Memorial service honors life of slain AmeriCorps volunteer

They gathered Wednesday night to remember him. But rather than mourning a young life cut short, they celebrated a life well lived.

Friends, family and colleagues from AmeriCorps filled the pews of Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church in the 8800 block of Hickory Street to honor Joseph Massenburg, 18, the AmeriCorps volunteer fatally shot the night of April 1 at Eagle and Birch streets.

The crime stunned members of the service organization, which withdrew participants from the city after his death.

Those who spoke described Massenburg as a selfless servant who wanted to make the world a better place. And though they said his murder angered them, they vowed to continue serving to keep alive his memory.

“Joe was here with us too short a time,” said Gabe Sneller with AmeriCorps. Andreas Hoffman, founder and director of Green Light New Orleans, another service organization Massenburg worked with, said Massenburg touched many lives during his time in the city.

Hoffman said Massenburg worked six days a week, with 10 families a day.

“If you do that much service during a week you can do the math and know how many New Orleans families he served,” Hoffman said.

Though Massenburg’s killer remains at large, police have identified Glen Emerson, 18, as a suspect in the case.

Homicide Detective Nick Gernon said before Wednesday’s memorial that he believes Emerson is still in the city and is being protected by someone.

He urged those who know something to help police find the suspect.

“We know somebody out there knows where Mr. Emerson is,” Gernon said. “Give this family a sense of justice.”

Massenburg’s father, the Rev. Andre Massenburg, of Chicago, said that while it would be easy to give up hope because of his loss, the best way to honor is son is to continue serving.

“It’s one of those tragedies we can do nothing about,” he said in a subdued tone from the pulpit. “Don’t let trouble contaminate your character.”

As he continued to speak about losing his son, Andre Massenburg grew more animated and spoke with more passion.

He urged those attending the memorial to put their faith in God that his son was in a better place, reaching a fevered pitch with a final impassioned plea for information that would lead to the arrests of those who killed Joe, something he said he was confident would happen.

“There’s justice for Joe. There’s justice around the corner,” Andre Massenburg shouted to the packed church and over applause and cries of “hallelujah.”

“This is not the end of the story,” he said. “There’s another chapter.”