New Orleans will respond to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Sunday at 5 p.m., with a funeral procession rooted both in the city’s parading culture and civil rights lessons learned in Tremé.
Reuben “Buck” Evans and Corey Nolan, both seasoned members of local social aid and pleasure clubs, came up with the idea while working together as cooks in a kitchen in the Central Business District.
“We don’t have much to offer in response, in terms of money. But we can offer this: our culture,” said Evans, 31, whose family founded the Family Ties Social Aid and Pleasure Club.
On Saturday, he arrived at a rehearsal for the funeral procession with his daughter, Remi Evans, 12, a St. Mary’s Academy student who will play snare drums Sunday with the Big Six Brass Band.
“We need to do this,” Remi said. “Because it seems like what happened in Texas could happen to any school at any time.”
Tuesday’s mass shooting, which killed 19 schoolchildren and two teachers, “will remain in the minds of children and their caregivers for years to come,” said Michelle Moore, chief of psychology for LSU Health New Orleans.
“Senseless blood,” said Evans, who rehearsed and made drawings for the march on Saturday with his daughter and three children of his late cousin, Renard “Weedy” Fournette Jr., 27, who was fatally shot Jan. 21 in his car in the Lower 9th Ward, in front of some of his children.
Evans and others have now heard that Fournette was not the intended target; it was a case of mistaken identity.
“So that was innocent, too, in a couple ways.” Evans said. “Not in a school, but done with kids right there.”
'How we show our love'
The best way to address the Texas tragedy is by dancing through the streets, said Nolan, 49, a member of ?, a social aid and pleasure club identified only by the question mark.
“Parading is how we show our love, and tell you that we feel your pain,” Nolan said.
At the request of second-liner Tyrone “Tuffy” Nelson, 50, the organizers expanded their focus, to include the increasing number of New Orleans children traumatized by violence and lost to tragedy, including three who recently disappeared in the Mississippi River and those slain within the city’s devastating struggle with gun violence. “Kids are dying right here in New Orleans,” Nelson said.
Like other children who were part of Tambourine & Fan, the youth organization based at the Tremé Community Center, Evans learned about the young martyrs of the civil rights struggle from New Orleans freedom fighter Jerome Smith. “Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair,” said Evans, naming the four little girls who were killed in 1963 by a bomb hidden in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
'We also understand hate'
“Because of Tambourine & Fan, we understood love. And we also understood hate,” Evans said.
In her youth, Remi’s mother, Quindell Quinn, 31, was also part of Tambourine & Fan. More than a decade later, she, too, can remember the names of the four little girls killed in Birmingham. “Because they were innocent and I was a child myself, growing up and going to church just like them,” she said.
As they did at Tambourine & Fan events, children will lead Sunday’s procession, to honor the Texas children who until Tuesday were growing up and attending school just like them.
“We’ll do for them what we do down here, parade for the dead, in the tradition that comes from Africa,” Quinn said. “We’ll parade for peace. We’ll parade for their souls. We’ll parade for the innocence of children.”
Sunday’s procession begins at 5 p.m. at Tuba Fats Square, at the intersection of North Robertson and St. Philip streets.