NEW ORLEANS -- Rev. Al Sharpton visited New Orleans Sunday. Days after another child was shot to death in Central City and hours before two girls were shot, one fatally, in the Carrollton area early Monday, Sharpton challenged New Orleanians to do better.
Sharpton was in town to celebrate the rebuilding of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church on General Taylor Street, which was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, but he also had a message for New Orleans as a whole.
Inspiring cheers and laughter, Sharpton preached to hundreds of members.
“We must recapture the same faith and pride and dignity that gave us the strength to rebuild a city underwater,” Sharpton said. “Now we must be strong enough to build ourselves from under this whole pervasive lack of regard for human life.”
Sharpton delivered a sermon at the church asking people to come together against crime in New Orleans.
In the last three years, stray bullets have killed four children in Central City -- near the church where Sharpton preached Sunday – including one-year-old Londyn Samuels last week.
Police are working to bring the murder rate under control, but murder is still exponentially higher than the national average. The violence disproportionally affects the African American community.
“What bothers me more than anything at night,” Sharpton said, “is when you lay down and have known you’ve done the right thing and fighting for the rights of people, is to see people self-destruct. And to see the kind of disregard for human life that some of young people have grown up with.”
Sharpton said curbing crime is a community effort that starts with self-respect, instilling discipline in children and faith.
Rev. Moses Gordon, of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, said he was willing to help anyway he can. “We want to resume much of the work that was begun prior to Katrina, tutoring children, helping to lift them educationally.”
The community can have a voice, without fear of repercussion, with agencies such as Crimestoppers, where people can leave tips anonymously. The number of tips to Crimestoppers is currently up.
“It starts very much with the community having a zero-tolerance,” Darlene Cusanza, of Crimestoppers said. “I think the community, the neighborhoods need to make it very clear that when these things happen, they’re not going to stand for it.”
Sharpton challenged the community to come together and realize one thing: “What we have to do is recapture the minds of our people so that they understand life is of value.”