Saturday, August 30, 2008

NEW ORLEANS AUGUST 30, 2008: THE DAY AFTER -- THE DAY BEFORE. MARKING THE 3RD ANNIVERSARY OF KATRINA



It is really quiet in the city. The sounds of everday life - they are subdued. Certain neighborhoods are more active then others. More boards are being drilled over windows today, and yet much less boarding up activity is occurring than I would expect after experiencing hurricanes in FLA/Virgin Islands. I haven't left New Orleans as yet. I heard that Whole Foods is selling off prepared foods off half price today before they close at 2 pm today. Rue was closed but the kind folks at Zotz had hot beverages brewing on Maple Street. Last night after filling all 4 tires with air - the back drivers side tire which had some construction debris stuck in it and the tire went flat. Luckily, just as I pulled out of the truckers gas station by the Lowes on Elysian Fields. The owner came out to help Nature change the tire. Nature is my storm buddy. He is a great poet, he can say a powerful prayer, and he is a talented carpenter/painter/tileman. Where he lacks talent -- anything having to do with cars. So the owners help was a great help. I was able to get the tire plugged on St. Claude Avenue this morning. $15 to plug the hole - holes. At first they asked for $20 and I agreed just happy to get the tire repaired - then it hit me -- $20 to plug a tire. It has cost me $5 before on St. Claude - but that was the tire place further down. So in the end I negotiated $15 with a $2 tip. Which was all the cash I had.

You know, as I have driven around the city of New Orleans these last few days, I have been conscious of how the city traffic (foot and car) has been changing. I am aware of how people have been leaving in what I perceive to be cycles. I seem to be keenly aware of traffic flow, who is still around, and what they are doing. Yesterday I saw a lot of pillows - either in peoples hands or being packed into cars. Yesterday and the previous day - I heard (and saw them chug on by) many cars that were struggling to get down the road seemingly on their way to get some band-aid repairs to get their owners out of the city.

For many New Orleans residents rebuilding, the anniversary of Katrina was marked by ongoing rebuilding efforts. There was an expereince of building and battening down the hatches on the streets on Friday August 29, 2008.


This morning in the city, I was aware of how quiet the car traffic was, there was more foot traffic and the car traffic seemed to be specific as there are many businesses which are closed. Kudos to the businessmen who have stayed open to help people like myself with last minute car repairs. Last night around 11 p.m. you could see the homeless gathering on Oreatha Castle Haley by the mission and under the highway. I noticed off to my right, a group of 5 people walking with their belongings towards the closed mission. There will be buses to take the homeless to shelters.

For the tourists, there hasn't been a whole lot for them to do as even some of the Quarter businesses closed for the hurricane. This morning Mayor Nagin has asked the tourists to leave.
My experiences so far have been about trying to get the car repaired, packing today, helping Nature who is my storm buddy get his things together, be there the best I can for friends and strangers, and observe the reality I am a part of in this moment. I have spoken to Ulla, three years ago day she was pregnant, alone and evacuating. This time, she is surrounded, upheld, and supported by those who love her. Another friend is leaving with her family on a bus for a shelter in Northern Louisiana, she and her children went through a living hell 3 years ago - they are still in crisis as a family - they will be safe and together. Uncle G and Kiki will be staying at his parents home - safe. I left a message for Mrs. G as I had spoke with her a few days ago, I am not sure with which relative she is with but I know for sure she is safe. I guess what I am sharing with you is that these are my dear friends who have been previously traumatized, and who have been going through sufferations since, and who are revisiting a similar traumatizing event on the anniversary of the previous one. And this is not specific to them - it is specific to a whole region, hundreds of thousands of people...

I was so tired yesterday. I went to get something to eat in the grocery store and met a woman in the isles who was just going through so much, and her stress levels were so high, that she needed in that moment, to process with a stranger, me. She told me later that she is a nurse. I was glad to be of service AND was already one step beyond weary -- by last night I was unable to center myself and found myself anxious, fearful, and crying. This mornings sun and a good nights rest has helped. So has the loving support around me. What is interesting for me is that I am so tired that I cannot help volunteer - which is the reason I am here. I just don't have anything extra in me. That doesn't stop my ego from beating me up for not being able to do more...


