Author Archives: Jan V. Ramsey

Noise lawsuit against the 544 Club squashed

The noise lawsuit against the 544 Club in the French Quarter didn’t make muster. This suit is important because it’s the tip of the iceberg of the mass of lawsuits filed against several reputable venues in the Quarter.  If they are won by the plaintiffs, the could literally close down Bourbon Street. Thank goodness for Richard Webster’s reportage on the 544 Club lawsuit!

I made Richard Webster‘s acquaintance when he worked at New Orleans CityBusiness, and he now writes for Webster is interested in the culture business of the city and writes about it regularly. Over the weekend, I received an email from Chris Young, an attorney who works with liquor retailers (bars, etc.) in the city and keeps everyone abreast of important legal and governmental actions that may affect their businesses.

A big lawsuit that has been under consideration for some time was one that involved the 544 Club on Bourbon Street. Peter Yokum and his partner, who live in a family-owned home on Toulouse Street, have sued numerous bars and venues because they have contended that the “noise” from these places on Bourbon have caused them mental and physical distress. They were suing for tens of millions of dollars.

The first case that came up was the one against the 544 Club, and Young reported that the court—with a jury—decided that the 544 Club was not a noise problem.

Webster reported on the verdict on 544 Club case on

The law firm that represented Yokum (Smith Stag, Stuart Smith’s firm) says it will appeal. Smith is the attorney who’s been the impetus behind this lawsuits and several others, including the brouhaha over Mimi’s in the Marigny, which had to stop music at that venue after the lawsuit.

What I love about the results of this case is that it may set a precedent for the other silly lawsuits that Smith Stag has filed on the behalf of Yokum. These suits are filed against Pat O’Brien’s, Court of Two Sisters and several more. Read Webster’s post on this issue, and then for a chuckle, read the comments.

One of the comments references a group of photos that were taken of Yokum’s home on Toulouse Street. Yokum is an accomplished artist.

If you look carefully at the beginning of the third row, you’ll see a a few photos of Yokum’s studio, that has a beautiful portrait of Stuart Smith and his partner on an easel (presumably that Yokum painted).

I guess if Smith-Stag wins any of the lawsuits, Yokum and Smith et al would be so rich they could literally own the French Quarter. Or was that the idea all along?


We want to know what OffBeat readers want: take our Weekly Poll.

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Cyberstalking and noise abatement

Today’s newspaper ran a brief article that reported that “noise” opponent and lawyer Stuart Smith pleaded guilty to a cyberstalking charge and was given a one-year suspended sentence, and two years of  inactive probation. Smith didn’t appear in court but sent another attorney to represent him.

Smith was charged with sending a threatening text message to French Quarter Management District Chairman Robert Watters; in addition Smith also sent a threatening email to then-Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer; however Palmer did not file charges.

Lest we forget, remember that Smith and his firm Smith-Stagg have been involved in numerous lawsuit against many businesses in the French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny, including the 544 Club, Pat O’Brien’s, Court of The Two Sisters, Antoine’s, Mimi’s in the Marigny and several more. His firm is also involved in a lawsuit filed by a resident of the Jax Brewery Condominiums against the Jackson Brewery Bistro and Bar regarding noise violations.

Unfortunately, bullying tactics are obviously part of Smith’s repertoire; there was evidence of his tactics on his website and on YouTube when he deposed sound expert Dave Woolworth and used the taped depositions to try to discredit Woolworth’s credibility. Woolworth had  to hire an attorney to get the offensive depositions removed.

Attorney Smith is no gentleman, but he’s obviously a damned good plaintiff attorney. Too bad he has to use bullying and threats to try to get his way.

But enough about him.

The city is still working on its Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance revamp. One issue that continues to come up is noise remediation. I am 100 percent for music in neighborhood venues, bars and music clubs. I just do not have any patience for people who move in next to a bar and then complain about the music coming from inside the venue. However, I do believe in neighborliness. If there are enough complaints, the venue should voluntarily do noise remediation, and do it properly to cut down on any disturbance to residents. This obviously could be expensive, but (as I’ve suggested before) in order to preserve our heritage of live music, the city of New Orleans should offer a tax credit or rebate to venues that can prove that they’ve ameliorated any sound bleed by the installation of noise-reduction equipment or construction. I also don’t believe there should be any so-called grandfathering of clubs that have been operating without sound-dampening equipment. If you want to have music in your restaurant or bar, then you should do the neighborly thing and keep the music inside your establishment.

