Skip to main content

tv   Frontline  PBS  March 23, 2021 10:00pm-11:01pm PDT

10:00 pm
>> narrator: now, on this special edition of frontline. >> the idea of the jazz funeral is to help the family. >> narrator: in new orleans, the tradition of celebrating death, hit hard by the pandemic. >> this pandemic hit the black communitdisproportionately. >> narrator: inside two funeral homes. >> in particular now, a funeral director has to think out of the box in order to survive. >> people talk about first responders, be we in the funeral industry, we are last responders. >> we have a job to do. death is our business. >> narrator: and later...
10:01 pm
icu, knowing that her oxygenhe level had gotten precariously worse. >> narrator: a new mother fighting the virus. >> she's 30 years old. she just had a baby. she's really sick. >> narrar: her baby at risk. >> was the baby going to be extremely sick and infected as a result of covid, too? >> narrator: and their struggle to re-unite. these two stories on this special edition of frontline. >> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. public broadcasting.on for major support is provided by the the ford foundation: working with visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide. at additional support is provided by the abrams foundation, committed to excellence in journalism... park foundation, dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues... the heising simons foundation unlocking knowledge, opportunity and possibilities.
10:02 pm
more at and by the frontline journalism fund, with major support from jon and jo ann hagler. and additional support from koo and patricia yuen. support for frontline and for deah is our business was provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundationm, committed to building a more just, verdant and peacful world. ♪ ♪ >> new orleans is this very complex combination of suffering... and joy. katrina forced us to think a lot
10:03 pm
about what does it mean to heal. and i think we're having a similar experience with covid and this pandemic. how do individuals come back from extreme loss, loss of family members, loss of wh was normal? how do you find your way back? >> new orleans, the city with the highest death rate in the country. streets typically vibrant with music and tourists, empty tonight. meantime, the hospitals are filled and rapidly running out of supplies. >> things were being said about whether you could or couldn't have a funeral, whether you should or shouldn't. the real concern was whether or not you came into contact with a live host of covid-19. and so brass band processions and horse and carriage processions are currently not in play.
10:04 pm
>> the idea of the jazz funeral is actually to help the family. and the journey from the church to the burying ground, it's a process where you can not only think and reflect, but you have people that are there to support you. >> we're a jazz funeral town. it's hard to tell a family you can't have a jazz funeral... but we have to. >> that is very painful, particularly to a city like the city of new orleans, how we celebrate life, and how we celebrate death. ♪ ♪ >> you know, you say, "look, there's a limit, i'm sorry. you can't come in." people start crying. they get emotional. they get filled up. people want to say goodbye. but this covid is a very dangerous thing. you got to be afraid, because we got 12 bodies ba there right
10:05 pm
now. maybe four of them had the covid. i had the covid, and then i exposed my wife to it. and a lot of my people on the staff has gotten the covid. it's all around us. >> people talk about first responders, but we in the funeral industry, we are last responders. even though we deal with death on a daily basis, it's still hard. >> no matter how cautious or how safety-minded we were, we're still on the front line. the nature of our business is risky. ♪ ♪ we have a job to do. death isur business. (cars rushing by)
10:06 pm
>> (exhales) pull that one further over. come on, come on. that's husband and wife. (organ playing) the covid is rampant right now. i mean, we still are going up in louisiana. i know that very well because the death rate is still high. no, just put that picture backbk there. no matter what funeral home you talk to in this town, everybody's busy. too much-- okay, take it out. (violin playing) what do you say, mr. john?