My plan is...

When I finish this posting, I am going to begin to pack and get ready to evacuate later in the day. The highways are bumper to bumper right now. My plan as of this posting is to leave early evening or later, when there are less folks on the road. I am taking my time, keeping my stress levels low and letting those who call me that I will talk to them when I have plenty of time on the road most likely sitting in traffic and update them then.

At the same time, my heart/spirit is holding how evacuation is particularly difficult on those already at risk and often living in crisis from paycheck to paycheck. For many, car repairs are needed to get family and friends out of town. For others, there is the trauma related to 3 years ago and for them -- how going through many of these same motions of packing and making decisions what to take and where to go -- is a great emotional and psychological strain. For many impacted by this natural weather pattern for this area, the high gas prices brings with them, the extra strain of having to travel. For those who cannot take their food with them, there is the throwing out all of their food (unless you can travel with a cooler) - the refrigerator lessons from Katrina/levy failure flooding -- travel monies, picking up prescriptions, etc. For others there is making the difficult decision between paying their rent and having the funds available to get out of the city, often with their families.

PHOTO: There is so much building debris on the ground in many at risk neighborhoods. I call at risk neighborhoods as neighborhoods where the people who have recently rebuilt are at risk of damage directly related to the construction sites nearby them. If there is wind, this debris becomes projectiles. If there is water, flooding -- as the storm drains become clogged with the debris.

Will the levy's hold? I think that is the greatest concern. Yeah, everyone is leaving in an orderly and calm fashion - everyone who can be saved will be. But what will happen to the levy's? What affect with the storm surges have on the structural integrity of the levy's.

Hurricane Gustav is the residents, the city of New Orleans, and the state of Louisiana's, first test of whether it is really safe to rebuild.


Blessings.
your planetary sister in New Orleans.

SEEN: BANKSY in NEW ORLEANS - Elysian Fields & Chartres



Seeing Banky's work in person and being able to take in the energy of this artist through his work; especially as I have been an admirer of his work in Palestine... Wow, what an honour to come upon his work at Elysian Fields & Chartres.

peace.



http://www.banksy.co.uk/outdoors/horizontal_1.htm


Friday, August 29, 2008

"WHAT'S YOUR PLAN?"


My neighbor pulled his boat out of the weeds this morning. I guess this photo says what needs to be said about the situation for too many people still at risk in New Orleans on this 3rd anniversary of Katrina and the levy failure related flooding.

I'm tired. So are many of my friends. There are people and families I know that have been in crisis since Katrina, keeping their heads and hearts "above water" so to speak. Some have already left. Some are planning not to come back. Often these are the craftsmen and carpenters. They tell me they cannot compete with the prices the Mexican laborer's are willing to accept and still raise their families. For others whom I know, going through the same motions of packing and evacuating on the anniversary of Katrina, one of the greatest national natural and man-mismanaged disasters, is taking a toll on them emotionally and psychologically. And with staunch big easy good humour, they will tell you, "we were going away for the holiday weekend anyway to visit family, friends," and once again I witness sweet lemonade being brought forth from what others would perceive as sour lemons.

I noticed yesterday in my travels through the city of New Orleans that in the previously hardest hit neighborhoods, many of the people whom I would see walking in the streets and hanging out on their porches and stoops, were noticeably not there. Traffic patterns were different as I needed to drive from Broad Street and Paris Avenue to Metarie. Usually it is a very stressful drive as their are many speeders and tailgaters on highway I-10. Yesterday, it seemed to myself and a friend in the car with me that people were driving with more care and thoughtfulness. Less personal drama being acted out on the highway and more contemplative, thoughtful actions. I perceived that their was a drawing together of community and consciousness as people were not only reflecting on the anniversary and their lives 3 years ago and since, but also a sense of we need to work together to get where we all need to go and take care of business.

