Today is the sad anniversary of organizer/writer/filmmaker Helen Hill’s murder. New Orleanians, Canadians, South Carolinians, Californians and a slew of other oddballs and creative types are thinking of our dear Helen today.
Helen was daughter, sister, mother, wife, friend. Her murder sent shock waves through dozens of communities that many will never recover from, partly because there was not a more loving or angelic human (although with a sensible streak of mischief when needed) than Helen. Partly because in true New Orleans fashion, the police never even turned up a suspect. Partly because her work was stopped, work so important that it has since been added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.
Helen and her husband Paul came to me because of food, so that’s why this is here. I became active in the local Food Not Bombs actions which they had helped to “organize” or more appropriately, to encourage. I had many fascinating conversations with them about tactics we might employ to be able to wrest food scraps from stores, including from Whole Foods. That conversation was ongoing because I worked there part-time, along with my other then part-time job at the farmers market. (That’s not as odd as it seems now because that WF location’s beginning actually predates the Austin behemeth’s ownership, back when it had been a New Orleans-only coop called Whole Foods Company. Even after the corporation bought it, it remained a funky local treasure, so my working there and at the market at the same time for a short time was not that farfetched.)
Their vegan potlucks were legendary, as were her vegan tea parties. Paul and Helen also knew my market boss, fellow vegetarian activist Richard McCarthy, and through him had begun to bring their pig Rosie to our market events. I remember once Helen called me before a scheduled visit to ask details as to where Rosie would be set up; turns out she was worried that Rosie would be within sight of meat vendors and would be distressed. I was at first amused, thinking she was slightly joking, but of course she was not. Sobering up, I assured her that every precaution would be taken for Rosie to be happy and comfortable that day. Forever after, Helen treated me as Rosie’s protector.
I was thrilled like many others when news came of their return to New Orleans after Katrina. Helen had asked many to send postcards to Paul to convince him to return. Happily, he did; sadly, that return was so very short.
From her award-winning film Scratch and Crow:
There are dozens and dozens of tributes to Helen, but viewing her films and hearing about her Poppy growing up under the wise and gentle hand of his father is the tribute she’d like most of all. So please enjoy and share her lovely films whenever possible.