The Patriotism of the 1619 Project

On August 20, 1619, a ship carrying about 20 enslaved Africans arrived in Point Comfort, a coastal port in the British colony of Virginia. 

If you have somehow missed the rollout of the New York Times 1619 project, I hope you will find time to get a printed copy, listen to the podcasts, or find  another way to catch up. This project – groundbreaking, truth-telling, and comprehensive – is a tremendously collaborative endeavor, created and led by brilliant journalist Nikole-Hannah Jones that offers a wide base of knowledge about America’s entanglement with enslavement, and how our systems have been designed to subjugate people, using the construct of race. The other great point made across the essays, the photos, the podcasts, and more is how deeply felt the patriotism is among black Americans who continue to patiently reach out to their fellow compatriots to try to explain what must be fixed.

Excerpts from Nikole-Hannah Jones’ August 14, 2019 NYT essay that introduced her 1619 Project:

They say our people were born on the water.

When it occurred, no one can say for certain. Perhaps it was in the second week, or the third, but surely by the fourth, when they had not seen their land or any land for so many days that they lost count. It was after fear had turned to despair, and despair to resignation, and resignation to an abiding understanding. The teal eternity of the Atlantic Ocean had severed them so completely from what had once been their home that it was as if nothing had ever existed before, as if everything and everyone they cherished had simply vanished from the earth. They were no longer Mbundu or Akan or Fulani. These men and women from many different nations, all shackled together in the suffocating hull of the ship, they were one people now.

What if America understood, finally, in this 400th year, that we have never been the problem but the solution?

..At 43, I am part of the first generation of black Americans in the history of the United States to be born into a society in which black people had full rights of citizenship. Black people suffered under slavery for 250 years; we have been legally “free” for just 50. Yet in that briefest of spans, despite continuing to face rampant discrimination, and despite there never having been a genuine effort to redress the wrongs of slavery and the century of racial apartheid that followed, black Americans have made astounding progress, not only for ourselves but also for all Americans.


 

 

Sept 6 interview w/ Nikole-Hannah Jones:

…what I’m arguing is that our founding ideals were great and powerful. Had we in fact built a country based on those founding ideals, then we would have the most amazing country the earth has ever seen.  But black people took those ideals very literally, and have fought to make those ideals real. And because of that, I say that we are — as much as the white founders whom we recognize — that we are the founding fathers of this country. So yes, it is patriotism, but not that type of blind, performative patriotism that is simply about trying to camouflage the nation’s sins and not trying to fight for the true ideals. But the type of patriotism, I think, that says: If you love your country, you have to fight to make your country the country that it should be.

Does any particular piece of criticism or praise stick out to you?

The criticism has been all about the framing, because people can’t actually criticize the facts.There was some critique that I was centering black people and not spending time on Native and Indigenous people, and I understand it to a degree. I did not want to render Native people invisible, but this was a story about chattel slavery. But I think it also speaks to how little good, comprehensive, smart, empathetic coverage we have of the two most marginalized groups in America, which are Native people and black people.

 

The 1619 Project at the New York Times

Bulbancha: Decolonized Walk of New Orleans

In light of the city’s Tricentenniel, ​Bulbancha: Decolonized Walk of New Orleans ​seeks to recenter the founding narrative of New Orleans on the area’s original inhabitants. We will explore the rich pre-colonial history of “New Orleans” by retracing the footsteps of the many indigenous groups who flourished here before the arrival of Europeans, back when this land was called “Bulbancha”. We will walk along the city’s pre-colonial roads to visit the some of the locations of the earliest native markets and settlements. The walk will also highlight the vital role that indigenous peoples played in the founding and development of New Orleans as a city. We will hear stories of native resistance to colonization and confront the myth of European dominance in the region. Participants will be encouraged to adopt a decolonized lens, in order to better understand New Orleans and many aspects of its unique Creole culture as undeniable products of indigenous culture.

