Deborah Cotton, aka Big Red Cotton, accepting the Ashley Morris Award at the annual Rising Tide conference, which was held today at Xavier University.
Writer, filmmaker and Gambit
second line correspondent Deborah "Big Red" Cotton was honored today at Rising Tide X
, the 10th annual conference put on by a group of New Orleans bloggers. She received the group's Ashley Morris Award for her work as a "connector" in the New Orleans community in the years after Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods.
Cotton has been tireless in chronicling the city's second line, brass band and social aid and pleasure club cultures and recently co-created The Community Voices Project
, a series of videos interviewing longtime and native New Orleanians about changes in the city.
Cotton was among 19 people who were shot during a second line parade on Mother's Day 2013, a crime which shocked a city that had become inured to violence. She continues to recover.
"I was one of the worst injured in the shooting incident," she told the crowd at Rising Tide. "It took me more than a year to get my feet back on the ground." Nevertheless, she said it never occurred to her to leave New Orleans. "Next stop, Charbonnet," she said, making a joking reference to the Charbonnet Funeral Home
The trial for her shooters is scheduled to be held in October, Cotton said, and she is nervous about testifying. "I hold them responsible," she said. "But I hold us responsible too." Of the city's continuing violent crime problem, she said, "We do not convert outrage into holding leaders accountable."
Cotton was followed by Rising Tide keynote speaker DeRay Mckesson, who has become prominent on social media and in the #BlackLivesMatter movement by tweeting from Baltimore, Ferguson, Missouri and other places where black Americans are killed by police. Of the days after Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods, he said, "Katrina woke us up an made us realize that black lives did not
matter, and he drew applause by stating, "“I’m not interested in reading an article about how Katrina created a 'newer, fresher' New Orleans."
Asked by moderator Jeffrey Bostick about two prominent cases of black New Orleanians killed by police — Henry Glover in Algiers, and James Brissette and Ronald Madison on the Danziger Bridge — Mckesson said he wasn't aware of the cases, but that he'd had a brief conversation about police violence with U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite of Louisiana's Eastern District.
The day featured many other panels, including one on public transportation moderated by Megan Braden-Perry, who created Gambit'
s "Public Transit Tuesdays" feature. Other topics covered included the environment, Louisiana's "jungle primary" election system, black women writers and the city's changing media scene.