Saturday, March 31, 2012
Friday, March 30, 2012
OSBG is an important example of the ways in which the community of New Orleans, and specifically of the Lower Ninth Ward, has come together to re-establish their home in a post-Katrina world. The school is based in experiential learning, and focuses mostly on educating high school students, but clearly (since my house went there) also offers internships for college students/groups. The students of the school learn farming skills, that allow them to begin to sustainably grow their own food, in a neighborhood that is often referred to as a food desert (meaning no fresh food/produce is available). In reading through their website, I stumbled upon a paragraph describing their teaching method as "backwards design." In this model, every learning objective and activity is tailored back to an essential question, which for OSBG is "to what extent are we empowering at-risk youth to take leadership in making New Orleans, Louisiana the City that Ended Hunger?” OSBG is successfully helping to rebuild post-Katrina New Orleans, because not only does it provide survival skills to youth in need, it also empowers them to leave OSBG and bring the same ethos of backwards design to other parts of the communities that the students are a part of.
While OSBG is run by a teacher who is not from Louisiana, the program gives back to the community, and encourages the community to rebuild their home for themselves. This model becomes especially important in comparison to FEMA, and other federal aid attempts, in which local populations have little say in their own destiny. Through programs like OSBG, New Orleans can begin to take its fate back into its own hands.
For further reference and information: (there's also a bunch of newspaper articles!) OSBG's blog is @ http://schoolatblairgrocery.blogspot.com/
Studying New Orleans has made me think about an old friend of mine. Charles McMaster is from New Orleans and during Katrina, spent a couple days on his roof before being airlifted to safety. Shortly after, he moved into his aunt and uncle’s house a block away from my house in Tacoma, WA and went to my middle school until he moved back to New Orleans about a year later. I was not very involved in current events as a middle schooler and didn’t think of Katrina as anything much more than a horrible natural disaster. The weight of Charles’ situation did not really resonate with me at the time, but he has inspired me to explore the Katrina Diaspora.
The chart below gives a visual of the Diaspora. While most people moved locally, a significant amount landed as far as the West Coast, like Charles.
A former resident of the French Quarter in New Orleans, Ellis Anderson wrote “One town’s post-Katrina diaspora” from her town Bay St. Louis five years after the storm.
While she did not experience the storm from New Orleans, her writing reveals the difficulties in having a community torn apart, the struggle to keep it alive (whether by communicating via telephone or email to their old friends or by bringing their own Mardi Gras traditions to a new city) and come to terms with separation.
The following article offers information about the experiences of diaspora from New Orleans:
Like Denise in New Orleans After the Deluge, who fears going back to New Orleans but at the same time feels a sense of cowardice and shame for neglecting her community (see pg. 177), both articles document residents’ complex feelings for their city. While some simply don’t have the resources to return, others like Cheryl Banks-Jones don’t want to go back as they feel that the city has failed them. Meanwhile, people like Ellis are begging their friends to resettle or return themselves because they “do not feel fully alive any other place”. The personal accounts highlight how much a city can become an integral part of ones’ identity, and the manner in which big parts of New Orleanians were swept away in the hurricane as Denise describes. While Hurricane Katrina may have left many of the hard aspects of New Orleans in shambles, the soft aspects of music, food, and common experiences, are what Ellis says people miss most and what have kept the city alive. Whether residents resettled elsewhere or chose to rebuild in New Orleans, Katrina has brought to surface the deep and complex relationship that a city and resident can share.
The term Shotgun house has an unknown origin, but the common story relates to being able to fire a shotgun through the open front door of a house and having the shot exit through the back door since all the doors line up. Because the amount of land available in New Orleans was limited, most lots were usually a 30 foot width. This limitation of space for constructing larger residences precipitated the building of the narrow shotgun house. Following the end of Reconstruction, New Orleans experienced a growth spurt. Thousands of shotgun houses were built in the late 1800's. This style of house continued to be built until the 1920's.
The houses were built in three different types: single, double, and camelback. A single is a by itself stand alone residence. It has windows and doors at the front and back. Some examples did have windows on the side. The double shotgun is a two unit home that shares a common wall down the middle. This was the example of house Kim and Scott Roberts lived in before the flood from Hurricane Katrina. The last is is the camelback. The camelback has a small bedroom built on as a second floor to get more room out of the small dwelling. This "hump" on top gives the camelback its name.