10:07 pm
>> you doing all right? >> i'm doing fine, brother, i'm great, i'm great. >> i heard you were under the weather for a while. >> i had the covid. i had the covid in march. >> and you're walking around without a mask, huh? >> i got it right here. (laughs) put the, put the flowers back further in that corner. right there, put that stand back. all right, let's go get the people, then. we'll get the family to come in here, but the siblings are going to go in the front office. come on, rev. >> at this time, we're going to ask that everyone stand as the family proceeds, and we'll sing. >> ♪ every praise is to our god ♪ every word of worship with one accord ♪ come on and praise and every praise ♪ is to our god ♪ come on, sing, sing hallelujah, come on! >> you've got to feel people's emotion in this business. people have a joke, you know,
10:08 pm
let me feel the funeral director's hands, their hands are very cold, that's not true. i'm almost like a touchy-feely person. you know somebody needs a hug, but because of the pandemic, you can't do that now. >> father, we come to you... >> yeah, we come to you... >> with our hearts heavy. lord, we thank you for the opportunity to share darrylon. >> yes, yes... >> just as with katrina, everybody said, you know, we're going to bounce back in six months. well, it was ten years. >> the burden is heavy. >> and i think it's going to be the same way with this covid. >> but the yoke is light, lord. (applause, organ playing) >> aw yeah! hallelujah! >> i just want to thank everybody. i'm louis charbonnet. and, uh, we were going to let some of you all from atlanta really feel that good new orleans style of music, but we just cldn't, couldn't do it with the covid thing, but
10:09 pm
tomorrow will be a beautiful celebration at franklin avenue, and i want to remind you all, you do not want to be late. (guests chatting) ♪ ♪ >> charbonnet funeral home is one of the oldest black funeral homes in the country. we've been around since 1883. ♪ ♪ my father made caskets on this very site. back in the early 1800s, blacks were buried in barns and horse stalls. we were buried the way we were buried because we couldn't be buried by white funeral homes. and so we started out real early to make sure that we had a proper place to be buried and a proper facility to have a
10:10 pm
funeral service in. ♪ ♪ black funeral homes became a business, and a truly significant business in the black community. ♪ ♪ >> within community, black funeral homes have had an opportunity to transition generational wealth. my great-grandmother, zoe, was actually married to richard rhodes. she was a seamstress, he was a slave, and together they came and built what was a life here in new orleans. something that has shifted since covid is our frontoors are no longer accessible by the public.
10:11 pm
we're receiving everyone through our side lobby. >> prior to covid, we would host a jazz funeral or a horse and carriage procession, pretty regularly with the jazz band, and the opportunity for any onlookers to join in the celebration. all of those things have been limited. so underurrent restrictions, we're not having bands within the city to play music, to promote a second line amongst the community. >> the state has confirmed a presumptive positive test for coronavirus in orleans parish. >> back in march when things took a significant turn, for me, there were markers. one of my colleagues passed away from covid. her passing touched everybody. she was a light within our organization. so, for her to pass, people were
10:12 pm
like if it could happen to her, it could happen to me. everybody knew that they had to do things differently. the significant shift came that following week. the phones started to ring nonstop. >> we were seeing our people die daily. i mean, it was pretty unbelievable. >> everybody was working seven days a week, and so the toll, it became heavy. >> typically, we maybe do four or five cases a day. during the time at the height of the pandemic, you know, at some point we were doing 12, you know, to 15 cases a day. we had an influx of bodies, so we had to create another space for us to hold our bodies. at times, this room were, you
10:13 pm
know, were full with bodies. ♪ ♪ >> it's been a very stressful it was like we were playing russian roulette with our own lives. for a long time, i did notee my family. i didn't see them for like two months, because you know my life was going to work and taking care of the covid cases. i did not want to bring that home to my family. we all know of loved ones or family or friends that have died because of covid-19. and, um, that's been very difficult.
10:14 pm
i'm sorry. (piano playing) >> now to some sad news from the music world. ellis marsalis, the jazz pianist and patriarch of a musical fami, has died. the cbs station in new orleans says marsalis passed away after being hospitalized with coronavirus symptoms. >> marsalis was the father of a musical family known all over the world for its contributions to jazz. >> i knew him as a spectator and appreciator of his music. but we also knew what ellis had done because of the generation of musicians who were his students. harry connick is one, his sons. >> he had a battle with cancer. on the one hand we were expecting that his time was soon, but covid kind of sped
10:15 pm
things up. he was buried april 4, and we had about ten people the. >> i can only imagine what it would've looked like prior to the pandemic. there would have been a second line and a jazz procession. >> the ritual of actually celebrating a life, especially a life like that, is what we do here. and we couldn't. ♪ ♪ so many laid to rest without our tears or the tolling of the bell, no kaddish as in elie wiesel's "night." last night, ellis marsalis went away, piano keys tug at their locks anrend their robes, and each in their seclusion weep so silently. no second line, no coming home of acolytes, the many musician daughters d sons. none may return to ring the bell
10:16 pm
to celebrate, to mourn. in solitude, we remember. in cells of marble or made of simpler things, we weep. (trolley passing) >> covid was just taking hold.d. when it began to spread across the country so rapidly, when the death rate was climbing so very rapidly... it became pretty obvious that this was different-- why? most viruses are either contagious or deadly. this virus was both contagious and deadly. so now we were dealing with a different kind of disease. >> what we're seeing is
10:17 pm
hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and even obesity in conjunction with coronavirus have led to devastatg effects, particularly in minority communities. coronavirus didn't show us anything we don't already know, right? there's always been healthcare disparities. >> without a doubt, this pandemic hit the black community disproportionately. our city suffered pre-covid from large disparity gaps as related to health. for example, out of 566 deaths, 410 were black residents. ♪ ♪ >> just the lack of resources, access to power and authority over one's life to create the kind of circumstances that optimally one would like with
10:18 pm
the american dream, eventually creates weathering, the biologic wearing and tearing on our bodies. but it is highly unlikely that the disproportionate impact of covid mortality and morbidity in the african-american community is based on genetics. initially, the people were trying to say all these underlying conditions. well, these underlying health conditions are a result of the inequities. ♪ ♪ >> these outcomes are very predicble. i'm not surprised. this is 400 years of creating an environment that was ripe for this carnage to happen and to overcome the black community.