I perceive that alot of people have already left. I am living Uptown at the time in the Black Pearl neighborhood if you want to Google where that is situated in New Orleans. It is a part of the city built on high ground. It is also where a good bit of the wealth is concentrated. I was speaking with someone who works at the Audubon Zoo this morning who will be staying to take care of the animals, he told me the National Guard and other rescue workers will be staying there as a base camp. What I didn't like is when he began telling me how they were needed to protect the people uptown from being looted by the people downtown. There is such an incredible disparity between those who have and those who do not here. And such fear of "other" - i.e. many of my friends and adopted family members from the inner city, 7th Ward, Desire and 9th Ward. In the local grocery store this morning the clerks were speaking of not losing their belongings "again" and who is shifting their belongings uptown and the sense of safety they feel here as they won;t have to worry about looters. Wow, after a few of those conversations this morning, I just needed to go lie down for awhile. It is amazing that racism and fear of other can transcend the reality of we are all planetary brothers and sisters on this ONE PLANET living here together - trying to make it through another day.

Well, I have a lot to do today. Laundry to wash and hang out. Car parts to pick up in Metarie. Car repairs to get done in Gentilly. A house to sort and pack. What I take and leave behind (besides the essentials) depending on the predicted category strength. I will be evacuating with a friend of mine who went through Katrina, the flooding and waiting to be evacuated 3 years ago to a friends empty house in Mississippi on high land in the woods.

As much as I would like to write more there is the delicate balance of sharing what is happening, with the need to take care of myself and be there for those around me who are in need or crisis.

I perceive as someone living here in New Orleans on this 3rd anniversary of one of our nations greatest national disasters, great communal grief and a solemn quietness in the streets. I also perceive an emptiness, whilst still hearing the sounds of power drills and hammers which speak of the future and hope.

I have about 45o photo's I took on Wednesday August 27 to put up when I have a chance to edit them.

I am very tired. I don't believe I am alone in this experience.

Blessings and prayers for the suffering on this anniversary of Katrina and the levy failure related flooding. And blessings and strength to all who are packing and preparing to evacuate, who are on the highways as I write, who are in their homes trying to figure out if they should pay the rent or use the money to take them, their elderly relatives, and their children out of harms way.

your planetary sister in New Orleans.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

THREE YEARS AFTER KATRINA: A CITY STILL SEARCHES FOR RECOVERY


Three Years After Katrina


While Republicans and Democrats Gather and Celebrate, A City Still Searches for Recovery
By Jordan Flaherty
http://www.leftturn.org/


While much of the media focuses on conventions and running mates, the third anniversary of Katrina offers an opportunity to examine the results of disastrous federal, state and local policy on the people of New Orleans. Several organizations have released powerful reports in the past week, examining the current state of the city; while grassroots activists have plans to broadcast their message from the streets. For those who have heard only uplifting stories about the city's recovery, the facts on the ground offer an urgent reminder of the ongoing disaster.

According to a study by PolicyLink, 81 percent of those who received the Federally-funded, State-administered Road Home grants had insufficient resources to cover their damages. The average Road Home applicant fell about $35,000 short of the money they need to rebuild their home, and African-American households on average had an almost 35% higher shortfall than white households.

More than one in three residential addresses – over 70,000 - remain vacant or unoccupied, according to a report by the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center. While workers with Brad Pitt's Make It Right project are working on overdrive to finish the first of their scores of planned houses in the notoriously devastated Lower Ninth Ward, the neighborhood overall ranks far behind other neighborhoods in recovery, with only 11 percent of its pre-Katrina number of households. The same report notes that since the devastation of the city, rents have raised by 46% citywide (much more in some neighborhoods), while many city services remain very limited – for example, only 21% of public transit buses are running.

Race and Class

Its not only radicals that speak of race and class divisions in New Orleans. A poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 70% of residents feel we're divided by class and/or race. The Kaiser survey also found unity among New Orleanians: we're united in feeling forgotten by the rest of the US. Eight out of 10 said the federal government has not provided sufficient support. Nearly two-thirds think that the US public has largely forgotten about the city.

The survey found large percentages saying that their own situation has deteriorated. Fifty-three percent of low- income residents report that their financial situation is worse today than pre-Katrina. The percentage of residents who say they have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness such as depression has tripled since 2006.