The music outside is another issue entirely, but that’s another blog!

How often do you go out to hear live, local music? Take our Weekly Beat poll here.


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Information Geek Finds New Music Where?

I’m sort of an information geek, always have been. My mother used to call me a walking encyclopedia of useless information, because I love facts. In fact, I used to love to read the encyclopedia (when they still existed).

But now pretty much all the information you’d ever be interested in is online. For a person with a curious mind, the worldwide web is a goldmine.

In fact there’s now so much information available to anyone with a web connection that it boggles the brain.

Same goes for music. Had a conversation with a guy last week about the music business, and how it’s changed over the past 15 years. And I just spoke to an old friend of mine who works for a blues label. We all marveled at how finding and buying music has changed, just in a few years . How much there is out there—“the amount of music is wide and deep,” said my friend at the blues label, “but the fact of the matter is that our demographic is a lot older. The people who buy CDs are certainly technologically-oriented, but younger people’s lives revolve around technology. They’re used to getting their music in ways we didn’t.”

So true.

But, speaking as someone who not only loves music, but loves looking for artists and stuff I’ve not yet experienced, there are so many ways to find it that it’s almost too much to handle.

First of all, I don’t have the time to spend online looking for music that I might like. That’s a handicap for someone who wants to listen to interesting new music (and I’m probably more attuned to finding music than your average person who doesn’t work in music media).

I’m firmly opposed to downloading music free, so I subscribe to a few listening spots, like Pandora, Rhapsody and Spotify. I can get samples too, from iTunes. But I also will go to band website and to YouTube which helps me identify new stuff. And of course, I keep my ear to the ground and listen to the buzz on the street.

There’s just so much out there now. Where do you find new music? Take our poll.


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We’re All In This Together

It’s that time of year again. I sincerely hope that when this issue of OffBeat hits the street—scheduled for August 28—it will end up in your hands on the day it’s supposed to. As I write this, the week before the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, there are two potential tropical storms that could develop into hurricanes. Needless to say, our local weather news media is salivating at the prospect of scaring the hell out of us and devoting most of their time to tracking the two “potentials.”

Katrina sunny

A sunny day in New Orleans: post-Katrina.

It’s annoying, because I feel that they’ve exploited our region’s fear of storms to make “news” that doesn’t really exist. But then again, it’s certainly better to be prepared than not. I just wish there wasn’t such an emphasis on the fear factor.

Our September 2005 issue was scheduled to be delivered on August 29; we even had a launch party scheduled. Well, that didn’t happen!

It’s been nine years, and frankly, it seems like only last week when we all endured the horrors of Katrina. So many lost so much, but I think what we gained was the realization that we are a strong, resilient and capable community that’s come back from almost being wiped off the face of the planet to a city that’s stronger and more vibrant than before the storm.

I love the fact that our music is strong and growing. Our culture-bearers are still working to keep it strong. I’m gratified that young musicians are moving to the city for the same reasons that they’ve always wanted to be here: New Orleans is the best place to be if you want to learn from, as well as play with, the masters.

I’m thrilled that so many entrepreneurs and young people have moved here (this wasn’t happening pre-Katrina) and are strengthening New Orleans’ intellectual infrastructure and support for the culture. They’ve brought a much-needed energy to the city.

I’m happy that we seem to have recovered to a level that exceeds where we were before the storm, and that New Orleans is becoming known as one of the fastest-growing cities in America.

Of course, we will have problems with corruption, education, racial tension and sometimes, let’s face it, some ignorance that still persists.

What I hope for our city is that the strides we’ve made will continue and make us stronger, even if we have to face another destructive storm together.

What we all need to be cognizant of is that we’re all in this together. One thing that I believe holds New Orleans back from achieving more is that there’s not enough communication and cooperation between power structures and organizations. That’s what we need more than anything: if we work together, we’ll triumph. Happy Hurricane Season!

Southern Decadent Culture and Lifestyle

How much thought do you give to your “culture and lifestyle”?

Probably not that much, I would imagine. But the fact is that there are a lot of different kinds of cultures bubbling under the surface of the niceties that most of us observe as American “culture.”

I think most everyone would admit there’s a vast difference between white and black culture, for example. Some of those lines have certainly been blurred over the past 50 years post-segregation, but in truth, there are a lot of practices that are almost foreign to one group or the other. We all meet in the middle with the so-called “American” lifestyle. I suppose that’s where our melting pot culture comes from: we take a little bit here, and a little bit there, mix them up and come up with something that’s more homogenous. And in my opinion: pretty boring (Why else do tyou think I live in New Orleans?).

