crown on armchair.

What New Orleans lost when a beloved community member fell to COVID-19

As the virus ripped through Black communities, it claimed a fraternity brother, youth mentor, and onetime Mardi Gras ‘King Zulu.’ This is his story.

The crown from Larry Hammond’s 2007 reign as Zulu king rests on a chair at his New Orleans home.

From the time they began dating, Lillian Phillips realized Larry Hammond was different from other boys she knew in their New Orleans high schools. “He had charisma,” she says. “He was always there. He was always kind.”

Lillian and Larry married, had a family, and built friendships. Just as in high school, Larry joined group after group, including the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, a community organization whose Krewe of Zulu members and floats have appeared in Mardi Gras parades for more than a century.

The Larry Hammond that I and many others came to know over decades was the same man Lillian met in high school: charismatic, helpful, kind. He was like that through 47 years of marriage: In June the two planned to celebrate their 48th wedding anniversary.

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