Jim Brown

Thursday, January 27th, 2011
New Orleans, Louisiana


New Orleans is off to a fast start in this New Year to maintain its perennial title of being the murder capital of America. When the city celebrated Martin Luther King Day last week, five people were shot down. Just a few killings often seem to be a good day. The first violent death took place on day two of the New Year. In the few short weeks since then, 16 more murders have been chalked up. At this rate, could a new record high be in the making?

Any murder is tragic, but one can weave through the crime lore of the Crescent City to see some deaths that just can’t be explained. The locals often seem to shrug and accept the blood flowing as a price you pay for living in what always ranks as America’s “most interesting city.” Violence seems to be an integral part of the gumbo that blends a different genre of street smells, music, spices, poverty, and minions of eccentric characters. But then, the killings continue and grow in numbers.

The brutal execution that got to me the worst was the tragic death of a little boy a few years back. Ja’Shawn Powell was two years old, and lived in New Orleans with his mother.  His father, a guy named Danny Platt, came to pick up Ja’Shawn for a weekend visit.  The boy, according to his mother was really excited.  “Oh, my daddy’s here,” he beamed as he ran to the door.  “Daddy, daddy, daddy.”  His mother said: “He was so happy.” 

Then his daddy drove off….. took a knife….. slit this little boy’s throat….. and allowed the toddler to bleed to death.

It’s impossible to make any sense, or even find the words to define such a ghastly act. Horrifying, shocking, sickening, abhorrent, repugnant; no thoughts can describe such a dastardly deed of unspeakable horror. Platt claims he had “a whole bunch of reasons” for taking this little boy’s life. He said “I had a lot of pressure on me.”  But he denied that one of the reasons was the $4000 in back child support he owed to the boy’s mother.  Hogwash.  He did it to keep from paying the money.

In a city that has the highest per capita murder rate in the nation, where multiple killings often happen on a daily basis, a town that is rated as one of the five most dangerous cities in the world, it is still incomprehensible to imagine that a father could take a knife and plunge it into the throat of his two-year-old child.

How could anyone kill their own son? That’s the question posed in the book of Genesis as to whether a father could kill his own son, even at the urging of God himself.  According to the scripture in the first book of the Bible, the Jewish patriarch Abraham was told by God to kill his son Isaac to show obedience to God.  It was a test, and when God was apparently satisfied that Abraham would undertake such an appalling act, he called out for Abraham to stop.

How does a believer, like Abraham, respond if he had been asked to sacrifice his one and only son?  And then there is a separate question. How could a loving God even put one of his followers to such a test? Why would any being, God or man, force such a horrendous choice?

Bob Dylan poignantly and pointedly asked the same question on the title track of his “Highway 61 Revisited “album that came out in 1965. Now follow the symbolism here. Highway 61 runs from Duluth, Minnesota all the way down to New Orleans. It was a major transit route to get out of the Deep South, particularly for African Americans traveling north to Chicago, St. Louis and Memphis, as the highway followed the Mississippi River Valley for most of its 1400 miles. The song puts to the test the moral dilemma of killing one’s own son at the request of the Almighty.

Dylan raises the same concerns about God’s actions that I have felt for years. The lyrics say:

Oh God said to Abraham, Kill me a son”
Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?”
God say, “you can do what you want Abe but
The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killing done?”
God says, “Out on Highway 61.”

So when America’s poet troubadour picks a location to symbolize one of the most heart wrenching choices posed by God to man, a choice by the way that I personally think was dead wrong for God to pose in the first  place , the heart and soul of the dilemma runs right through the Crescent City, on Highway 61.

Since the killing of little Ja’Shawn, there have been a series of other family murders in New Orleans.   Just a few days after Ja’Shawn was knifed to death, a son killed his 73 old mother, who was a member of her church choir.  He stabbed her repeatedly with a butcher knife and robbed her.  Why?  He needed money to buy drugs.

New Orleans is a city where I was educated, where I have worked and lived off and on for some fifty years.  It’s a real tragedy to see the will and the hopes of so many locals seem to slowly drift away.  And let’s face it. No outside help is going to sweep in to solve the city’s massive list of problems.