Homogenous, we ain't...! (Photo: Kim Welsh)

Homogeneity in mainstream American culture creates a lifestyle that allows us to recognize some of our commonalities and to function more easily in a society that consists of all sorts of ethnicities, religions, races, and sexual preferences. These innate differences are, of course, featurea of a highly diversified population, the hallmark of America. It’s especially true in New Orleans, a city that revels in eccentricity, that we’re not quite all one-of-a-kind homogenous. We like to mix it op–a lot–and we celebrate our differences.

When one culture rears its head up and makes a statement, though, it can be a little disconcerting, and create some criticism and even some laughs from others not in the culture, who don’t conform to what’s mainstream “normal.”

Ever heard of Sweet Brown?

Rearing its head this weekend in New Orleans is a very different kind of celebration: we celebrate LGBT culture with Southern Decadence. Held every Labor Day weekend, Southern Decadence is one of the most colorful, fun festivals in New Orleans—but definitely not one that what one would consider politically correct in the mainstream homogenous American cultural mix (oh, trust me on that). I recently learned that Decadence is a celebration that started in New Orleans over 40 years ago. I also learned that the Decadence organization uses the proceeds from the event to donate to a charity every single year. So it’s not just a big gay party: this group parties hard (oh pardon the pun), and not only celebrates its gayness and different-ness that bubbles under the surface of New Orleans mainstream culture.  It’s actually a celebration of freedom of expression, of throwing off the shackles of being hated, derided and shunned by many in the world, even their own families (what a terrible tragedy).  It’s a celebration of equality, of being open, of acceptance.  And lucky ofr us, the party contributes greatly to the city’s appeal as an off-the-wall, party-friendly destination for people of all sexual orientations (who cares about sexual orientation, anyway? A person is a person!).

This sort of thing is exactly what I’ve described previously: in New Orleans, we care not about your culture being different; we celebrate your individuality. What we need to remember,  though, is that LGBT visitors are just people looking to have a good time, and if we loosen up and join the party, we’ll learn something about a culture that’s different from the ho-hum mainstream.

Ever been to Decadence? Take our poll.



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Survey says trad jazz

For the past couple of months, OffBeat has posted a survey on our website, just to get an idea of what our readers like, their opinions on political matters related to music, how they use information and more.

Last week, we polled our readers and asked them “If you had one night to experience music in New Orleans, what kind of music would you go listen to?”

I thought that we’d get a lot of funk, brass band, and rock and maybe blues, but to my surprise, trad jazz topped the list.

I’ve thought about this for the past couple of days and wonder if perhaps the clubs in the city are missing the boat when it comes to offering more “jazz” on their menus.

Tuba Skinny on Royal Street (Photo:

When I think trad jazz, I don’t think Preservation Hall, or a Dixieland band (well, okay, maybe I do think P-Hall a little..), I think about some of the younger bands, like Panorama, or Tuba Skinny. I think there’s a lot more room for those kinds of bands on club “menus” these days. It certainly couldn’t hurt if the Bourbon Street bars added a bit more music of this variety to their menus (cover bands unfortunately didn’t fare too well on this list, and goodness knows there are a ton of cover bands on Bourbon).

New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, and it appears that there are more lovers of the music than I perceived. Bring it on!

Take this week’s OffBeat survey here.

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Ephemera, or the wonderful world of disposable information

The internet is wonderful, and opens up almost infinite possibilities for acquiring and seeking out new information; it’s had a profound impact on how we relate to the universe.

It used to be we had encyclopedias, books, libraries, research information, photos and books in hard copies, but that’s changed so drastically.

Take photography, for example.

We all used to have photos we could see and hold onto. Photos were precious. First of all, you had to buy a certain level camera to take a good photo, and you had to not only buy film, but then you had to develop the photos, or pay someone to develop them for you. This means the photos themselves had an instrinsic value, not only for the moment in time they captured, but also because they literally were worth the dollars you invested in them (not even considering the time it took for you to take the photos).

Fading away?

No more. Photos can be taken by a mobile phone, a tablet computer. You can take a thousand crappy photos and pick one that just happened to capture the exact moment that looks good. In some ways, the transformation of analog to digital photography  allowed almost anyone to call themselves a “photographer.”

