On the Ninth Ward
Percy: I grew up in this jungle, I’m used to it. I come from the bricks, not these townhouses they call projects. I come out of Desire, the biggest project in New Orleans. That was a murder capital all by itself. That’s why it was the first project they tore down. I come from the hood, but if I could rewrite it, I would do it all again. I’m Ray Charles to the bullshit. I love my life. If I die, this is where I want to die at. Ninth Ward for life.
Mack: The Ninth Ward is all about family. Without loyalty, there’s no unity. That’s how I’ve always lived it. No loyalty, no unity. We grew up in the Florida project. You grow up in the Ninth Ward, you see the world through the same eyes.
Cutt: I’m from the Florida project: stamped, sealed, delivered. See, me and Stanley from the white side, T from the black side. It’s the Florida—they got two sides. Back in the 40s, white people used to stay in there, but when black people came in, they moved out. We still call it the white side though.
Stanley: What’s different in this block is how all of us get along. I get along with neighbors all over the block. Good people recognize good people. We come through, we communicate with each other. Everyone feels protected. That what makes us so unique.
D: Louisa is so different because of the people on Louisa. Dudes like us, we don’t allow nobody to come up and start bullshit. We keep the violence down, keep the peace. If we see a group of dudes walking down the street, up to something, we tell ‘em to take it someplace else.
On the Police
Stanley: They profile you. It’s happened to me numerous times. We can be sitting on the steps and they roll up, throw you on the car, and run your name. If you’re good, they let you go. If not, you know where they’re gonna take you. Nobody’s running drugs. No one has called to report a disturbance. So what’s the proper cause? They see a bunch of black dudes and they think there’s drug activity. But where else can we sit? Why can’t we just talk to each other, shoot the breeze before we go our separate ways? We’re just staying where we feel safe, and we feel safe right here.
T Money: I feel like the police is harassing the wrong group of people. The people they should be going after are the people they’re intimidated by, so they want to fuck with people who are just chillin’. You can’t force us to go inside, but that’s what they want us to do. There’s no law that says you can’t sit on your block and interact with your neighbors. They think, “Oh niggas hustlin’.” They want to shut this block down even though it’s not where the crimes at. There ain’t no killin’ on this block. But then, now you see how they raising the rent? They trying to knock the black folks out and put white folks in, to get that money.
D: The police do more dirty than anyone up here. The police here, they’ll put dope on you just to get you out of the way. Then they put one of their people in there and start pushing it themselves. Back before those cameras, they’d stop you, beat the shit out of you, take the money out of your pockets, and send you home. They have that badge. They feel like they got the power.
On Kids and Crime
T Money: They say drugs are the reason for crime, right? But who’s doing 85 percent of the crime? It’s kids. A lot of them aren’t even on drugs, they’re just trigger happy. You got to blame the city. How are they running out of money when kids are active and need all kinds of stuff they ain’t getting? They don’t have anything better to do.
Percy: You gotta have community things to do with the kids. Kids need to look up to a role model. They know more about guns and sex than anything else. The Boys and Girls Clubs got torn down, like on Clouet [and Rampart], which got turned into a big store for dogs.
Mack: Before the storm there was a lot of recreation, like sports or programs. Now there’s no recreation. There’s nothing to expand your mind. How are we going to live like human beings in the jungle? They have the money to pay for it, but they hatin’ and stealin’. Everybody corrupt.
D: I’m not trying to get back to jail. No indeed. Jail is worst thing you could go through. I don’t see why they give us that amount of time when we trying to feed our families, after we fill out a hundred applications and don’t get one call. My first experience with jail was when I was 15—I didn’t come home till I was 20. I was in jail during Katrina. They wanted to leave us in there to rot, to die, but everybody broke out. The storm hit on the 29th, and by September 2nd the water was to our knees. We were going to drown in there. People just hollering and no one giving a fuck about you. You find yourself in a predicament that’s life or death, you gonna find your way out. A lot of people made it out, but a lot of people died in there. When we were coming out, the guards came and escorted us to the bridge, the Broad Street bridge, and we were there for three days. You had a good 4,000 people on that bridge. It was so cluttered you had people jumping in the water to escape, and they shot at them as they swam. It was martial law. National Guard…like, if you disobey our rules, we’re shooting on sight. After that, they hogtied us. It was the worst time of my life. I could have died in that jail and they would have left me floating in that water.
On New Orleans
Mack: They say it’s been 10 years since the storm, but it feels like more. It doesn’t feel like home anymore, not since Katrina hit. Everyone got shaken up and had to adapt to what really is. Now we’re outside looking in. As a grown man, you see things how they are. That’s why there’s so many mental health problems, people got distorted. Ain’t nothing the same.
Percy: Katrina hit up and down the coast, but only New Orleans got called refugees. That let me know we’re totally different than the rest of the country. And I’m glad. I’m from New Orleans, New Orleans. That’s it. Not New Orleans, Louisiana. Not New Orleans, USA. Just point blank.
Stanley: In my eyes, the city’s going to be what is. It’s the people inside of it that make the city. If me and you can get along, we don’t need anybody else. We’re starting to mix cultures, and that’s beautiful. I’m loving it, me. We can be civilized adults. You just always have to have some level of respect. I don’t care how much money you have, money can’t buy respect.
D: People are quick to judge New Orleans, but they’ve never been down here to experience what we go through. This city so corrupt, I’m not lying. I really want to get away from here. But then when there ain’t no killin’, no robbin’, no dumb shit, this city live. Ain’t no place like it. When the parties come, we’re celebrating. There’s no place like home. You can go to Atlanta, Texas—as long as you from New Orleans, you going to find yourself back here. New Orleans got a certain style: the way we talk, the way we dress. You can tell a motherfucker from New Orleans from a mile away.
On Moby Dick
Percy: I know streets and books. I like to read. I’m trying to learn every word in the dictionary, read a page a day. Learn every word and its meaning. Right now I’m reading Moby Dick. I like how the story is supposed to be about a whale terrorizing ships, but at the same time, he’s just defending his territory. The moral of the story is that people fight so hard for something, but once they get it you wonder: was it really worth it?