Though the houses were fairly basic in design, there was room for a bit of flair from ornamentation. The roof vents and brackets that held up the roof over the front porch were usually quite ornate. The protruding roof over the front door created a covered porch. This in turn made an outdoor room for hot summer days and nights that better enabled visiting with neighbors. Kim and Scott's neighborhood exemplified this tradition of hanging out and visiting with neighbors on the front porch.
Although many of the shotgun houses were destroyed in the flood, there are many being salvaged. One example is shown on the This Old House wed site. http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/tv/house-project/overview/0,,20152647,00.html
I remember hearing about Treme when it first came out, but the two episodes we watched this week were my first introduction to the show. I wanted to find out more about the production behind the show, so I found a New York Times article that was published a few weeks before the show premiered on April 11, 2010. The reporter followed show creators David Simon and Eric Overmeyer around New Orleans, sat in on production, spoke with the HBO executives who first greenlighted the show, and paints an overall picture of all the forces that went in to the making of Treme. Overall, the producers wanted to emphasize the important role music played in New Orleans and used several real musicians in the show in smaller roles (Elvis Costello, Dr. John). When they pitched the show to HBO, they sent along an accompanying CD to evoke the feel of the show, intrinsically linking the music with the storytelling.
Simon developed Treme after his five year run on The Wire, a show he often described as attack against “the America that got left behind,” but he insists that Treme is not merely The Wire 2.0, and instead aims to focus more on indivual characters living life. He wanted to do a show in the New Orleans in the 90’s, but felt stumped coming up with a narrative that would sell and work well for television. They had no idea how to reduce New Orleans to a couple of pithy statements in a pitch meeting, and ended up shelving the idea until Hurricane Katrina hit. As the article shows, the showrunners are meticulous about details and accuracy, often using locals and experts on set to insure the script rings true. We talked in class how a viewer watching would see the man dressed in the full on Indian Chief costume and have no idea what was happening, which the article touches on. The reporter gives a brief description of the history, but her description doesn’t even begin to describe the nuances explored in George Lispitz’s “Mardi Gras Indians.”
“In contemporary New Orleans life, Mardi Gras Indians appear a few times a year, most notably at Mardi Gras in an elaborate feathered suit that, typically, they have spent the year designing and sewing, different every year, although no one seems to know exactly why. Some say that when the French controlled the slave trade and yellow fever and famine struck their settlements, the slaves fled inland and were given refuge by Native Americans. In that story, as a function of their gratitude, the slaves paid homage through song, dance and dress, the native and the West African traditions conjoining, a marriage that would help give birth to the music of New Orleans.”
The NY Times had an accompanying video feature of the 2 showrunners dissecting a scene from Treme that's worth checking out (only 2 minutes):
As someone who had just entered the seventh grade when Hurricane Katrina occurred, I have definitely learned a lot more about the real magnitude of the situation through our readings and discussions in class. The discussion about the diaspora in particular made me realize that this disaster, which I had never really looked into before, had so many ripple-like effects that I actually witnessed firsthand.
I am from Dallas, TX and attended a public school in the Plano Independent School District. As I was reading about the massive displacement of people from New Orleans to the nearby states, I had a sudden vivid memory of a particular day in early September. I had just stepped onto the school bus when I realized that there were about twice as many people sitting on the bus as usual, and I did not recognize any of them. The same thing kept happening during the rest of the day; more and more new kids were showing up, shyly introducing themselves in all of my classes. My teachers explained that they were joining us from New Orleans, where Hurricane Katrina had just hit. I remember there were murmurs of sympathy throughout the room but no one, myself included, really comprehended how devastated the city was by the floodwaters. However, looking at the number alone, it becomes clear how widespread the effects were. About 372,000 students were displaced from Louisiana and of that number, 12% (46,000) ended up enrolling in schools across Texas. Dallas-area school districts enrolled around 4,292 students, and 682 of those students attended Plano ISD schools like the one I went to. Congressman Sam Johnson, representing Dallas and surrounding counties, stated that: “The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has shown us what Americans are made of. We want to help those who can’t help themselves. There are countless Hurricane Hero stories. Our schools are no different. It’s time we say thank you for all they are doing to help folks rebuild their lives,” said Johnson.”( Source)
To educate my naïve 12-year-old self about the efforts that schools in my district were performing to raise money and awareness for Katrina, I dug through the old news archives of the Plano ISD website. I was immediately impressed by all of the organizations that were working to raise money and supplies for the victims from the elementary school all the way up to the senior high school level. (Source) I even remembered dutifully lugging a box full of water bottles and school supplies to class one day to donate to the cause; a mini-competition developed among the homeroom classes as to who could gather the most Katrina donations by the end of the month. While efforts like this may have seemed small at the time, recognizing the ability of school districts such as mine to lend a helping hand show both an awareness of the situation and willingness to help the victims return to a normal life.