10:19 pm
♪ ♪ i think this virus is going to be around with us for a while, and we're going to be suffering the l effects of it on the human body, the economy, everything. >> everything that was normal about how we used to be, has had to change if we want to be safe and survive. (organ playing in church) >> in this business in
10:20 pm
particular, now, a funeral director has to think out of the box in order to survive. does that look any better? black funeral homes have to be very, very conscious. they have to watch their dollars very closely. and they have to be crtive. and they've got to be willing to take a chance to do certain things. we about ready? >> ♪ i shall wear a crown ♪ i'm going to put on my robe and tell the story ♪ how i made it over, yes lord how i made it over, yeah
10:21 pm
so i'm gonna put on my robe soon as i get... ♪ home ♪ (vocalizing) thank you, god bless you. >> i struggled mightily once i got the news, i mean, i'm talking-- i was messed up, real bad. my momma loved me and my sister. she loved every single church-- let me tell you all something. we might have to do this again next year on this same day. boy, do you realize it'd be standing room only? 2020, i don't care about you, but this covid?
10:22 pm
man, it'd be wall to wall. it'd be wall to wall. we'd have to hug so many people and hear so many different stories of what she meant to everybody. every single person. >> the time that people come to us, they're their lowest. they're really at the bottom of their wits. try to bring some levity to a funeral arrangement, you know? instead of just being all sad, if i can find that one, that one silver lining, it helps so much. family, please walk behind! family, plea walk behind. (jazz band playing) >> i want to give my people the best that i could possibly afford to give them. i had to get special authorization to bring the horse and carriages to the church. i had to get super special permission to allow the band to be on church grounds.
10:23 pm
that funeral was very brief. it was just a little taste of new orleans. we stayed on the church grounds. and when you go on the street, it becomes a second line. and the second line is not necessarily the immediate participants, it's anybody who's on the street. so we, we didn't want any of that. (band playing "i'll fly away") (song ends) (applause) >> wonderful. that was so beautiful, man.
10:24 pm
>> every two or three weeks the limitations and the number of people that can attend the funeral is always changing, so we got to keep up with the mayor's and the governor's requests about how many people can attend a funeral in a closed building. >> currently, covid-19 is in phase two. now indoor gatherings can be 25 people, and outdoor gatherings can be 100. but we have a large service coming up. bigger than normal during this pandic. >> tonight, we are remembering a well-known mardi gras indian queen taken from us o soon. kim "cutie" boutte was gunned down in a double shooting in new orleans east last night. >> someone opened fire on a crowd outside of an event hall on read boulevard.
10:25 pm
boutte was leaving a repast when the gunfire started. >> we're having the drive-through visitation. we're also planning for a funeral service and a second line. we are working with the mayor's office, we're working with the city and the family to provide a service that is going to best allow folks to participate in all of the celebration while keeping everyone safe. >> kim boutte's funeral is going to be very large. i'm saying scary large because of the pandemic. (people chattering) (percusse music playing) (people singing) >> we anticipated a flood of people.