New Orleans needs political leadership, increased community activism, more public dollars into law enforcement, and a renewed focus on juvenile delinquency.  But there also needs to be a will. All this can make a difference and all this needs to be done.  But it all begins right here at home, on Highway 61.


“There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, and nothing worth killing for.” ~ Tom Robbins

Peace and Justice.
Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.

3 thoughts on “Jim Brown”

  1. Mr. Brown
    While I take issue with your chastising God , you have succinctly laid out the horrors of living in New Orleans.
    When the DA, Police Chief and Mayor all state that the city’s crime is out of control, when there are murders (plural) every day , when gangs control the streets because the law cannot or will not: then there is anarchy.
    New Orleans will not be healthy for many generations to come. The cycle of poverty fueled by irresponsible parents and/or absent parents, and lives ruled by a sense of entitlement and no consequences will always result in such dire circumstances.
    The stench of decay waffs from the top down. From the head of the family ( no gender escapes such responsibility) to the head of the community to the head of the world order, if there is no integrity, no sense of responsibility, no work ethic ( irrespective of the status of the job or the remuneration), no empathy for fellow human beings, no charitable spirit : there can only be chaos.
    From chaos it is only a few missteps to the edge of the chasm and oblivion. Sometimes that oblivion is a living hell, sometimes it is the violent end of life. Neither is acceptable in civilized society. New Orleanians are becoming inured to the violence and yet another generation is growing up to accept such behavior as part of the ‘gumbo’ which creates the Spirit of New Orleans.
    Mommas don’t let your babies grow up in New Orleans.

  2. By-product of an an entitlement culture. I may be wrong, but didn’t former Governor Edwards state that one of his biggest regrets was not trying to stop New Orleans’ downward spiral in the 70s towards a welfare state?

    People can make all the excuses in the world, but the fact is that 1% of the population in New Orleans commits ALL the MAJOR CRIME (Murders, rapes, attempted murders, burglary, etc.) and that 1% is almost 100% black.

    What would Jim Brown have the other 99% do? Form a “star chamber” to weed out the criminals via “hometown justice”?

    The answer is that really comes down to policing your own within your own culture. Stop glorifying entertainers and athletes and start glorifying educators and innovators such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs. Stop calling Clarence Thomas and Condoleeza Rice Uncle Toms because they do not share your political views. Glorify them becuase of the status they obtained through a lot of hard work.

    The fact is that the African-American communities in other states DO NOT put up with the garbage/thug element that is allowed to fester in New Orleans. Until the African-American community says “enough is enough” it won’t end.

  3. Thank you, NRB, for your courageous stand, which will no doubt result in your being called a RACIST. New Orleans doesn’t have a “crime” problem. New Orleans has a BLACK MALE problem. Statistics show that 3 to 4 out of 5 black males over the age of 12 are “in the criminal justice system”, whatever the heck that means: arrestees awaiting trial, incarcerated following conviction, on parole or probation after serving part of their sentence, or some other non-sensical CRAP, which allows them to stay out of jail and prey on innocent, law-abiding citizens. I want to tell a story, which opened my eyes several years ago, pre-KATRINA. I was in Federal Judge Polozola’s Court. He’s the guy who presided over the jury trial that put Edwards away, some say because of his unfair handling of the trial. Anyway, I was there in a civil admiralty case, which involved a fairly large number of lawyers, and we were recessed temporarily for some pleas in a criminal case. The parties who were supposed to be entering a plea were former GUARDS in a juvenile detention facility, who were supposed to be pleading GUILTY to selling drugs to the inmates. THE COURTROOM WAS PACKED. Ministers, politicians, Family Members, and other “hangers-on”, all dressed to the nines. The women in “Jerri-Curl” hairdos, dripping in gold jewelry, and strutting their stuff as if they owned the place. It all suddenly became perfectly clear to me: THEY WERE ALL THERE BECAUSE THEY WERE ALL BENEFICIARIES OF THE CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE. There is no way that the murder rate in New Orleans is going to go down until the CULTURE OF CORRUPTION WITHIN THE BLACK COMMUNITY IS ELIMINATED. Ashton O’Dwyer a/k/a “The WHITE Henry Glover”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *