Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Who Is Helping the Lower 9th Today?

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?


Karen said...

To me, when people say "The Lower 9th Ward" they mean poor people. As anyone who has lived here or lives here knows the poor are scattered throughout the City is all Neighborhoods.

I think the better question is what should we be doing about renters? What should we be doing about the lack of Health Care, public transportation, basic infrastructure and on and on.

To put the burden of the Lower 9 on Broadmoor is an argument that suggests there is no self organization in the Lower 9 and that other people have to come in and help.

The Lower 9 has an active and engaged population helping themselves.It is a very paternalistic approach to suggest that "Broadmoor" or any other Neighborhood who is itself fighting for survival rush in to rescue.

Neighborhoos connect and contact each other, there is a lot of exchanging and connecting neighborhood to neighborhood.

Banzai Bill said...

What Lower 9th Ward groups can I point to? I know of the success at MLK Elementary School, and of course the work by Common Ground. If possible, point me to some other sources so I can present this in my class this week. Thanks, Banzai

Karen said...



Both PAtricia Jones and Pam Dashiell are doing amazing work

Bart Everson said...

An excellent question, and I do think Karen's answer it's on the mark. I attended an seminar at Harvard with Latoya Cantrell (Broadmoor) and Patricia Jones (Lower 9). You'd think that would give me some insights, but beyond what Karen said I can't think of much. It seems each neighborhood has been focused on fighting for its own life so much that I can't imagine the luxury of helping another 'hood besides my own.... though clearly we all have to stand together on some things.

Vicky said...

Ditto what Bart and Karen said. One organization, the Alliance for Affordable Energy, is concentrating a lot of efforts on the Lower 9th (I believe it may be in conjunction with Global Green).

Forest Bradley-Wright