I can guarantee you that if you have the most expensive photographic equipment and the fastest lens around, and the merest eye, and you’re willing to sort through all the images, you’ll find something that will convince the uninitiated that you are a “photographer.”

Now we have Instagram and SnapChat. Certainly not a lot of photographic expertise needed to participate in those. And SnapChat photos and videos are made to be deleted.

Moments in time used to be a lot more precious when we had to take the time to record them. Now they’ve become almost expendable.

My mother lost all of our family photos to Katrina, which means that she’ll never again be able to see photos of her children, parents and other family members—and neither will the rest of our family. That was really an incalculable loss. Those memories can only reside somewhere deep inside our brains; it was a tragedy, really.

Yes, they could have all been scanned and reside on the cloud somewhere. But they weren’t. How many of the memories you’ve recorded with photos and videos on your digital devices are really precious to you? Will you have access to them when your computer crashes or you forget to pay your storage bill?

We had a discussion in the office recently about how much information we need to put on our website, We tend to want to use the website as a repository of historical information; maybe it will be valuable someday. For example, when writers for HBO’s Treme were doing research on what was happening musically in New Orleans post-Katrina, they used copies of OffBeat to do their homework.

We now put a lot more information onto our website than into our print edition of the magazine. But the web posts are pretty short and sweet; snippets, really (human attention spans have definitely been reduced a result of technology). Our more long-form, in-depth pieces go into the magazine.

If we should lose our electronic version of history, what will we have left? I think we have to look at what we do in a more permanent light: OffBeat’s approach to music coverage is more than digital trash, or selfies;  moments of recorded time, place and people shouldn’t be disposable via the crash of a storage device.

I guess I’m making a decent case for print.

Going through some boxes at the office today, I found a lot of old OffBeat archival materials—old rate cards, envelopes, invoices, promotional pieces, stories, photos. Sometimes it’s not only good to look at the elements of your history; it’s also the measure of progress and improvement and the documentation of change. Personally, I’m glad we still have hard copies and a historical record of the way things used to be—that stuff wasn’t digitally recorded, and a lot of valuable information may never be.

After all, what is a business—or what is humankind–without a demonstrable historical record?



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The Faux and The Reel

For the past couple of days, I’ve been visually bombarded with a huge faux Mardi Gras parade outside my Frenchmen Street perch. A film crew, hundreds of costumed extras, a couple of confetti cannons, several fake Mardi Gras floats, a Toyota Camry outfitted with a camera, and at least as many film crew people closed down Frenchmen Street and Decatur Street to create the illusion of Mardi Gras. As I write this, today’s shoot has been closed down (I think even Mr, Okra got into the picture) and there are clean-up crews with sweep brooms and leaf blowers cleaning up the confetti and beads from the street. All that’s missing is the smell of garbage, urine and vomit and a the passed-out drunks that you see on Bourbon post-Mardi Gras. Frenchmen Street’s (fake) Mardi Gras is a helluva lot more sanitary. More to come, tomorrow, I suspect.

All the beads, confetti. None of the bodily fluids.

I mentioned to Steve Maloney, OffBeat’s web editor, that maybe we should have put something up showing what a Mardi Gras parade looks like outside the OffBeat offices, and he strongly disagreed. “Who wants to see a lame, fake Mardi Gras parade?” he scoffed.

Well, I guess he’s right. It’s going tp be a very, very sanitized “reel.”

It was interesting watching the film crew, director and extras put together the shots (over and over and over and over and over again), but fake it was. To a seasoned New Orleanian, this was a laughable Mardi Gras. Whatever. We s hould be thankful to Toyota for choosing to make New Orleans the backdrop of their commercial for Camrys. But consumer, beware! It’s not the real thing—we don’t have those kinds of parades on Frenchmen!

Now speaking of the “real”…The Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame celebrates its 16th anniversary this year. Geraldine Wyckoff, OffBeat writer for many years, is receiving their “Scribe” Awards. Yours truly was the recipient of the Scribe Award a few years ago, and that award is one of my prize possessions: it’s an Indian patch, with a feather pan and inkwell, with the words “Mojo Mouth” embroidered on it. Now that’s an award I will always cherish.

Congratulations to Geraldine and all the recipients of this year’s awards.


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Louis Armstrong Will Always be Important to Jazz

We’re happy to present our annual August “Satchmo SummerFest” issue. It focuses, in large part, on New Orleans’ traditional jazz community and legacy—which, of course, is influenced by the spirit and musicality of the inimitable Louis Armstrong

I was one of those neophytes who didn’t realize how important Armstrong was and is in the annals of jazz.

