Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Remembering Kirsten Brydum


On September 27, 2008, Kirsten Brydum of San Francisco became the 144th of 179 people murdered in New Orleans that year. Like countless others, her murder remains unsolved. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, The Big Easy seems to mean killing and getting away with it. The sheer number of murders there leaves numerous stories, and the clues they might afford, untold.

Kirsten, 25, was radiant, altruistic, and wise. She helped found the Really Really Free Market, a monthly bazaar of free goods and services, and Access Café, a periodic, volunteer-run restaurant which serves free sit-down meals to all comers. In July 2008, she set out on a “collective autonomy” tour to exchange ideas with others around the country about alternative economic and social models. She stopped first at the RNC protest in Minneapolis-St. Paul, where her travel companion recalled them “baking vegan cupcakes amidst riot police, dancing in the streets, shouting ‘destroy money, build community,’ picking vegetables from an abandoned garden for a potluck, playing washboard with wingnuts, and planting seeds of hope for the future.”

A month and a half later, Kirsten wrote her last dispatch from aboard a train: “I’m rolling into New Orleans. An old friend of a new friend offered to pick me up from the station and get me to the house of another friend of a friend. The sun is setting on the bayou-licked lands and I am truly fortunate.”

On her second night in town, she borrowed a bike from the house where she was staying in the Katrina-battered Ninth Ward and rode with a feather in her hair to see the Rebirth Brass Band perform in the warehouse district. The club’s doorman remembers her leaving alone on her bike at 1:30 am. Later that morning, at 8:30, a church group returning to gut a house in the 3000 block of Laussat found her dead on the sidewalk, shot in the head. She was eleven blocks beyond where she was staying, across train tracks in a desolate area she could not easily have reached even if she had gotten lost. More likely, she was abducted and taken there. What befell her that night remains a mystery, but the dots connect through some unspeakably horrific places.

Kirsten’s murder recalls the unsolved murder in January 2007 of Helen Hill, a community activist who moved to New Orleans with her husband Paul, a physician, to serve those dislocated by the Hurricane. When police arrived, Paul was kneeling in the doorway, bloody, shot three times himself, cradling their infant son. The Times Picayune headline exclaimed, “Killings bring the city to its bloody knees.” Five other people had been murdered in New Orleans that day.

For a time, Kirsten’s murder, like Helen’s, generated news. At first I fretted that Kirsten was receiving preferential treatment because she is white. A black man, Bruce William Graves, 55, had been killed in his own home the same day, but his name hasn’t appeared in the news since. White privilege, it occurred to me, includes not only getting front page coverage, but expecting the general public to grieve with me over the death of a friend. A year later, I have also come to learn that most murders in New Orleans, black and white, have the same, eventual fate: the investigation peters out and they go unsolved.

“Please tell me why I should care about a little ragamuffin that got snuffed and is wasting my reading space?” a commenter vented online under an article about Kirsten’s death. Because the little ragamuffin, by her example, might have awakened in you a deeper compassion than you knew you had.

Trying to cope, Kirsten’s boyfriend John beseeched her to help him turn away from hateful thoughts: “That is what took you from us and it will not bring you back,” he wrote on the family’s memorial website. “Now more than ever I know that we need to put more love into the world and that you cannot fight hatred with hatred.”

“We’re all in this together,” Kirsten was fond of saying. President Obama spoke the same words in his pitch to Congress for healthcare reform. Kirsten is smiling about that.

Please call CrimeStoppers (504-822-1111) with any tips; the reward is $10,000.

BEN ROSENFELD, a civil rights lawyer in San Francisco, was a friend of Kirsten Brydum’s.


Ben Rosenfeld is a civil rights attorney in San Francisco, and a Board Member of the Civil Liberties Defense Center based in Eugene, Oregon.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Qaddafi
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Winslow Myers
Christopher Brauchli
Wonder Woman at the UN
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
Lee Ballinger
Tupac: Holler If You Hear Him
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”
October 20, 2016
Eric Draitser
Syria and the Left: Time to Break the Silence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Extreme Unction: Illusions of Democracy in Vegas
Binoy Kampmark
Digital Information Warfare: WikiLeaks, Assange and the US Presidential Elections
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Bogus History Lesson
Bruce Mastron
Killing the Messenger, Again
Anthony DiMaggio
Lesser Evil Voting and Prospects for a Progressive Third Party