As the Bayou Classic grows, so does the crime

10 shot on Canal St. as Southern edges Grambling in New Orleans

By Roosevelt Wright, III

This year the Southern Jaguars were able to beat the Grambling Tigers during the Annual Bayou Classic held every year in New Orleans at the Mercedes Benz Superdome. During the weekend of friendly competition and fellowship, the schools compete in Greek step competitions as well as bands in the Battle of the Bands. For the most part, the weekend is an annual Thanksgiving weekend reunion for both students and alumni.

Grambling’s Football Team, led by Monroe native Coach Broderick Fobbs, was able to control most of the game until a collapse by Special Teams in the final seconds of the game. During halftime, Southern’s “Human Jukebox” Band stunned the crowd with their classy touch of precision drills, even spelling the Governor’s name on the field. Grambling’s “World Famed Band” played the popular tunes the crowd was familiar with and energized the stadium with their electrifying choreography. If you are part of the Louisiana HBCU family, you already know the halftime show is just as important as the final score!

Grambling Alumni also honored iconic rapper, E-40, during the Classic. He is best known for a series of hits during the 90’s and has always supported Grambling St. University. NBA Legend, Magic Johnson, was also present to be honored by Grambling as well. His financial contributions to Grambling made national news earlier this year.

With all the excitement and comradery which usually takes place during the weekend of festivities, perhaps the unfortunate news of ten people being shot on Canal St. during the weekend has smeared the usual positive reports of the weekend. According to New Orleans Police, ten people were shot after a feud in the French Quarter. Sources confirm none of the ten people were local residents, assuming they were all in town for the big game. No sources could confirm the intent of the dispute but security footage showed crowds of people running as gunshots fired on the Canal St. corner. At the time we went to press, none of the victims were killed but several were seriously injured. One of the victims was a former football star from Baton Rouge, LA who went on to play at Prairie View A&M College near Houston, TX, in town visiting with friends who attend Grambling and Southern.

While people tend to believe these shootings are becoming common during the Bayou Classic, it’s important to rely on the facts and not gossip. In fact, the Bayou Classic has worked very intensely with the NOPD to ensure the safety of the students and visitors during the Bayou Classic weekend. The last official shooting during the Bayou Classic was in 2016, when 9 people were shot and one was killed after two men got into an argument over a woman on Bourbon St. This year’s Mass Shooting is not common for the Classic but it has sparked discussion all over the state about the alarming growth in crime with younger African-Americans in Louisiana.

Shreveport reported multiple murders just last weekend. Monroe has had an alarming increase in murders this year. While the mass shooting in the French Quarter made national headlines, unfortunately for Louisiana’s signature city that massacre wasn’t the only set of shootings on that same night. There was another shooting that involved two families on a different side of the city which had absolutely nothing to do with the Bayou Classic.

After the shooting in 2016, some of the restaurants in the French Quarter, opted out of even opening during the weekend. Those restaurants claimed the crowd that the Bayou Classic invites are not big tippers, they have tendency to stay in the restaurants much longer than normal preventing the establishments from making what they would normally make while lines wait to be seated, and they all point to the shootings and violence which makes their employees and other tourists afraid to dine. Those concerns were combatted by local leaders who insist the claims were racially targeting one of the city’s few African-American targeted events. However, many of those vendors have had no problems with Essence Music Festival, the largest African-American convention in America, which meets in the city every Summer. They specifically target the Bayou Classic. Most Bayou Classic supporters and participants believe the claims are racially motivated and unjust.

If even one kid is shot during an event it should bring up a serious discussion about the future of the event and how it prepares for the safety of those who attend. As it stands, 19 people have been shot and one killed within a three year span of the Bayou Classic. However, the issue is much bigger than the Bayou Classic. While there is a gun problem in America as a whole there is an even more alarming gun issue within the African-American community with citizens 25 and younger. The Bayou Classic gets caught in the middle of the crossfire because it is heavily supported by that age group and the event is partly shaped by the competitive nature of their culture. Murders within the Black Community in the State of Louisiana should be a state-wide concern and maybe the Bayou Classic could help with mobilizing the surrounding cities to establish solutions. Certainly, the Bayou Classic platform is large enough to galvanize political and religious influencers, university officials, student leaders, and neighborhood pillars of all walks to discuss possible ways to reduce the crimes even before the Classic weekend. There have even been reports of gun violence during HBCU Homecomings on multiple campuses.

This game used to be bigger than the score. It used to be bigger than just the party. It is a major attraction for both universities but also to New Orleans and the entire state. We owe it to the children and to the legacy of both universities to figure out how to improve it and help it continue to thrive without the threat of our kids being killed while attending. Before fingers point at the Classic, they should point right back to each and every local community because the Bayou Classic isn’t capable of having babies. These are our kids and their lives should be our priority.