10:26 pm
outside we have upwards of 1,000 people, but the number allowed in the building is restricted. we committed to 100 seats on the floor for family. anything above that, we did not promise a seat. (music continues) >> excuse me. the city of new orleans is about to do a count. ey will not allow us to begin the service until there is a hundred people. that's covid instructions from >> so we're going to start on this side. (band playing) >> if we can't get a hundred people, these people are going to shut down, and we will not be honoring my little sister if that happens. (band playing) (chatter, piano playing)
10:27 pm
>> they're going to start the program. you all will go up for your final viewing, okay? okay. (piano playing) >> good morning, family, friends, and esteemed guests. at this time, we'll begin celebrating the life and legacy of big queen kim lynn "cutie" boutte. >> i'm reading this proclamation on behalf of the mayor, because the mayor allowed us to do this. she allowed us to go over the covid regulations. (cheerand applause) we need to be mindful of that. she going to get some backlash, but she believes in the culture of this city. and whereas kim lynn boutte was the big queen of the spirit of fiyiyi and the mandingo warriors... i said she was the big queen of the spirit of fiyiyi and the
10:28 pm
mandingo warriors! she was the big queen! (drumming) she was the big queen. >> come on, clap your hands! (band playing) if you're going to live in the light to live again. ♪ hey, i'm living this life♪ >> ♪ i'm living this life just to live again ♪ >> knowing that we were trusted to deliver services that were under restriction, however, given a little bit more leeway, is a huge accomplishment for us. of course, it's not over yet. (people chattering, singing playing percussion) >> there are 35 indian tribes that have come, family, the community, the indian culture, they are all fluid and moving and no one is standing
10:29 pm
stationary. every organization said that we were going to stand up and work together. (parade singing, chanting) >> i don't believe here in new orleans, we'll ever get to a type of funeral that is not a celebration. even if it's not a band, if someone is traveling with a boombox, then they've got some second line music. here, people will find a way to celebrate. (music fading) ♪ ♪ >> someone's life when they have ended their journey through this
10:30 pm
existence, there's a beautiful way in which the celebration makes it just a little bit better. ♪ ♪ there's this letting all this pain and suffering go. and i feel that it's clearly an african retention that we've held onto. and i think thiswhat new orleans does so beautifully. ♪ ♪ >> every day i feel like we're seeing some light at the end of the tunnel, and i'm looking forward to the day that we could move around without wearing masks, that we could feel more comfortable greeting our loved ones, that we don't have to be arful when the phone ring, you
10:31 pm
know, from our family members that, you know, someone have passed. i would hate to think that this is our new normal. ♪ ♪ >> we've had such injuries directed at our communities, but we have to heal ourselves. we also have to fight for justice, and the two things have to go together.
10:32 pm
each generation has had to dream and say there is a possibility, and what katrina and coronavirus taught us is that we have to continue to believe and imagine freedom and move towards it. >> narrator: coming up next the virus separated her from her newborn. >> she was on the ventilator for about 18 days. >> narrator: a mother's fight to survive. >> and i thought she very well might not make it through this. that was terrifying. >> narrator: and return to her family. >> welcome home! love, life and the virus begins right now.
10:33 pm
♪ ♪ >> marvin (speaking spanish): (siren blaring)
10:34 pm
(indistinct chatter) (monitor beeping)
10:35 pm
(monitor beeping) (indistinct chatter) >> bring me a clean specimen bag for me to put this in. >> zully's case was very unique for us because this was one of our first few cases with a mom who was extremely sick and covid-potive.vid-positive. was the baby going to be extremely sick and infected as a result of covid, too? we did not know that at that time. >> marvin:
10:36 pm
>> i said, "listen, marvin, i am willing to help 100%. i really did not know this family. i mean, zully just came to the united states, i think, a year ago, and marvin has been here for six years. and junior is my bilingual student. and that's how i met them. when we were able to test marvin and junior, they were both covid-19-positive. this baby would have not stood a chance if he went home with his father with covid-19. he's just a preemie baby. i went to the hospital with marvin. oh, my god. hi, baby.
10:37 pm
>> luciana (speaking spanish): it wasn't easy because, you know, he saw his son for the first time, and he couldn't even go near him. and it really broke my heart. after going through such a big trauma not even knowing if your wife was gonna make it... i took the baby home. i was thinking i was staying with the baby for one and two days, and now i am three weeks. (monitor beeping) >> this patient over there, when i started him, he was on 100%... zully was absolutely one of the sickest patients on the floor at that time, and i thought she very well might not make it through this. and that was... that was terrifying.
