The holidays are challenging for many families in New Orleans who have lost loved ones to violence. Nakita A. Shavers is the Founder/Executive Director of Dinerral Shavers Educational Fund. The Dinerral Shavers Educational Fund (DSEF) was established to honor the memory of Dinerral Shavers. Nakita talks to BrassyBrown.com on the anniversary of her brother’s death.
What do you miss most about your brother, Dinerral Shavers?
I miss everything about him. His personality was so genuine and inimitable. He was probably the only person on earth who could take my stubbornness and brattiness. He was my big brother and protector. He was also my best friend. We shared so many secrets and memories—we both are Pisces. The hardest thing in the world for him was the realization that I was growing up. He never accepted the fact that I would soon be a young woman. In his mind, I could never discard the title “baby sister.” I often wonder what our relationship would be like today. What commonalities would we share? I hope that I am making him proud.
How do you and Hot 8 work together to keep Dinerral’s memory alive? What’s your favorite Hot 8 song?
The Hot 8 is my lifeline. I love those guys. They are partly responsible for my day-to-day happiness. I lost my brother, but I gained 7 more. They support all my efforts. They help my vision become reality. For instance, my freshmen year at Florida A&M University, I founded the New Orleans Club FAMU Chapter. Shortly before Dinerral died, he was helping me create an event where I can bring a taste of New Orleans to FAMU’s Campus. Following his death, the Hot 8 believed in me and helped complete my vision. The Hot 8 Brass Band joined me on FAMU’s Campus to host an annual Mardi Gras Day on the campus for three consecutive years.
Hot 8 is my backbone. They are the reason that Dinerral Shavers Education Fund is such a huge success. Their music helps tie New Orleans cultural and history to the DSEF. They also keep his memory alive by being big brothers to me. I am very careful of whom I introduce to them. To prevent such scrutiny, I will only introduce them to the man that I intend to marry. (LOL).
My favorite Hot 8 song is “Get Up,” written by Dinerral before he was murdered. “Skeet Skeet” is my jam. I am forbidden from liking that song by the band. The beat is fierce and there is no denying it. The guys do not like to play it as much because of its intense vulgarity. However, I still demand that they play it at performances that I attend. It makes Bennie Pete so mad, but they never tell me no.
How have you taken care of yourself during your grief? Has the grief gotten easier? What advice would you offer local residents that have lost loved ones in NOLA?
I’m not sure if I have taken care of myself. I have grieved. I still grieve. When I’m alone, I cry sometimes until I make myself sick (which is not healthy). Losing a loved one is not easy. Losing someone as remarkable as Dinerral is extremely difficult. As easy as it could be to compartmentalize the events surrounding His death and store it at the back of my mind, I can’t. I face it every day. It is a part of my life. He is a part of me. I find contentment in knowing that God does everything in His timing and for a reason. Once I was able to accept this fact and trust in God’s plan, I became better.
As long as there are birthdays, instant memories, and death anniversaries, the pain of losing a loved one never gets easier. I have learned how to cope. My faith has brought me this far. This has been one long spiritual journey for me. I believe my brother died so that the Dinerral Shavers Educational Fund could be born.
You keep your brother’s memory alive through The Dinerral Shavers Educational Fund (DSEF). What is the DSEF planning for 2014?
2014 will be a great year for DSEF. Saturday, January 11th is our annual Brass Band Blowout featuring the Grammy Nominated Hot 8 Brass Band. In late January we will launch our DSEF’s Young Professional Society. February we will kick off our Scholarship Essay Contest. By summer, we are planning to launch our newly developed Music & Cultural Education Program. August will be our annual Back to School Extravaganza.
How do you think we can decrease violence in the city?
The only way that we can decrease violence in New Orleans is by working together to build a stronger and safer community. Our citizens must take their rightful role in the community. Our public officials must first learn to value our future and put aside back alley politics. Nelson Mandela once said that, “Education is the most powerful tool in which you can use to change the world.” New Orleans’ Post-Katrina educational landscape is blatant disrespect to our kids and Mr. Mandela’s legacy. Crime happens every day in New Orleans, and the community’s lack of trust in the criminal justice system is very real. The NOPD cannot build a case and the District Attorney’s office cannot win a conviction without the support of the community. Trust me, I know.
Our kids need distractions and positive activities to counter that culture of violence. What happened to NORD? We need parks, gyms, afterschool programs, in every neighborhood— not just in neighborhoods least hit by Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans is a very tough place to grow up. We are not just losing our kids— we are setting them up to fail. New Orleans must work together to invest in our kids’ future. No one can change this city alone. We can all start changing New Orleans by caring. If you see someone hungry, feed them. If you see someone naked, dress them. If you see someone hurting, comfort them. It’s that simple.
Join Nakita Shavers today to feed the homeless under the bridge. For more information on the Dinerral Shavers Education Fund go to: http://dsefnola.org/. We salute Nakita Shavers and all NOLA women working to decrease the violence.
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