^ This article seems particularly relevant in the wake of the highly publicized Trayvon Martin case, in which a young, unarmed African American male was shot and killed because he was deemed "threatening". Obviously, the differences between the cases abound - Martin's killer was a civilian, for one thing, and white, while the officers culpable here were a mixed-race group - but the knee-jerk impulse to shoot potential or suspected black offenders on-sight is one that seems to pervade among authorities (or those that think of themselves as such) in our country.
At any rate, this article serves to solidify my new understanding of the state of affairs in New Orleans immediately following the storm. I used to ascribe to the old "citizenry run rampant" narrative, but after witnessing in Trouble the Water and A.D. a largely positive camaraderie among the affected, as well as how many of the so-called "thugs" responsible for raids and other widely publicized legal transgressions actually did a better job of caring for people than did the authorities (as is the case in A.D.'s Denise storyline), I have a different view of who may have been to blame for contributing to the disaster in certain situations; as this article states, "it has become apparent that some of the bloodshed and chaos was brought about by members of the long-troubled police department". While I don't know much about the NOPD, the "long-troubled" descriptor may specify why, on the Treme Wikipedia page, Terry Colson is listed as "an honest cop" (I sort of figured all cops were presumed honest). (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treme_(TV_series) )
The cover-up element of this case is particularly disturbing, and makes me wonder about the dynamite rumor brought up in A.D. and refuted by Treme's Creighton Bernette. I'm pretty sure that one's been debunked in the years since, but perhaps there have been other Katrina-related governmental cover-ups that haven't even been brought to light yet.
This video is from the documentary's Kickstarter campaign and oddly does not have a lot of information on the film itself. Rather, the directors and producers focus on why they need money: to pay music royalties. The subjects of Tchoupitoulas only appear in the first 50 seconds of the video. The following four minutes consist of the directors trying to charm you out of your money. As far as marketing campaigns go, it's not a completely ineffective one; they have just under $9000 dollars to fundraise before they meet their goal.
I was drawn to this movie mostly because of its title. The Wild Tchoupitoulas is the name of one of the Mardi Gras Indian tribes and I initially thought that would be the focus of the documentary. Imagine my surprise, then, when I find out that it's about three boys wandering around the (forbidden) French Quarter. There was an odd relationship between my expectation and reality. The Mardi Gras Indians seem to be a rejection of the French Quarter's rendition of Mardi Gras. Then, to take a name closely tied to the Indians and apply it to a film about the French Quarter is somewhat jarring.
I was hoping that the video would address some of my questions, but it was pretty thoroughly unhelpful in that department. Instead, it rehashed the idea of music being integral to New Orleans culture. While I certainly don't disagree with this stance, I wish there was a more unique message to this film.
Climate Central, a New Jersey organization, has come up with this really cool interactive feature where you can put in your zip code and then find out what the flooding projection looks like for that place. I clicked on New Orleans and it came up saying that 72.5% of the population, 69.2% of the houses, and 74% of the acreage are below 1 ft above sea level. Then it says that there is "Over 1 in 6 chance sea level rise + storm surge + tide will overtop +1ft by 2020." This year seemed a good long way in the distance when I first read it, but in actuality, that's only 8 years from now! This means that a huge amount of New Orleans' population will be displaced again, and rebuilding will be a never-ending battle. This is more than an issue of people and their homes; this is a lesson in caring for the environment. Climate change is only going to make things worse for everyone, and people in these places are prime examples of mother nature's wrath at the way we have treated her.