The sounds of Louis Armstrong’s trumpet and signature voice will ring throughout the French Quarter this weekend at the Satchmo SummerFest

When Ken Burns released his “Jazz” series on PBS in 2000 and the subject of Louis Armstrong came up, it was like an epiphany for me. I think it’s a foregone conclusion to jazz musicians and scholars how important Armstrong was to jazz and to American music in general. But I’m not an historian; I’m a music lover and relate to it more emotionally than academically, so Burns’ series was an eye-and ear-opener for me. Since viewing that series, I’ve read a number of books about Armstrong’s life, times and music, and I would encourage anyone who isn’t a Louis-phile to delve into his genius, complexities and musicality.

The year 2000 was also important to New Orleans because it’s the year when Satchmo SummerFest was funded by the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism (CRT) as means to create a summer music festival that would be able to attract visitors to the city in the heat of summer. Specifically, the CRT folks wanted to attract international visitors with a festival themed on jazz. It just so happened that a local historian, the late Tad Jones, discovered baptismal records that strongly indicated that Armstrong was born on August 4—not July 4, as his birthdate was originally recorded. This fit perfectly with the concept of a summer festival and also coincided with the release of Burns’ series on jazz.

French Quarter Festivals, Inc. was selected to manage the original festival, and they’ve continued to produce it successfully for 14 years.

Another huge event just happened to be taking place the first weekend in August 2000: a fundraiser for the University of New Orleans’ Jazz Studies Program. UNO created a massive, historical concert featuring the entire Marsalis musical family. At that time, Ellis Marsalis ran the program. All of his musical sons (Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason) as well as Harry Connick, Jr. and others came together—for the first time—to celebrate jazz and their accomplishments. It was an outstanding success for the university, and it certainly added to the draw of the first Satchmo SummerFest. Seeing a legendary musical family play together was pretty inspiring.

In New Orleans, music runs in families. That’s one thing I love about this month’s issue. New Orleans music—especially jazz—is, more often than not, a family affair. Read through the many articles in this issue to see how our musicians are not only schooled in music by their elders, but they are also inclined to pass on the traditions. We’re very proud of this issue, and hope it will be able to kindle some understanding of what makes New Orleans musicians and jazz so unique.

Our musical ancestors are passing away at an alarming rate. This past month, Lionel Ferbos made it to his 103rd birthday and died a couple of days later. He was the oldest musician in New Orleans and a real link to the past; he was beloved, and he will be missed sorely.

As I write this, I have just heard of the passing of Jim Russell, who not only created an iconic store on Magazine Street; he mentored a lot of so-called “music freaks” (artist/writer Bunny Matthews being one of them) on local music and on the music biz.

Our challenge is to keep the music heritage alive and to make sure that future generations are immersed in our culture; that they understand its importance; and that they can take our traditions to other levels to keep the music growing, changing and vibrant.

Finally, another music club is being threatened by neighbors who don’t like the “noise.” Buffa’s Bar on Esplanade Avenue is facing a challenge that may silence the bar’s music. Sidney Torres IV, Buffa’s neighbor for several years, is suing to stop the music at the bar. Regular readers of OffBeat will know that we find this claim utterly without merit: Buffa’s has presented music on an ongoing basis for years before Torres bought the house next door.

Why do people buy houses next to bars and then complain about the bar doing the business it set out to do? Torres’ house is one the market; he’s apparently having a difficult time selling it, and he’s blamed it on the music from Buffa’s Back Room. Buffa’s owners are having to defend themselves against this suit on July 31. We’ll keep you posted.


The Louis Armstrong Effect

Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans, but he didn’t stay in the city. This weekend is our annual Satchmo SummerFest, the festival that pays tribute to one of the musicians New Orleans claims as a “native son”: Louis Armstrong.

Armstrong was born in a very poor section of New Orleans into relatively dire circumstances on August 4, 1901; his father abandoned the family not long after he was born. His mother worked as a prostitute and left him largely in the care of his grandmother. He worked for the Karnofsky family as a kid; they encouraged his musical talent and even invited him to their home to share meals.

