NEW ORLEANS — The New York Times has published an opinion piece by New Orleans writer and culture advocate Deborah Cotton, who died this week of complications from injuries she sustained in a mass shooting during a Mother’s Day second line four years ago.
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.
Cotton forgave her shooters and visited one of them in jail. In the piece published by The New York Times, Cotton is critical of the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office for recent reports that prosecutors have been jailing crime victims for refusing to testify.
Cotton also explains why she chose not to testify against her shooters:
When it came to my own cooperation with the prosecutor, I was reluctant. I’d finally clawed myself out of a pit of grief, despair and PTSD and I wanted to live again. Why should I risk my health to testify for the prosecution?
I also didn’t want to be part of the machine that sent men from my tribe to prison. As a black woman working on criminal justice reform, it breaks my heart to watch scores and scores of black and brown men in orange jumpsuits going into the tunnel of no return.
Gambit Weekly, the publication for which Cotton wrote, published a moving editorial on Cotton and said a public memorial will be held in coming weeks. Read the tribute here.