts designed by Ayo Scott. Dwayne Bernal, owner and president of Royal Engineers & Consultants commissioned the shirts, which will be sold at special events.
“It’s easy to get upset about Briana and Keira,” Landrieu told the crowd at the Joy, referring to 5-year-old Briana Allen and 1-year-old Keira Holmes, who were both caught in the crossfire of Central City shootouts and died. “But our future is in their lives,” he said of the city’s young black males.