10:38 pm
(monitor beeping) in my head i said she's not gonna die on my time. i'm not gonna let that happen. >> she's okay? okay. >> can i have the patient's first and last name, please? >> zully... ♪ ♪ >> ah. (both laughing) >> she was in the icu almost three weeks total, i think. she was on the ventilator for about 18 days, and then another day or two afterwards as we were waking her up and regaining her strength. (dialogue indistinct) >> we got you. >> it takes a while to get their body back up and running. >> do you need to rest? >> there's issues of patients who have ptsd from being in
10:39 pm
the icu. (monitors beeping) >> zully (speaking spanish): ♪ ♪ >> all of a sudden, i get a phone call, and it's a doctor from the hospital, and they just tell me, "oh, uh, zully is being discharged today at 4:00. somebody needs to be here to pick her up." okay, we're sending her home, but her husband was not... you know he's covid-19 positive
10:40 pm
and the brother is covid-19 positive and the baby's covid-19 negative. so... i was in shock when i received that phone call because i really thought she was ing to still be hospitalized for one more week at least. but if it was a person with insurance, then they would probably send her to a rehab, right? when do we have to pick her up? how does this work? i mean, i'm-i'm just a teacher. i don't know how this works. i needed to pick her up at 4:00. and i looked at my watch and i'm like, "wait a second, it's 2:45." ♪ ♪ >> junior! (speaking spanish):
10:41 pm
>> aurora: >> they're coming now. oh... ah, zully! (cheering, applause) zully! yay, zully! welcome home. bienvenida, zully. (laughs) >> mommy? >> zully:
10:42 pm
>> good? you guys okay? thank you, guys. thank you. >> you're welcome. >> zully: >> junior: >> aurora: >> ready? >> ♪ happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you ♪ ♪ happy birthday baby neysel, happy birthday to you. ♪ >> luciana: >> aurora: >> zully:
10:43 pm
>> bye, guys. >> hasta luego. >> zully:
10:44 pm
♪ ♪ >> marvin: ♪ ♪ >> okay, all set. >> (screams) >> ya, papi. ya, ya.
10:45 pm
>> (groans) >> you almost got it. >> thank you for holding. your call is very important to us. >> okay, the nasal swab came back. the swab is positive. >> marvin: >> junior is the same, also. mm-hmm. >> marvin: (zully crying) (marvin exhales) >> marvin:
10:46 pm
>> zully: >> marvin: >> zully: ♪ ♪ >> catalina and marvin:
10:47 pm
>> zully: >> yes! >> zully: (by crying) >> oh, i know, i know. oh, this is so hard. and today's gonna be a very special day because you're gonna meet your mommy and your daddy and your brother. >> (makes laughing sound) >> (laughs) i love when he does that. it's like i was his mommy for the last five-and-a-half weeks. and i gave him as much love as i
10:48 pm
would give to my own son. >> zully: >> so this is a mess right now because we're trying to pack everything for zully. there's some extra donated milk, his little stroller. >> they know we're here. (laughter) >> oh, my god. look at the way he...
10:49 pm
hey, junior. >> zully: >> luciana: ♪ ♪ >> shh, shh, shh. (indistinct chatter) >> aurora: >> luciana: >> aurora:
10:50 pm
>> zully: >> luciana: >> aurora: >> zully: ♪ ♪ (phone dialing out) >> zully: (sound distorted, breaking up)
10:51 pm
(phone beepscall disconnects) >> (baby fussing) ♪ ♪
10:52 pm
>> zully: >> (baby fussing)
10:53 pm
♪ ♪ >> go to for an update on zully and her family. >> and read more about how the pandemic has altered death rituals in black and latino communities. >> everything that was normal has had to change. >> i would hate to think that this is our new normal. >> connect with frontline on facebook, instagram and twitter, and stream anytime on the pbs app or >> who's our president?! trump's our president! fight for trump! >> narrator: they stmed the capitol. >> they were hostile, they wer
10:54 pm
venomous that their country somehow being taken away from them. >> narrator: and plotted to kidnap governor. >> a terror plot to kidnap governor gretchen whitmer. >> so you think the guys were planning to arrest her? >> it was going to be a citizen's arrest. >> narrator: frontline and propublica investigate the rise of far-right extremism. >> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major support is provided by t the ford foundation: working with visionaries on the frontlines of social change at additional support is provided by the abrams foundation, committed to excellence in journalism... park foundation, dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues... the heising simons foundation unlocking knowledge, opportunity and possibilities. more at and by the frontline journalism
10:55 pm
fund, with major support from jon and jo ann hagler. and additional support from koo and patricia yuen. support for frontline and for deah is our business was provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundationm, cmitted to building a more just, verdant and peacful world. captioned by media access group at wgbh >> for more on this and other "frontline" programs, visit our website at ♪ ♪ frontline's, "death is our business" and "love, life and the virus" are available on amazon prime video. ♪ ♪
10:56 pm
♪♪ you're watching pbs. ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪
10:57 pm
10:58 pm
10:59 pm
11:00 pm
(dramatic music) (siren wailing) (train engine rumbling)