There is a continuing debate about how many people live in the new New Orleans, with no definitive figures until the next complete census. But last year, the census bureau estimated a population of 239,000. Other analysts – and Mayor C. Ray Nagin – estimate the population to be nearly 100,000 higher. By any measurement, the growth in that number has stagnated, while even optimistic figures report that 150,000 - 200,000 former residents (out of a former population of nearly 500,000) have been unable to return. The once nearly 70% African American city is now estimated to be less than 50% African American, a change reflected in the changing face of electoral politics statewide. While Republicans have been losing across the US, Christian Coalition candidate Bobby Jindal was easily elected Governor last year, and in the city, decades of Black-majority city council shifted to a white majority.

Blank Slate or Burial Ground

Much of the change in the city is led by a new strata of the city's population – planners, architects, developers, and other reformers. Many of them self-identify as "YURPs" – Young, Urban Rebuilding Professionals - in their work with countless nonprofits, foundations, and businesses. Some have spoken of New Orleans as a blank slate on which they can project and practice their ideas of reform, whether in health care, architecture, urban planning, or education. What this worldview leaves out, according to some advocates, is the people who lived here before, who are the most affected by these changes, and have the least say in how they are carried out. "It wasn't a blank slate, it was a cemetery," says poet and educator Kalamu Ya Salaam. "People were killed, and they're building on top of their bones."

The vast majority of New Orleans' new professionals have come here with the best intentions, with a love for this city and a desire to help with the recovery. However, many activists criticize what they see as token attempts at community involvement, and a paternalistic attitude among many of the new decision makers.

For example, our education system was in crisis pre-Katrina, and certainly needed revolutionary change. Change is what we have gotten – the current system is in many ways unrecognizable from the system of three years ago – but this revolution has been overwhelmingly led from outside, with little input from the parents, students and staff of the New Orleans school system.

Shortly after the post-Katrina evacuation of the city, the entire staff of the public school system was fired. Not long after that, school board officials chose to end recognition or negotiation with the teachers' union – the largest union in the city, and arguably the biggest outlet of Black middle class political power in the city. Since then, the school landscape has changed remarkably – from staff to decision-making structure to facilities. According to Tulane professor Lance Hill, "New Orleans has experienced a profound change in who governs schools and a dramatic reduction of parent and local taxpayer control of schools."

The school system used to consist of 128 schools, 124 of them controlled by the New Orleans School Board. Now according to Hill, 88 have opened for the fall, and "50 of them are charter schools (privatized management) governed by self-appointed, self-perpetuating boards; 33 are run by the State Department of Education through the Recovery School District; and only five are governed by the elected school board."

"There are now 42 separate school systems operating in New Orleans," Hill continues, with their own "school policies, including teacher requirements, curriculum, discipline policies, enrollment limits, and social promotions. Publicly accountable schools in which parents have methods for publicly redressing grievances are limited to only five schools (5.6% of the total)."

Several recent articles have expressed excitement and admiration for the new school system, including pieces in the New York Times and the New Orleans Times-Picayune. For school reformers, who came to New Orleans with a desire to try out the changes they had imagined, this represents a dream come true. They have media support, federal, state and city officials on their side, and a massive influx of cheap (and young, idealistic) labor. Teach for America supplied 112 teachers last year, has committed 250 this year, and a projected 500 next year, while tens of millions of dollars in funding is coming through sources such as the Gates and Walton foundations.

There is no doubt that some students receive an excellent education in the new school districts, but critics are concerned that the students that are being left behind, are those that need the most help – those without someone to advocate for them, to research and apply for the best schools. According to New Orleanian Kalamu Ya Salaam, who is director of a school program called Students at the Center, the new systems represent "an experimentation with privatization, and everything that implies."

Although the new charter schools have been able to choose from the best facilities and have used methods such as state standardized tests to pick only select students (including 40% fewer special education students), there are still serious questions over the extent to their much-heralded success. G.W. Carver School, the subject of a fawning NYTimes piece last Spring, received an 88% failure rate for English and an 86% failure rate for math on state standardized tests.

Anniversary and Commemoration

August 29, the anniversary of the devastation of the city, falls between the Democratic and Republican conventions. While the Democratic and Republican parties crown their nominees, activists on the ground will be on the streets, still fighting for a just recovery. "It ain't to rain on Obama's parade," says Sess 4-5, a New Orleans-based hip hop star and activist, "but the people down here need the world to understand that its still a tragic situation. The rent has tripled, the health care system is in shambles, we have less access to education for our kids. The working class and poor are being exploited, while everyone at the top is getting fat off our misery."

