Deborah ‘Big Red’ Cotton, writer shot in Mother’s Day mass shooting, dies

Deborah 'Big Red' Cotton, photo courtesy Gambit Weekly

NEW ORLEANS — A New Orleans writer and champion of city’s music and second line culture has died four years after she was shot in a Mother’s Day second line mass shooting.

Deborah “Big Red” Cotton, who wrote about second lines and brass bands for Gambit, died of complications from the injuries she sustained in the 2013 shooting, according to multiple reports. It’s unclear what kind of complications she had. Cotton underwent multiple surgeries after the shooting and spent weeks in intensive care.

The shooting happened during the Original Big 7 Social Aid & Pleasure Club’s annual second line. It left 20 people injured, including two children.

Investigators determined the shooting was gang-related. Two people were sentenced in March 2016 to life in prison for the shooting, and two others were sentenced to 40 years in prison for their roles in the mass shooting.

Before and after the shooting, Cotton, who moved to New Orleans around the time of Hurricane Katrina, often spoke publicly about the violence in New Orleans and how the second line culture is portrayed unfairly as one of violence. After the shooting, she remained a big ally of the social aid and pleasure clubs and continued to celebrate and write about the city’s second lines.

“In the cultural community, a lot of our events are out in the public and out in the streets, so at any given moment, something can jump off,” Cotton said in a YouTube interview a year before she was shot. “It’s not necessarily members of the culture that are perpetrating these violent cases. Generally, it’s not.”

Weeks after the shooting, even from her hospital bed, she wrote an opinion piece for The Lens showing compassion and empathy for the men who shot her.

“That young man who shot me is all our young men. He’s us,” she wrote in June 2013. “All those young men that we’re throwing into prison, those young men who are killing us, the ones we’re demonizing — they’re us. We made them. We raised them. (Or didn’t.) Maybe it’s too late for the young man who shot me. Maybe he’ll spend the rest of his life in jail. But we can change what’s happening out on the streets. We have the resources to deal with this problem. We always have. What we’ve lacked is willpower.”

Gambit Weekly issued the following statement in response to Cotton’s death:

Deborah Cotton was a friend, a colleague, a writer and a culture-bearer. Her contribution to New Orleans’ second line and brass band communities was immense, and her generous spirit of forgiveness and hope was a model for us all. She is tremendously missed by her GAMBIT family and all who love New Orleans.

Watch below to see what WGNO-News with a Twist aired about Cotton after the shooting in 2013: