LOSS

What Happens When Someone You Love Becomes a Part of Black History

A personal essay about Kerry “Fat Man” Hunter and his impact

Allison Wiltz
Published in
4 min readFeb 18, 2024

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Kerry “Fat Man” Hunter | Photo taken by Josh Goleman, art and framing by the author using CANVA

Our city of New Orleans is in mourning this week, having recently lost Kerry “Fat Man” Hunter, a Grammy award-winning brass band drummer beloved throughout the city. He was killed in a hit-and-run accident by a suspected drunk driver in the early hours of Mardi Gras Day. Because of the chaos and revelry, most found out about his death on Ash Wednesday. The shock could be felt throughout the city as musicians gathered at Tuba Fats Square nearly every night to mourn their loss and celebrate his life. The Tremé community, the oldest black neighborhood in America, has been struck with unexpected grief.

For me, Kerry was a family friend, someone we usually saw when he took a break from performing at Kermit’s Tremé Mother-in-Law Lounge. Some of my friends went to school with him and have stayed in touch over the years. His demeanor was kind, joyful, and, at times, solemn. While performing, he was often seen wearing the traditional attire — black pants, shoes, and a white button-up shirt with a black bow tie. However, during this one-second line, he wore a brown mink jumpsuit, flexing his fly, unorthodox style. Playing music was Kerry’s passion, and over the years, he played in a number of bands, such as Rebirth Brass Band, Kinfolk, Tornado, Dirty Dozen, and Olympia. However, it was his artistry in the Nightcrawlers that won him a Grammy in 2021 for the best regional roots music album, “Atmosphere.” Not only was he beloved by audiences throughout the city but also by fellow musicians, even though he wasn’t afraid to critique others in his inner circle.

Kerry had been playing music since he was 12, using the snare drum in the Roots of Jazz Brass Band. He became part of the Preservation Hall “collective” of musicians. As a result, Fat Man is well-known throughout the city and has an impressive discography. Hanging out downtown in the Tremé, friends would remind one another with a smile that Fat won a Grammy. You see, Black people in New Orleans feel a great sense of pride not just from their personal accomplishments but from those who come from the same communities. Kerry’s death is an unexpected punch in the gut — no one would have…

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Allison Wiltz
Momentum

Womanist Scholar bylines @ Momentum, Oprah Daily, ZORA, GEN, EIC of Cultured #WEOC Founder allisonthedailywriter.com https://ko-fi.com/allyfromnola