"We think August 29 should be holy day, not a day for business as usual," explains Sess, who is one of the organizers of a Katrina March and Commemoration, starting Friday morning in the Lower Ninth Ward, and marching into the 7th Ward. That march is one of two activist commemorations in the city that day, the other starting uptown, near the BW Cooper development, one of the major housing developments torn down this year. "The Mayor announced to the world that New Orleans was 'open for business' but we're here to tell you that it is closed for families," declares former public housing resident Barbara Jackson, who will be part of the demonstration at BW Cooper, called Sankofa Day of Commemoration. "Five thousand demolished homes. Eight thousand new jail beds. This is their one for one replacement plan for us."

Taking to the streets is not the only agenda of local activists. In New Orleans, people have been organizing at the grassroots, working together to build a movement. In the aftermath of the US Social Forum last year in Atlanta, a broad coalition of social justice organizations began meeting monthly to combine efforts. This group, called the Organizers Roundtable, is an important spot for collaborations and community building.

It's been community, not foundations or government, that has led this city's recovery at the grassroots. Bayou Road - a street of Black-owned, community-oriented, businesses in New Orleans' seventh ward – has rebuilt post-Katrina to more businesses than they had before the storm. It hasn't been government help that has enabled these businesses to come back, but the effort of community members coming together. It was also local support that brought back the membership of many cultural organizations, like the network of Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs, the century-old Black community institutions who organize secondline parades nearly every weekend throughout the year, as well as benefits for causes such as school supplies for students.

Nationally, the Right to the City alliance (RTTC), a coalition of organizations that focuses on urban issues such as health care, criminal justice, and education, sees the continuing crisis on the Gulf as central to their work, referring to New Orleans as "the front lines in the struggle against displacement and gentrification in the US." They are co-sponsoring the march in New Orleans, as well as actions in seven other cities, including Los Angeles, New York City, Oakland, Providence, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and Miami.

The work of RTTC deserves special notice, as a coalition that has worked to support the struggles of the people of New Orleans, and to bring that struggle and solidarity home to their own communities, while taking guidance from voices on the ground. In this time of many competing visionaries struggling to reshape this city, that willingness to listen to the people who lives are being affected, and to take that struggle and those lessons home to their own communities, may be the radical change New Orleans needs most.


Jordan Flaherty is a journalist based in New Orleans, and an editor of Left Turn Magazine. He was the first writer to bring the story of the Jena Six to a national audience and his reporting on post-Katrina New Orleans has been published and broadcast in outlets including Die Zeit (Europe's largest circulation newspaper), Al-Jazeera, TeleSur, and Democracy Now.


Resources for Information and Action:
Reports:
Greater New Orleans Community Data Center
http://www.gnocdc.org/

Kaiser Family Foundation Poll
http://www.kff.org/kaiserpolls/7789.cfm

Policylink Report:
http://www.policylink.org/threeyearslater

Activism:
Right To The City Alliance
http://www.righttothecity.org/

Katrina Information Network Schedule of Commemoration Events:
http://www.katrinaaction.org/node/339

Sankofa New Orleans March
http://www.sankofanola.org/

Katrina March and Commemoration
http://katrinacommemoration.ning.com/

Safe Streets Strong Communities
http://www.safestreetsnola.org/

INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence
http://www.incite-national.org/

Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children
http://www.fflic.org/

New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice
http://www.neworleansworkerjustice.org/

Justice for New Orleans
http://www.justiceforneworleans.org/

Color Of Change
http://www.colorofchange.org/

Media and More:
Left Turn Magazine:
http://www.leftturn.org/

Grit TV, hosted by Laura Flanders – Week of 8/18 featured excellent coverage of New Orleans
http://lauraflanders.firedoglake.com/

Kalamu Ya Salaam
http://www.kalamu.com/

Monday, August 25, 2008

Katrina Pain Index – New Orleans Three Years Later


Published on Monday, August 25, 2008 by CommonDreams.org
Katrina Pain Index – New Orleans Three Years Later
by Bill Quigley


0. Number of renters in Louisiana who have received financial assistance from the $10 billion federal post-Katrina rebuilding program Road Home Community Development Block Grant — compared to 116,708 homeowners.


