Memorial for victims of violence unveiled at Treme church

Published: Jul. 30, 2022 at 10:49 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - More than 2,200 victims of violence in and around the city are now forever memorialized in an installation meant to provoke thought and conversation about solutions.

Saint Anna’s Episcopal Church unveiled their “Victims of Violence Tree of Life Memorial” by local artist Michael Peart in the Treme and spoke about what they believe will help heal the community.

“I go through the newspapers and I write their names down. I have to read how they were killed and it’s just rough at times really, really hard, and sometimes I go into Father Terry’s office and just sit and breathe,” Deacon Luigi Mandile said.

Mandile has been helping collect the names of victims since 2007.

“There are so many young people that have been killed that they could have been anything. They could have been the next president, they could have been city council,” Mandile said.

These aren’t just 2,200 names, each comes with a story, a life, a family, something Saint Anna believes we must remember. They say this unveiling is not a sad day.

“We have something to celebrate,” Darryl Durham, Anna’s Place Founder said. “With the installation of this memorial comes hope that we the people will come together to offer up a solution that will bring peace to this community.”

Because of its prevalence, many community members have become numb to the violence.

“It’s not inevitable. It’s not acceptable. It’s not something that we should ever get used to it because it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way,” District D Councilmember Eugene Green said.

Various community leaders spoke to what they believe will help bring change, like better conflict resolution, gun laws and public safety tools local government is working on. They say it’s not something law enforcement and government can do alone.

“I decided to turn my pain into purpose. I challenge you to do the same,” Tamara Jackson with Silence is Violence said.

They say it’s about changing the culture of violence and looking inward to figure out what each of us can do to help.

“The only way we can truly begin to address the issue of violence is if we can get to address the issue of brokenness in this community,” State Representative Royce Duplessis said.

Also, through reparations and investing in Black communities and programs like Saint Anna’s which has been providing inspiration and motivation for Treme’s youth in hopes it shows them there is something better out there for them.

“It’s rooted as systemic racism, it’s rooted in America’s first original sin of enslavement. We must understand that and recognize that in order that we might go forward and stop creating boundaries between us and the rest of this nation.

This wall shows each death was not in vain-- their names will serve as a symbol of change.

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