NEW ORLEANS -- Amid the four-day festivities of 2013 Essence Festival, Mayor Mitch Landrieu is taking on a serious issue by talking about the violent crime -- especially black-on-black killings -- that is plaguing New Orleans.
"Essence is what they call 'a party with a purpose' -- and the purpose side is starting to get really important," Landrieu said, "so we're using this as a platform to bring in the best thinkers in the country to talk about violence on the streets of New Orleans -- particularly young African-American men killing young African-American men."
Among the speakers, New Orleans native and entrepreneur Percy "Master P" Miller, along with organizer Mike Willis, whose family has been impacted by New Orleans violence, hosted an event in Algiers aimed at stopping violence in New Orleans.
Saturday, Landrieu said, a panel of mayors from cities around America will hold a discussion on violence. Titled "Reducing Violence and Murder in America," the panel will include Landrieu, Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta and Mayor William A. Bell of Birmingham. The panel discussion will take place 11:10-11:40 a.m. in the Convention Center.
As violence has claimed so many lives in New Orleans, it also has left behind many trying to cope with the loss of those loved ones.
On Sunday, mothers who have lost a child to violence in New Orleans are invited by the mayor to come to a prayer vigil at the Covention Center; "Love, Loss and Life" will take place at 9 a.m.
Landrieu wants those mothers who have loved and lost "to just be together to talk, to have some fellowship, to really think about how much has been taken from them and try to inspire a national movement about stopping violence on the streets of America, particularly in the city of New Orleans."
Landrieu is using Essence to tout his murder reduction plan, NOLAForLife, and added that murders for the first half of 2013 in New Orleans are currently at a 20-year low. "That's wonderful, except we're still higher by far than the national average," Landrieu said.
"Every day across America, whether it's New Orleans, whether it's Detroit, whether it's Philadephia, Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, there are four or five neighborhoods where you basically have kids being slaughtered on the street by other kids who know each other," he added. "That cannot be right in the United State of America."