Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Silence is Violence

As of this afternoon, I have been in New Orleans for a week. It has been a week full of connections, music, community, and discovery- and it has felt like much longer than a week!

I woke up this morning to this headline: 

Shootings mar New Orleans Halloween revelry
By Kathy Finn
NEW ORLEANS | Tue Nov 1, 2011 6:02pm EDT
(Reuters) - Violence marred Halloween night in New Orleans, with two men killed and more than a dozen wounded in five shootings, including in popular tourist areas in or near the city's famous French Quarter.
The shootings took place during Halloween night revelry that traditionally consumes Bourbon Street, a bar-lined French Quarter street renowned for its 24-hour party atmosphere, where one man was shot and killed.
Costumed revelers also typically stroll along neighboring Canal Street, a wide, business-lined boulevard that borders the French Quarter, where another fatal shooting took place.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu told a press conference on Tuesday that the city had an ongoing problem with violent crime.
"To the criminals: We're going to catch you," he said. "We're going to arrest you and bring you to justice."
Asked whether he was concerned about the impact on tourism, Landrieu said: "While I'm concerned about the image it portrays, I'm much more concerned about the kids and what it says about the culture of violence in the city."
The New Orleans murder rate was more than 10 times the national average in 2009, according to a report commissioned by the Bureau of Justice Assistance and released this year.
I met with an administrator in the UNO music department today and we discussed many things, including the shootings. The conversation eventually honed in on Mayor Mitch Landrieu's urgent desire to address the "culture of violence" in New Orleans. The Mayor implied that it was impossible to do this from the top down – more police were not the answer, it has to happen from the root. The administrator looked at me – "You are approaching New Orleans at the perfect time- you are the root!" If what you want to build is a social program in the guise of a youth orchestra, and that orchestra will help children from the very beginning to learn the value of community and self-control, then you are the root. El Sistema could be a way to shift the culture from the root. 
Appropriately, I visited a program today named 'Silence is Violence'. The program has many different community based components to address violence in the city – including peace clubs, peace walks, the Victims Allies Project, and music clinics. Music clinics to address violence. I loved being at this program – children from about 5 years old to youth in their teens were all being taught group lessons in piano, drums, trumpet, trombone, sax, and violin. These children had not known each other before beginning to come every week to receive these free lessons in a supportive environment, built to change the root, to prevent the culture of violence from ever taking hold. 
Tomorrow is a beautiful day, and with these roots, the flowers will be beautiful too. 

Questions of the Day: 
What impacts a "culture of violence?" 
Can music affect violence in a community? 

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