All walks will begin at the Bienville Monument located between Conti, Decatur and N. Peters streets and will end at Congo Square. We will begin on time and participants should allow for approximately two hours. Sliding scale $10-$20 (no one turned away for lack of funds). Please call (504) 656-6306 to reserve your spot. Walk-ups will be accepted if spots are available. Private walks available by appointment. All walks are led by local indigenous folks who descend from the tribes discussed on the walk.

LGBTQ History at Jackson Square and in New Orleans

My neighbor Frank wrote this piece which describes a little of the 1970s LGBTQ activism in the Quarter in response to the 1970s Sarah Palin, the horrid Anita Bryant. As someone who moved into and then grew up in the lower Quarter as a teen, I always felt welcomed by the gay community that was active around St. Phillip. My best friend Roger Simonson who had come out as a young man and had lived in the Quarter since the 1960s was known for his Royal street shop A Better Mousetrap and his later management of Roger Bogle’s Persian Boy gallery. Through his friendship, I was included in many parties and allowed in bars and clubs that did not encourage non-gay attendance back then.

The leaders of the gay community have tirelessly worked alongside the old-line preservationists on many community efforts that impact the Quarter. That dual leadership served the neighborhood well as it meant the issues of one group were not the only ones being met any longer and it allowed younger and less wealthy voices to be heard on political matters. Since the 1990s, many in the community moved to other areas of town, expanding the impact of that early Quarter activism into every part of municipal and social life. With the acceptance by most Americans (especially younger ones) of less strict gender and sexuality definitions or mores, the need for gay-only areas, clubs, and events has lessened.  As exciting as it is to live in a time when sexuality is not so closely monitored by a few disapproving Puritans, it is sad to lose the active presence here of some of those wonderful leaders even while I remain grateful to Frank and others for continuing to offer so much civic energy.

LGBT History at Jackson Square and in New Orleans

Nola Files: The First 20 Stories

The Nola Files is preparing stories of the most influential people and places in New Orleans history. To do this history project justice we need to first focus on the people and places that had the widest impact and connected with most of the city. Please look through some of these options and vote for those you think need to be our focus first.

In this survey you will vote on PEOPLE who stories must be told.

 

The First 20 Stories

Interview with editor of N.O Lit: 200 years of New Orleans Literature

Listen to The Anthology of Louisiana Literature‘s 2-part interview with Dr. Nancy Dixon, editor of one of the necessary books for any New Orleans scholar or armchair historian: N.O. Lit: 200 Years of New Orleans Literature. Even if this brilliant woman wasn’t my pal, I’d still be urging you to get a copy. I open it up again and again to read her selections from different authors.

The 560 pages includes a well-curated set of short fiction and plays that reflect the city’s literary history, from Paul Louis LeBlanc de Villeneuve’s 18th-century play The Festival of the Young Corn, or The Heroism of Poucha-Houmma to Fatima Shaik’s 1987 short story “Climbing Monkey Hill.”

Dixon provides informative introductions to each author’s section, placing the works and their creators within the context of the city’s history and the history of its literature, making the anthology both an enjoyable artful artifact and an important academic resource.

Part 1

Part 2

Tear that wall down

Here’s a link to a story about when highways are removed from inner cities:
http://gizmodo.com/6-freeway-demolitions-that-changed-their-cities-forever-1548314937

This is an issue at the forefront in New Orleans because of the ramps to the Claiborne Expressway built in the 1960s, need to be repaired soon. “An option that’s been tossed around for awhile is to remove the overpass, restore a former tree-lined boulevard there and let traffic run along it and surrounding streets.”

It may be important to remember both the spur that was never built:

220px-New_Orleans_Riverfront_Expressway_Octopus

 

And the expressway that was:

images.duckduckgo

And what Claiborne used to look like:
images.duckduckgo
As long as we’re on this story again, I am always surprised by how many freethinkers still trot out the erroneous story of how the win to not build the Riverfront spur in the Quarter in the 1960s led to the Claiborne Expressway. Simply not true.

In any case, it’s time to focus on the positive benefits of taking down the Claiborne Expressway and make sure that more negative developments are not put in its place.