0. Number of apartments currently being built to replace the 963 public housing apartments formerly occupied and now demolished at the St. Bernard Housing Development.

0. Amount of data available to evaluate performance of publicly financed privately run charter schools in New Orleans in 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 school years.

.008. Percentage of the rental homes that were supposed to be repaired and occupied by August 2008 which were actually completed and occupied — a total of 82 finished out of 10,000 projected.

1. Rank of New Orleans among U.S. cities in percentage of housing vacant or ruined.


1. Rank of New Orleans among U.S. cities in murders per capita for 2006 and 2007.


4. Number of the 13 City of New Orleans Planning Districts that are at the same risk of flooding as they were before Katrina.


10. Number of apartments being rehabbed so far to replace the 896 apartments formerly occupied and now demolished at the Lafitte Housing Development.


11. Percent of families who have returned to live in Lower Ninth Ward.


17. Percentage increase in wages in the hotel and food industry since before Katrina.


20-25. Years that experts estimate it will take to rebuild the City of New Orleans at current pace.


25. Percent fewer hospitals in metro New Orleans than before Katrina.


32. Percent of the city’s neighborhoods that have fewer than half as many households as they did before Katrina.


36. Percent fewer tons of cargo that move through Port of New Orleans since Katrina.


38. Percent fewer hospital beds in New Orleans since Katrina.


40. Percentage fewer special education students attending publicly funded privately run charter schools than traditional public schools.


41. Number of publicly funded privately run public charter schools in New Orleans out of total of 79 public schools in the city.


43. Percentage of child care available in New Orleans compared to before Katrina.


46. Percentage increase in rents in New Orleans since Katrina.


56. Percentage fewer inpatient psychiatric beds than before Katrina.


80. Percentage fewer public transportation buses now than pre-Katrina.


81. Percentage of homeowners in New Orleans who received insufficient funds to cover the complete costs to repair their homes.


300. Number of National Guard troops still in City of New Orleans.


1080. Days National Guard troops have remained in City of New Orleans.


1250. Number of publicly financed vouchers for children to attend private schools in New Orleans in program’s first year.


6,982. Number of families still living in FEMA trailers in metro New Orleans area.


8,000. Fewer publicly assisted rental apartments planned for New Orleans by federal government.


10,000. Houses demolished in New Orleans since Katrina.


12,000. Number of homeless in New Orleans even after camps of people living under the bridge has been resettled — double the pre-Katrina number.


14,000. Number of displaced families in New Orleans area whose hurricane rental assistance expires March 2009.


32,000. Number of children who have not returned to public school in New Orleans, leaving the public school population less than half what is was pre-Katrina.


39,000. Number of Louisiana homeowners who have applied for federal assistance in repair and rebuilding who have still not received any money.


45,000. Fewer children enrolled in Medicaid public healthcare in New Orleans than pre-Katrina.

46,000. Fewer African American voters in New Orleans in 2007 gubernatorial election than 2003 gubernatorial election.


55,000. Fewer houses receiving mail than before Katrina.


62,000. Fewer people in New Orleans enrolled in Medicaid public healthcare than pre-Katrina.


71,657. Vacant, ruined, unoccupied houses in New Orleans today.


124,000. Fewer people working in metropolitan New Orleans than pre-Katrina.


132,000. Fewer people in New Orleans than before Katrina, according to the City of New Orleans current population estimate of 321,000 in New Orleans.


214,000. Fewer people in New Orleans than before Katrina, according to the U.S. Census Bureau current population estimate of 239,000 in New Orleans.


453,726. Population of New Orleans before Katrina.


320 million. The number trees destroyed in Louisiana and Mississippi by Katrina.


368 million. Dollar losses of five major metro New Orleans hospitals from Katrina through 2007. In 2008, these hospitals expect another $103 million in losses.


1.9 billion. FEMA dollars scheduled to be available to metro New Orleans for Katrina damages that have not yet been delivered.


2.6 billion. FEMA dollars scheduled to be available to State of Louisiana for Katrina damages that have not yet been delivered.




Bill is a human rights lawyer, a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans and author of the forthcoming book, STORMS STILL RAGING: Katrina, New Orleans and Social Justice. A version with all sources included is available. Bill’s email is quigley77@gmail.com. For more information see the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center and Policy Link.

