May 27, 2010 9:22 AM by Kate Durio
Since 2005, the people of Jennings have unwillingly been in the public spotlight because of eight unsolved murders in their small community. For the seemingly, divided communities of North and South Jennings, they are looking to show their city in a new light.
To outsiders, Jennings can seem a town divided by the railroad tracks between North and South, the right and wrong sides of the tracks. But to many in this small town, it's a community with its ups and downs just like any other place but remains a place worth fighting to save.
Former Jennings Mayor, Greg Marcantel says, "Bad things can happen in any community and it's how you react to them that defines that. There's been a very active outflow of support."
Rev. Gerald Perkins of Union Baptist Church says he's seen the community outlook improve and says it's the support in Jennings driving the much needed change.
"The morale has been down for a long time. And I'm seeing the city with more hope. The citizens have more hope now," says Rev. Perkins.
Life-long resident Charles Wilson says Jennings' future hinges on bridging support to both sides of the tracks.
"What our future is and about the integrity in our city. All of our inhabitants getting together. South side and North side," says Wilson.
The community support is evident on both sides of Jennings. The victims were known to mostly frequent the South side of Jennings, the side of town some see as forgotten and dangerous. But the mayor says there are hard-working people who care about the community on both sides of town. He says the people of Jennings are what make Jennings great.
"I think we have an abundance of very good, and generous hard working people. I think that that's probably our biggest asset in our community, is the people who live here," says the mayor.
While spreading fear and possibly giving Jennings an undeserved bad wrap, the unsolved murders have also had a positive effect by encouraging residents to look out for one another.
"I have a sister who lives with us and make sure that she's in properly at the time when she gets home. We're always checking up on her," says Jennings Resident Jason Murray.
The unsolved murders have also solicited support in the form of prayer.
"We have met with law enforcement agencies, when I say we, I mean the ministers of this city. We meet every Monday morning at 10 o'clock. We pray. We discuss ideas. How we can lift up the morale in Jennings," says Rev. Perkins.
Still, some residents say their most powerful weapon is showing a united front that will hopefully drive the fear out of Jennings.
"They're not going to run me out of town. This is my home. We've lived here forever," says Sonya Beard, Jennings resident and cousin of Whitnei Dubois.
And support in the form of hope for Crystal Zeno's mother.
"There is hope because, like for Crystal's funeral, as I talked to other girls who are addicted to drugs and everything, there's several that have not been back on the streets since. So that's a blessing. So maybe she saved someone else's life," says Benoit.
-Written and Produced by Kate Durio