When I went down to New Orleans this past winter break I noticed these billboards that were out of the ordinary. They didn’t advertise for anywhere or anything, but were there to simply make you think. The one I remember seeing said "Don't follow the script," which was in reference to black men and the high number of black men who were ending up in jail in New Orleans. I had not thought about the billboards since that day until now. Kate Stuckslager's post "Criminal Rights and the Criminal Justice System," which talks about the higher percentage of black arrests in comparison to whites, and the racism that fueled those arrests, jogged my memory concerning the bill board so I looked up its message and found an article about the campaign from Nola.com. The Mayor of New Orleans hired the famous filmmaker, Spike Lee, to design and produce the campaign.
To me, what the campaign really points out is that within the narrative of the cool, deadly gangster is the more powerful idea that violence affects everyone in the community old, young, white, or black. Mayor Landrieu used one of the motivations for creating the campaign as an example when he talks about the five year old girl, who was hit by a stray bullet aimed at an in related young man. I remember seeing the newspaper one day and it had a front page dedicated to the children who had died as a result of stray bullets.
Furthermore, the campaign shows that even for the life of the gangster, there still lies personal choice and the ability to change oneself. Within the life of a convict, the possibility exists to turn your life around, or ‘flip the script.’ Flip the script before anything bad even happens is the ideal situation of course. One billboard says, “BLACK MAN RETURNS WITH GUN AND TAKES VICTIM’S LIFE AROUND 2:45,” but with certain letters in bold to create an inner message, “BLACK MAN TURNS LIFE AROUND.” It is a message to black men that violence is not something to be proud of, and that it should be avoided.
Spike Lee states that when it comes down to it, “We are killing each other at an alarming rate. You can spin that however you want to. But the fact remains: we are killing ourselves.” So the bottom line for me is that the billboards deliver a warning of what can happen, a message of hope that there exists a better alternative.