After reading On Hurricane Katrina, From a Residents Perspective
, I began thinking about my own experiences there. I lived in New Orleans
from the fall of 1998 until 2001. I found New Orleans to be filled with a rich cultural experience, and fun atmosphere. Creativity in all forms were encouraged (it was here that I started my mural business, previously, I painted free). Partying was a way of life, even at work. What happened in New Orleans, really stayed in New Orleans, with the exception of a few video tapes.
On August 29, 2005, life at was came to a screeching halt. As “Hurricane Katrina blew over New Orleans, leaving death and destruction in her wake” (1), the party was sobered. The once striving arts community is now struggling, at best. It may be many years, even decades before New Orleans is restored to its previous glory. In addition, it is questionable that New Orleans will ever be the city it was. With that said, there is no reason it cannot be a great city again. From my experiences during my time as a New Orleans Resident, I observed many things that were in need of drastic change. Now is the time to move forward, make those changes, and create New Orleans anew.
Idea for fixing New Orleans Problems #1: Integrate the neighborhoods
I worked for the 2000 census bureau during my time in New Orleans. I walked the streets of many neighborhoods, good, bad, and indifferent. In the city of New Orleans, I observed a true lack of diversity within the neighborhoods. There were poor white neighborhoods, poor black neighborhoods, rich white neighborhoods, and rich black neighborhoods. The only exception was the warehouse district where I lived for year, and the historic districts, as most transplants from other cities lived there. These separate neighborhoods were rarely equal with the black versions always being a few notches beneath its white counterparts.
As an outsider, I was very appalled when I moved to a white suburb, by the treatment of my white neighbors (they ignored me completely and never let their kids play with mine). I was even more appalled by the way blacks treated my when they found out I lived in a “white” neighborhood. They would give suggestions as to where I should move because “those people don’t want us (n-word) living next door to them”. Yes, those were the exact words spoken by most.
The new, New Orleans should put a concerted effort into integrating the neighborhoods and living among people of different races.
Idea for fixing New Orleans Problems #2 Build storm resistant homes
I understand the nostalgia of rebuilding what you had and keeping the historic look of the city, however, the often shoddy, single story, shot-gun houses, will not stand up to another hurricane.
The old New Orleans can be immortalized in by the artists, in the art of the city. Painting of the old architecture can be hung in homes, and displayed in murals on city walls. However, new architecture does have to investigated that will stand up to harsh storms. Monolithic Dome homes have none of the character of a New Orleans home, but all of the artistic possibilities. One such home currently exists in Pensacola Beach, Florida. “With battering from Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Dennis and Katrina in 2005, Dome of a Home has taken its lickings – and survived them with no significant damage to the dome itself. Huge chunks of debris propelled by wind and water did, however, damage their geothermal well system and did create a major mess and clean up. (2)” If this is too much of a stretch, then the homes at least need to be built in a non-traditional way. A company called storm safe homes, for example uses concrete block and rebar construction, with upgrades hip rooms and hurricane straps.
Idea for fixing New OrleansProblems #3 Fix the educational system.
This is at least one area where people are getting involved and talking. Charter schools are being formed all over the city and some positive changes are happening. “New Orleans is likely to be the largest charter-school city in the country,” says Greg Richmond, president of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.” (3) This is a good start. My only caveat here is that parents get and stay involved in the process of building these schools and look at other schools around the country for what is truly groundbreaking and not settle for just a good education. Examine models like The Howard School in South GA and Exodus house in Harlem. Unless New Orleans raises a truly ground breaking educational system, which will change lives and bring life back to the city, the sins of the past will only return.