While volunteering this weekend at the Broadmoor Fest, many of my students came away with a sense that Broadmoor had gotten on its feet and was moving forward in its rebuilding effort. They were told of the fundraising efforts for both the Library and the School, and were told by residents as well of their individual rebuilding efforts (and headaches). Given these observations, they wanted to know if all the money raised by Broadmoor this weekend was going to the Lower 9th Ward to help them recover. They were surprised when I told them that what funds might be left-over from the Festival after paying bills would probably go towards the Library. They wanted to know why Broadmoor (and other neighborhoods) aren’t helping other worse-off neighborhoods get back on their feet.
I tried to answer their questions critically, trying to dispel their “taken-for-granted” approach that Broadmoor had received Federal and State Aid (and insurance money) to recover. Many of you who have experienced the Road Home or FEMA or Insurance Adjustors or the SBA know that the “recovery” has been born on YOUR shoulders. New Orleans residents have, for the most part, been totally ignored by the Federal and State governments. What my students see in Broadmoor, I told them, is a reflection of the work by many residents who were first challenged and threatened by the prospect that Broadmoor didn’t matter and was going to be turned into one big Greenspace. We in Broadmoor defended ourselves from outside threats to a community we all felt a strong sense of place and identity in. We cared about not only how we were going to recover but also how our neighbors were going to recover and how we all would work to bring back our neighbors and our neighborhood. The students also heard that the level of recovery needed in the City was beyond the level that even neighborhoods and their residents should bare totally by themselves. Non-profits also cannot completely rebuild New Orleans—it takes a gargantuan national will and funding effort through governmental institutions to make the city fully recovered and safe again.
What I also told the students is the incredible injustice the Lower 9th Ward experienced before and after the storm. The dispersal of these residents makes it incredibly difficult to organize efforts to rebuild the neighborhood and community. The fact that many are still fighting the government(s) and insurance for restitution is another example of this injustice. I told the students that there were other significant impediments to rebuilding the Lower 9th Ward. But when it came to Broadmoor, we were in the middle of a fight for our own neighborhood and this occupied much if not all of our efforts.
For the “occasional” readers of the Blog—those of you who I call friends from New Orleans--what can I tell my students about how you feel about Broadmoor’s (or any New Orleans neighborhood’s) relationship to the Lower 9th Ward in their recovery efforts? What role do other New Orleans neighborhoods have or need to have in helping advocate for the rebuilding of the Lower 9th Ward and other devastated areas in New Orleans?