NEW ORLEANS — The Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club will parade again in New Orleans on Mother's Day, undaunted by the memory of a mass shooting that brought an abrupt and bloody end to the neighborhood procession two years ago.
Nobody was killed but 19 people, including two children, were struck by bullets and another was injured in the resulting rush to get away from the gunfire that interrupted the traditional neighborhood "second-line" parade in New Orleans' 7th Ward.
"God is going to bless us with a great Sunday," Ed Buckner, president of the club, said in an interview ahead of the parade.
Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs in New Orleans' African-American communities date back to the 19th century. They perform community services and work to sustain cultural traditions. One such tradition is the second-line parade in which members, often dressed in brightly colored suits, ties and hats, march and dance through the streets accompanied by a brass band. Crowd members often fall in behind, forming a second line of marchers.
Buckner says the Original Big 7, formed in the 1990s, has about 40 members. Police said about 400 people were in the area when the 2013 shooting occurred at an intersection of narrow streets.
For all the fear and pain the shooting caused, Buckner said, it also served to drive community support for the Big 7 and for the culture of the second.
"People know that the folks in the second-line culture — that's not a part of that violence," Buckner said.
Surveillance video caught a blurry image of one shooter after the 2013 violence. Two brothers — Akein (ah-KEEN) Scott, then 19; and Shawn Scott, then 24 — were arrested within days.
Police said early on that the gunfire was believed to be the result of gang activity. Federal authorities eventually took over the prosecution and now the highly publicized Mother's Day shooting is one element of a 24-count indictment naming the two brothers and seven others as participants in a racketeering enterprise that some older members were a part of as long as 14 years ago. The alleged crimes included food stamp fraud, cocaine and heroin dealing, illegal weapons possession and attempted murder.
The alleged Mother's Day shooters were among "gunmen for the enterprise," the indictment alleges. And it lists the initials of 20 suspected targets of the gunfire that took place on Mother's Day, May 12, 2013.
Two of the defendants have pleaded guilty in the case. Six who pleaded not guilty remain scheduled for trial in July, although a change of plea hearing is set for Wednesday for one of them.
Police, meanwhile, are promising a "strong and visible presence" on Sunday as Buckner works with his club to keep the neighborhood parade tradition alive — just as he did when he rescheduled the 2013 parade weeks after the shooting, and when the Big 7 hit the streets again on Mother's Day 2014.
"It's always been about celebrating the mothers in the community," Buckner said. "We're always thinking about them."
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