History, people, fables and critical essays on the 24/7 life of the French Quarter. "Those who live somewhere should be allowed to decide how a place should exist; it should not be determined by how it can be sold." (Grace Lee Boggs) “The great music of the city is not Louis Armstrong; it’s when you say good morning and good evening.” (Mr. Jerome Smith)
Click the link below from Country Roads Magazine to catch a glimpse of five different walking traditions from last year’s festivities. This excerpt is from Big Queen (“Reesie”) Cherice Harrison-Nelson of the Guardians of the Flame Maroon Society, one of the legendary Harrison clan who has done so much to keep Mardi Gras Indian traditions visible:
The ceremony commemorates our past and our future as the Guardians of the Flame Maroon Society. We humbly share the universal flame of humanity, peace, and light to carry forth every day. The masking tradition may be associated with a Christian holiday and refer to Native Americans, but, so far as I can tell, it’s the most vibrant existing West African tradition in the New World.
On the turning away
From the pale and downtrodden
And the words they say
Which we won’t understand
Don’t accept that what’s happening
Is just a case of others’ suffering
Or you’ll find that you’re joining
In the turning away
It’s a sin that somehow
Light is changing to shadow
And casting its shroud
Over all we have known
Unaware how the ranks have grown
Driven on by a heart of stone
We could find that we’re all alone
In the dream of the proud
On the wings of the night
As the daytime is stirring
Where the speechless unite in a silent accord
Using words you will find are strange
Mesmerised as they light the flame
Feel the new wind of change
On the wings of the night
No more turning away
From the weak and the weary
No more turning away
From the coldness inside
Just a world that we all must share
It’s not enough just to stand and stare
Is it only a dream that there’ll be
No more turning away
One of the great everyday heroes of New Orleans is photojournalist Cheryl Gerber, who is constantly roaming the streets of New Orleans searching for stories to show the deep humanity of our place. Her book, “New Orleans, Life and Death in the Big Easy” is one of my favorites not only for its gorgeous photos, but for its awareness of the deep racial divide that can be seen by anyone looking. Those inequities don’t cancel out the joy, but it does underscore that our public life is rooted in the reality of the challenges we face here and the fragility of this part of the world, circa 2019.
Similarly, Cheryl has brought to her neighbors’ attention an emerging story about a street person that she had noted in the past (and even had a pic of him) but hadn’t felt he wanted her to approach. Recently, something changed and he came to her, told her a great deal about himself and led her to believe that he might be okay with her being more involved. She stayed up all night, researching the info he shared and miraculously, made contact with friends of his. She found he was sorely missed and had been sought again and again, but as no information had reached them they had no idea what to do next. In their conversations, those friends told her of his talent, his story, and his effect on them. His best friend flew to New Orleans almost immediately to search for him, and on the second trip, they found each other and I defy anyone not to have tears rolling down their face at the telling of that moment which is found through the link below (under Story).
All because of the legendary New Orleans-style tough hide/soft heart and an endless curiosity about others in the public space that Cheryl puts into practice daily.
So the next step is for those of us who want to aid his friends help him get back on his feet in the city he loves so dearly, to follow the link to do so.
And maybe you will also be inspired by Cheryl to find a way to connect to one of your neighbors, maybe even one whom you don’t fully understand. Maybe even help them to find the happiness standing right in front of them on Esplanade Avenue.
See what happens when good people get together over music? They come up with something like this, a site dedicated to listing the musical history of our city, place by place.
Jazz, big band, gospel, soul, brass bands, funk, blues, second-lines, hip-hop, bounce, r&b, pop, zydeco, rock, classical all have substantial roots here in the Crescent City. This site will do more than just set tourists to a wandering around; as a visual map, it can help save some of these places and to connect the dots about the development of some of America’s greatest art forms.
The A Closer Walk (ACW) project and site is presented by WWOZ New Orleans and produced by five partners: Bent Media, e/Prime Media, the Ponderosa Stomp Foundation, Randy Fertel and WWOZ.
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:
And the expressway that was:
And what Claiborne used to look like:
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.
National urban parks expert Tupper Thomas will speak about the critical role citizens can play to ensure the revitalization, protection, and well-being of their parks and open spaces. She will draw from her vast experience on the positive impact and benefits of alliances and public-private partnerships. Tupper Thomas is the Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks. She served as Administrator of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for 30 years, having been the founding president of The Prospect Park Alliance, which was formed in 1987 to revive, enrich, restore, and preserve the park, in partnership with the City of New York.
Tupper also was a founding board member and co-chair of the City Parks Alliance, the leading independent national organization that advocates for urban parks. The Committee has served as a model for other public-private park organizations across the country.