When Louis was only 12, he celebrated New Year’s Eve by firing a gun into the air (many still do this in New Orleans) and was arrested by police and placed in the “Colored Waif’s Home For Boys” where he was taught how to play cornet, and began to dream of being a musician. He was mentored by Joe “King” Oliver, a cornetist of local renown, and began to develop a reputation as a good player. But Armstrong still worked menial jobs to make ends meet, then married a girl when he was only 17—a marriage that was unhappy from the beginning. He also adopted his second cousin, a mentally disabled three-year-old, whom he cared for his entire life.

That same year, Armstrong ‘s chops were such that he replaced King Oliver in Kid Ory’s popular New Orleans band and made enough money to become a full-time musician. Eventually, Armstrong started playing summers on riverboats, playing with different bands, and in the process met other established jazz musicians. Ultimately, Armstrong left New Orleans for Chicago when he received an offer from King Oliver to join his band. From there he moved to New York, then back to Chicago, and never returned to New Orleans to live, although he loved the city and cited it as a musical influence for the rest of his life.

This is a story that could have been written about many black musicians, to this day.

I thought about Armstrong when I saw Jon Batiste and his Stay Human Band perform on Stephen Colbert’s show last night. I heard the New Orleans in his music and saw it in his interactions with Colbert (priceless!), and saw him mesmerize a New York audience and lead them into the street to party and second line.

When I started OffBeat almost 30 years ago, I did so because I didn’t quite understand why there were so many fantastic, world-class musicians, and so little appreciation for their artistry at home. OffBeat was going to market and promote local music to both locals and reinforce the idea of New Orleans as a “music town” to visitors. I was brought up in the suburbs, had two parents present in the household, and frankly, wasn’t physically immersed in the culture that created New Orleans music (although I definitely was musically).

When you look at Louis Armstrong’s story, it seems almost like it could have happened today. Armstrong was a talented black kid who grew up dirt-poor, had a gift that was recognized by mentors, and who went on to become one of—if not the most—influential jazz musician of all time.

This is an age-old story.

It’s rather easy for white people to have cavalier attitudes about life for black people in the South and in America as a whole. We cannot possibly comprehend what our brothers and sisters have gone through: what they have experienced—and sadly continue to experience–every day. The prejudice is real; it still exists; it’s propagated by stereotypes that still permeate our culture. What impact does this have on our musicians? Will they continue to stick it out and stay in a place where they’re disrespected and not treasured, just because of the color of their skin? Or will they ultimately leave this place and go somewhere where they are respected, similar to what happened to Louis Armstrong?

These thoughts were resurrected by the recent experience of trumpet player/educator Shamarr Allen, who was stopped by police last week, handcuffed and manhandled, for no reason at all, except for the fact that he is a young black man.

I’ve known Shamarr for several years and have nothing but admiration for him. He’s not only a great musician; he’s a responsible citizen and father. He takes his own time to educate kids from his neighborhood—the Ninth Ward, where he grew up—in music. “In my neighborhood, the only role models the kids see are drug dealers and criminals,” he said. “I want to a positive role model for these kids, to give them the chance to break out of the mold and do something positive.”

Allen puts himself out there, with no bones about it. His experience with a posse of State Police—who ostensibly say they were searching for an “escaped inmate” last week was horrific and totally uncalled for.

Think about how many times you may have had an interaction with the police. Were they polite? Respectful? Did they drag you out of your car and threaten you after handcuffing you? Did they throw you onto the ground while pointing a gun at you and putting a boot to hold your head down? Search your cell phones? Is this something that regularly happens to white people?

Even if these policemen suspected Allen of harboring or assisting the supposed escapee (which they told him was the reason for their actions), why was it necessary to abuse him? He had no weapon and cooperated with police.

The worst thing about this is that Allen has had several run-ins with police. He’s been followed, stopped; his gig money has been taken and not returned; he was stopped by police on his way to drive his son to school.

The guy doesn’t drink, smoke or do drugs. He’s a musician who makes a good living, takes care of his home, car and children (as well as others’ kids), teaches youngsters to give them a different and better outlook on life, and wants to serve as a role model in the community.

But he is a young black man, with long hair, who drives a nice car, and happens to frequent the Ninth Ward—because that’s where he grew up, and where his family still lives (the police who stopped him let him go—he had done nothing—but warned him not to go into the Ninth Ward again).

What’s wrong with this picture?

If you will take the time, I want to introduce you to Shamarr, and you decide after hearing his side of the story in this exclusive in-depth interview with OffBeat. Listen to what a young black person has to endure—not in the time of Louis Armstrong—but last week.

Take our poll on police actions here.




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