CALLING NEW ORLEANS HOME


This is a photo of where I once lived most of the time before I came to New Orleans.

Off to the left in this photo, if you follow the dirt road about 3/4's of a mile down, take the rickety wood bridge over a small stream, keep driving further down the dirt road, past the lower fields, just before another stream you will find the woods and fields I once slept in nightly for years before moving to New Orleans.

One winter I slept in a tent next to the barn in this photo on the right hand side. It was so bitter cold. I slept at night on the land on this farm up until December 2006 after which I came to New Orleans as a volunteer. This past week I returned to MA for a long overdue spiritual retreat. Whilst in Massachusetts, I made the decision with the love and support of my spiritual teacher and community, to stay in New Orleans and make it my home. New Orleans had begun calling my heart sometime ago. Last Monday when I got off the plane in New Orleans I kept repeating to my friend Victorine, "I am home, I am home." And I knew I meant it.

With my decision to move to New Orleans come the decison to move to a new neighborhood. I am hoping that I can find "my neighborhood" in this New Orleans post-Katrina rental market. It may not happen with this new apartment as I am dependent upon timing and this rental market is horrendous. Check out this link for one bedroom apartments in NOLA: http://neworleans.craigslist.org/apa/

What a joke. It seems like the rental market in NOLA is designed for wealthier Tulane and Loyola students & the Doctors and Nurses needed to run the soon to be booming medical industry and I sometimes feel as if some of the new apartment complexes are being built to lure in retirees to fill the hospital beds. Donald Trump has a sign up that he will be building in the CBD and the CBD is being marketed as the up and coming "luxury" area. Most of the houses/apartments up around where I live at this posting seem to be becoming student housing. I assume the mathematics may be more bodies per household = higher rents. My neighborhood which used to be 60% Black New Orleanians to about 40% Caucasian/mixed race, has to my eye, changed to @65% Caucasian/few Asians to about 30% Black New Orleanians and these demographics are changing fast. I have been feeling for some months as if I am beginning to live in a white collegiate bastion of privilege and it is depleting to my spirit.

With these new changes will come changes to the blog. I had hoped to have posted slide shows of some of the thousands of photo's I have taken over the year of post-Katrina New Orleans - my brand spanking new 500 gb external hard drive had other ideas - such as its driver not recognizing my computer. I working on having the photo data salvaged as I would like to donate these photos to the The Hurricane Digital Memory Bank and the New Orleans African American Museum. Unfortunately, they will not be available for any anniversary memorials this year.

I had hoped to go to the Layfette Reggae festival with some friends, we are all waiting to see what happens with the storm Gustav. I have a storm buddy - we will both be looking out for each other first. Once we meet up, we can help friends from there. My car has a full tank of gas and I have water for 3 days. I just need to get some dried fruits, nuts, protein bars so that I have some provisions in case of emergency. I have a tent and plenty of experience 'roughing it'.

So that's the news for now. When I get fresh photo's I'll post them. I hope to continue to share stories on my expereinces of New Orleans - I just don't know if I can continue to document and share stories related to Katrina and the levy related flooding. I am burnt out. I am saturated emotionally and tired. As a friend of mine who went through Katrina/flooding shared with me "everybody has a Katrina story and none of them is good. You gotta take care of yourself now."



PHOTOS: Upper 9th Ward - Piety & Dorgenois, Jonathon Lockett School being demolished. Piety & Law. Law & Louisa Streets. Louisa & N. Dorgenois. N. Dorgenois & Clouet. Clouet & N. Rocheblave. Clouet & N. Tonti. 7th Ward - N. Miro, Annette & N. Tonti. N. Tonti between Annette & St. Anthony. Bayou Road & Barracks. Gov. Nichols by Claiborne. @ 200 photo's. The most difficult photo's personally, was watching the destruction of Jonathon Lockett School.


I am going to take some time off to find my New Orleanian neighborhood. After I move, I will see what direction I feel my heart calling me. My hearts call will feed the passion that will inform my work.


Until then --
may you experience Divine guidance, blessings and love.
your planetary sister in New Orleans.

Thank you for your readership over this last year.