Bill Cosby tells New Orleans blacks to reject crime
Sat Apr 1, 2006 09:16 PM ET
By Russell McCulley
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Entertainer Bill Cosby urged New Orleans' black population on Saturday to cleanse itself of a culture of crime as it rebuilds from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina last year.
Cosby, whose criticism of some aspects of modern African-American culture has stirred controversy in recent years, told a rally headed by black leaders that the city needed to look at the "wound" it had before Katrina struck.
"It's painful, but we can't cleanse ourselves unless we look at the wound," Cosby told the rally of about 2,000 people in front of the city's convention center.
"Ladies and gentlemen, you had the highest murder rate, unto each other. You were dealing drugs to each other. You were impregnating our 13-, 12-, 11-year-old children," he said.
"What kind of a village is that?"
Cosby sparked heated debate in 2004, when he criticized blacks whom he said were putting a higher priority on music and fashion than on education and morality.
Before Katrina killed more than 1,300 people and displaced hundreds of thousands, New Orleans had nearly half a million residents, 70 percent of them black. An estimated 30 percent of the city had incomes below the poverty line.
Less than half the population has returned to the heavily damaged city and evacuees remain scattered across the country. Many of those who have come back are whites who lived in affluent areas that were less affected by flooding.
Other speakers, including civil rights activists Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, denounced what they said was an attempt by state and federal officials to disenfranchise the evacuees in April 22 local elections by not setting up out-of-state voting stations.
Jackson said evacuees should be allowed to vote in "satellite" polling places outside the state, just as Iraqi and Mexican expatriates have cast ballots from the United States in elections in their home countries.
"If we in fact can use this technology for Mexican-Americans and Mexico, then we ought to," Jackson said. "If we can use this technology for Iraqi-Americans in America to Baghdad, then we ought to. We can use the same technology for New Orleanians, wherever they are in America."
Voting stations will be available at 10 sites in Louisiana outside of New Orleans, but state officials have said casting ballots outside the state is not allowed.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who is black and faces 21 challengers in his re-election campaign, said not enough was being done to guarantee a fair vote. "We deserve to be treated like Americans," he said.