A Battle To Save Black Lives

Since 1980, more than 260,000 black men have been killed in America. Mitch Landrieu, the mayor of New Orleans, is on a crusade to stop the killing.

In late April of 1994, a 9-year-old African American boy from the broken-down Central City neighborhood of New Orleans wrote a letter to President Bill Clinton, asking him to bring about an end to the violence that was devastating his communities.

“Dear Mr. Clinton,” James Darby began. “I want you to stop the killing in the city. People is dead and I think that somebody might kill me. So would you please stop the people from deading. I’m asking you nicely to stop it. I know you can do it. Do it. I now you could.” He signed the letter, “Your friend, James.”

Ten days later, on May 8, Mother’s Day, Darby was visiting A. L. Davis Park with several members of his family. The park, named after Abraham Lincoln Davis, the first African American to sit on the New Orleans city council, is a compact rectangle of basketball courts and grass patches situated directly across the street from a public-housing complex.

Darby, his mother, Janice Payne, and her sister laid out a picnic for their family. Soon they were playing in an impromptu touch-football game with other families. At first, spirits were good, but the game became tense, and amiable mockery suddenly gave way to taunting. A fight erupted. One of the players, apparently associated with Darby’s family, punched a 16-year-old girl named Karen Norfleet in the eye. Norfleet’s 14-year-old brother, Michael, turned to members of Darby’s family and, according to witnesses, said, “Wait here. You’re going to get yours.”Michael and Karen Norfleet ran home to their apartment in a nearby housing project. They found their 19-year-old brother, Joseph, seated on a couch, drinking Bacardi. Joseph saw Karen’s eye and became angry.

He had just returned home from a shift on a lawn-maintenance crew. He was tired, somewhat drunk, a bit stoned, and in a foul mood. A short discussion about the merits of immediate retribution ensued. An older man in the house, a 32-year-old convicted felon named James Walker, the son of Norfleet’s mother’s boyfriend, urged Joseph to defend his sister’s honor. Joseph Norfleet admired Walker, and so rose to his challenge. He grabbed a shotgun from a closet, and the men drove with Michael to the park. They soon located the people involved in the football-game altercation. The car slowed. Someone inside the car is believed to have yelled, “Yo, b%@*ches!” Joseph pointed the shotgun out the window and pulled the trigger. Joseph Norfleet had been shot twice in his life—the first time when he was 15, as a victim of a robbery, and then, at 17, during a drive-by shooting in his neighborhood—but he had never before fired a weapon. Norfleet missed his intended target, a man associated with the Darby family. James Darby, who was eating potato chips when the Norfleets rolled up, was struck in the head. Two other people, including Darby’s uncle, were wounded when they were struck by fragments of the boy’s skull. Janice Payne laid herself atop her son and told him that she loved him.The 9-year-old who had feared being killed lay dead on the street.

Here we are close to 25 years later tragic death after tragic death, with the recent death of Ex-NFL Player Will Smith from New Orleans Saints, having dinner with his wife and friends never thinking that the day of a great dinner night, he would be shot to death and his wife also being shot in her legs as well. Never thinking of that moment no longer seeing his children again. And on that day a young man who pulled the trigger to take a life, having tragedy of his own in 2005 by way of his fathers death by police officers, to to his fathers mental illness and an over heated argument that was created which led to his father being shot and killed by New Orleans police officers. One of the officers being a friend of “Will Smith” who was with Mr. Smith and his wife at the time before his death where all were having dinner together.

And this young man who sued the city of New Orleans for his fathers death was awarded a large sum of a settlement from that case. Some 22 years later finds himself killing a high profile black man, Will Smith former NFL Star for the New Orleans Saints and now this young black man will soon find his permanent home in Angola Penitentiary the largest maximum security prison system in America. Based on the sentencing guide lines, a prison sentence for murder in the State of Louisiana is simply a death sentence. A Life sentence in Angola is not a simple  10 to 20 year sentencing, a life with out parole are sentences given in a term of years—for instance, 100 years—that, in practice, amount to de facto life-without-parole sentences. Also, sentences that run consecutively can add up to prison sentences that exceed an offender’s natural lifespan thus ensuring that the prisoner will die in prison before reaching his or her date of parole eligibility or release. In such cases, because of the length of the sentence and the age of the offender, the projected release date is most certainly after his or her death. The simple truth of the matter is more black men to add to the demise of “Black Men”.

 ~ By Rev. Anthony Martin ~

 TKCFM-Front Cover-My Blood Cries Out-Printed Edition