Opinion: Marla Belin was a real woman

Challen Palmer

The first day Marla Belin and I met, she told me about the date she had gone on the night before in excruciating detail. It was my first day back at work since the holidays had ended and she was one of the many new people hired while I was away.

Another server at the restaurant, one I was far more comfortable around, compared the staff change to watching the second season of a show and half the cast being mysteriously replaced — and stated that we all had Marla to thank for it.

Marla Belin ran her own talent agency that sought to discover and support New Orleans artists. She was a server on the side.

She was someone who completely disregarded social cues — whether she ignored them or truly couldn’t understand them, I’ll never know. She was loud, overly personal and one of the most confident people I’ll ever meet. It was impossible to overlook her in a room because she made sure everyone knew she was there. She was also brash, passive-aggressive and routinely trying to hide her various micro-aggressions behind a tired “but I’m dating a black guy!”

Marla and I didn’t have a very good relationship, and I still don’t know if she was ever aware of that. Marla stopped working with us a few months before she was killed.

One day, when I came back to work after the holidays had ended, I compared one of our more eccentric customers to her. Instead of the normal reaction I was expecting to the one joke the whole staff regularly made, I was met with a resounding “do not speak ill of the dead.”

Believing that my coworkers were messing with me, I kept joking around. It wasn’t until my manager told me what had happened that I actually started researching the situation.

Marla was assaulted on Dec. 17, 2018, by a man she knew and previously had a friendship with. NOLA.com reported that, “Belin told police (Tyrone) Fountain had threatened her prior to the attack after she rebuffed his sexual advances.” This man tackled her to the ground and slammed her head in to the sidewalk enough to hospitalize her until she died from her injuries on Dec. 28, eleven days later. Several reports ruled it a purse-snatching gone wrong.

Tyrone Fountain admitted to beating Marla during a live interview on WVUE Fox 8. Since his confession, more and more attention has been drawn to Marla’s case. Local news outlets, such as NOLA.com, Fox 8, WSDU and even The New Orleans Advocate have covered different aspects of the case.

Other, less legitimate outlets have picked up Marla’s case as a recent hot-button issue within their specific audiences. The Daily Stormer, an online journal whose cover image calls for an end to white genocide, published a piece about Marla titled “New Orleans: Pro-Black Talent Agency Owner Gets Enriched by Pet Aspiring Rapper” where they referred to her death as a “divine justice.”

The Unz Review, described as an “Alternative Media Selection,” approached the story from an angle that depicts Marla as their own personal martyr. Their article, titled “Her Name Is Marla Belin: White Woman Murdered by Black Man in 60% Black New Orleans Because She Refused His Sexual Advances,” argues that since Marla was murdered by a black man, “white privilege does not exist and white lives don’t matter.” To them, the crime happened because he is black and she existed as a white person in a predominantly black area, and not actually because he retaliated after she rejected his multiple sexual advances. A Twitter account named White Habitat has since been sharing the article.

Marla was a lot of different things to a lot of different people. The artists she helped through her talent agency saw her as a member of the family. She was, undeniably, a great person who didn’t deserve what happened to her. No one deserves to be killed for saying no. No one deserves to have their memory tarnished by horrid, bigoted opportunists. Marla Belin was a confident, funny, eccentric, loud, larger-than-life, complicated human being. She was a powerhouse of a woman whose memory will last far longer than this momentary perversion.