I only traveled to New Orleans once in my life, which was this past March for the most recent INCITE! conference. I dont really like to travel and i dont do it very often so when i do i like to stay as long as possible in an effort to justify my fear of flying and getting nervous about all that kind of stuff. In retrospect im thankful that I stayed for an extra week after the conference so that i got to exprience the city for a little while longer.
Of course my stay was made all the more interesting by the fact that my one of my Left Turn co-editors (Jordan Flaherty) lived down there and showed us around all week long. We went to local organizing meetings with people like Malik Rahim, Curtis Muhammad, and Robert King Wilkerson. We visited places like the Backstreet cultural museum, which "displays the essence of African American history and culture through permanent exhibits on Mardi Gras Indians, Traditional Jazz Funerals and Second Line Parades." (the image above this post is of a Mardi Gras Indian, wearing a costume of beads and feathers that likely took him close to a full year to make by hand). I was relieved to hear that the museum, which was located in the historic Treme community, survived the flooding.
Thanksgiving just passed and one of my friends (Una Osato) went down with the Common Ground 'Roadtrip for Relief' crew (hopefully she will let me post some of her reflections on this blog over the next few days) to do some support work for the local residents who are fighting not to be displaced once the city is re-built. Its strange but already im struggling to keep thinking about the importance of New Orleans. We are so trained to 'move on to the next big thing' that we just kind of end up paying attention to things as long as the media does and then its over, only to come up in casual conversation. Im going to re-new my personal efforts to stay on top of whats happening and what if any supportive role i can play. Van Jones recently wrote an interesting piece on the situation titled "Ressurect New Orleans, A Better City Is Possible" which appeared in Yes Magazine. There are a lot of different strategic viewpoints on how to ensure that the native black population will not be replaced by mickey mouse and more downtown hotels. Van mentions the "Green City" model as a possible rebuilding strategy but others question what impact that would have exactly. Either way lets all keep our eyes and ears open and not let this story die in our various 'activist circles'. Congratulations to everyone who went down to the Common Ground clinic for the holidays... that was really encouraging to hear. And remember to keep checking out Jordan's articles at Left Turn.org