By Jacqueline Quynh
Belva Pichon’s family has been in the funeral business for over 170 years, and she’s seen all kinds of people come through her doors.
“We’ve had a lot of the jazz musicians like, you know, Percy Humphries,” Pinchon said.
Pichon and her family run the Gertrude Geddes Willis Funeral Home on Jackson Avenue. Over the years, Pichon and her family said they have seen New Orleans transform, especially in Central City.
“I grew up in this neighborhood,” Pichon said. “Whites and blacks, you could leave your door open you could sit on the stoop.”
But slowly, Pichon said that changed.
“In the recent years, I would say in the last 10-15 years, the violence has gotten [worse],” she said.
Unlike those who hear about it on TV, Pichon sees the impact of that violence up close.
“I find myself going into the parlor sometimes and just standing over the deceased and asking ‘Why are you here?'” she said. “Some families that we know, they’ll call me ‘Mrs. Pichon, my son’s just passed away.’ I’ll ask, ‘Was he sick?’ She’ll say ‘no ma’am; he’s at the coroner’s office.'”
More and more, Pichon said those who come through her doors are younger and younger.
“They’re actually killing each other,” she said.
So far this year, 42 people have been shot and killed. At this rate, it could surpass last year’s total.
“They need to know that they are somebody,” Pichon said.
As someone who has seen changes, Pichon said she has some advice to parents and caretakers that she hopes will help change the future of New Orleans youth.
“I would tell them to hold their children tight and hold their children close and always talk to them,” she said. “Be a family.”
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