In 2007 there were over 200 murdered in the city of New Orleans. In 2008 the same is true. Most of the victims of violence were young (15-25 years of age); over 90% were shot. In February of 2007 after marches and protests, no real change seemed to take place. Deacon Elaine Clemments said, “I feel that we have to do something. But it is so overwhelming I am not sure that anything will help.” In response it was noted that Fr. Daniel Berrigan, SJ, of noted social disobedience movements in the 1970’s, taught that it is not so much the outcome that is the charism of social justice but rather the act of doing social justice that is trans-formative. The Victims of Violence ministry was then born to name and remember the victims of violence, to pray for all impacted by urban violence including perpetrators, victims, families, officials, and police officers. The form of remembering was to list the names of each victim on a public tableau on the church wall. This tableau became known as “The Murder Board.” It serves to remind us of the human cost of urban violence without judgment of the individual. At the present time several area churches bring flowers to a number of city officials, “one rose for each victim.” With that is a card offering prayers for the officials, victims, families and perpetrators. In 2008 three churches locally and a host of churches nationally came together to host an event called “Horns for Guns” or H4G. While this was billed as a gun buy-back program the real goal was to offer the cities children, who live in high risk environments, a chance to enroll in several programs usually emphasizing music or art. That event raised over $30,000. Of that sum about 80% was delivered to programs offering considerable opportunities for children. In addition over 15 “lightly used” instruments were collected and offered to a program called, The Roots of Music. At the present time, VofV ministries are seeking more ways to get kids off the streets and into productive programs that offer hope and opportunity. To see how St. Anna’s is responding see “Anna’s Arts for Kids.”
Murder Board featured by State of the ReUnion
A video about St. Anna’s Murder Board, a simple way to humanize the to often forgotten victims of murder in New Orleans.
Fr. Bill speaks about the Murder Board on CNN
Episcopal Life Online: A discussion on murder & violence in New Orleans
For more on this story, please visit the following links:
- CNN: Names of Victims Fill Church’s Murder Board (Video)
- Episcopal News Service: New Orleans Murder Board (Video)
- The Times-Picayune: Church’s list mourns every murder victim
For more information direct questions and inquiries to The Rev. Bill Terry (firstname.lastname@example.org).