NEW ORLEANS -- It wouldn't be Mardi Gras morning in New Orleans without the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club.
Zulu is known the world over as one of the most colorful- and historic Carnival parades.
Monday, the organization's president Naaman Stewart announced plans to address the city's crime problem in Zulu's 2017 theme, "Stop the Violence."
"I just thought we needed to do something bigger, we needed to take a stand, we needed to use this platform to be able to express our concern about crime in the city," Stewart said. "Mardi Gras is one day of the year, right, but we live with this crime problem 365 days of the year."
Stewart admits, shootings involving three small children in separate incidents this month in New Orleans, moved him to adopt the Stop the Violence theme.
"We're trying to be proactive and reaching out and letting folks know that this is not the way that things should be, that there must be a better way to resolve problems, to resolve conflicts," Stewart said.
WWL-TV crime analyst Jeff Asher says 25 children and juveniles have been shot so far this year in New Orleans, 5 of the victims were 11 years old and younger.
"It's the type of thing that if you have enough shootings and you have enough of them that are drive-by or an individual with an assault rifle gets out and aims at a group of people, you're going to have children shot," Asher said.
Lower Ninth Ward neighbor Wesley Hall, who lives around the corner from where a 6 year old was shot in the knee on Sunday, commends Zulu's decision to adopt an anti-crime theme.
"That's the main thing that there's so many shootings and now a lot of children get hurt," Hall said.
All of Zulu's floats and throws will display the theme Stop the Violence.
"Even the events that we host we're going to focus on communicating to the attendees that stopping the violence is a priority," Stewart said. "We're just hoping that we're able to reach the right people with the right message at the right time."
Stewart is hoping other parade and Mardi Gras organizations will follow Zulu's lead and adopt anti-crime themes.
He said this is not a knock on the NOPD or the Mayor's crime reduction strategy. Instead, Stewart maintains, it's a call for average citizen's to do what they can to fight crime in their own neighborhoods.
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