Last night, D and I watched CNN’s New Orleans Rising special on rebuilding in the historically-black Pontchartrain Park neighborhood of New Orleans. So many stories. So many lives. Back in the 1950s and 60s, these black families built their lives and educated their children in the shadow of overt segregation. Cut to the 2000s – the Oubre family’s struggle to stay together, a sad tale of upbeat grandparents who were going to ride out the storm but ultimately drowned in their attics, actor Wendell Pierce’s neighborhood rebuilding effort and the Woods family’s resilience and determination to rebuild.
Black families rebuilding their lives and fighting for their families in the shadow of a segregation that only went to ground and not away. Never away.
That’s what five black New Orleans homeowners discovered this week when a federal judge in Washington ruled that Louisiana’s Road Home Program did indeed give them less money than they’d have received had their houses been destroyed in a white neighborhood — but that he couldn’t do anything about it.
… homes in black neighborhoods aren’t valued as highly as homes in white neighborhoods — and not because the bricks, drywall, flooring and roofing materials used in their construction necessarily cost less. They are often considered of lower value simply because of what they are: homes in a black neighborhood.
Some hurts have subsided, but not really. And other hurts and little triumphs grow over them. That’s the reality of recovery. It’s not simple. In other words, “Is everything normal again in New Orleans?” is a pretty dumb question.
Editor B photographs and writes about two different states of New Orleans today.
So which photograph represents the state of New Orleans today? I think they both do. This remains a city of contrasts. It can be a challenge to keep both these images in mind. We seem to have a natural tendency to reduce and simplify. We want to view things as black or white, positive or negative, with little nuance and few shades of gray. It’s difficult to integrate stark contradictions into a coherent whole.
But that’s exactly what we have to do if we want an accurate picture of where we live.
We’ll be in New Orleans again in just a couple of days. I can’t wait, especially now that the Rising Tide conference schedule has been set in stone. See you there!
8:30am Doors open: Conference check-in with light breakfast
9:30 Opening Remarks
9:45 Crime and Justice Panel moderated by Tulane criminologist Peter Scharf . We are also pleased to announce that New Orleans Police Chief Ronal Serpas has agreed to sit on the panel.
11:00 Keynote address by Mother Jones human rights reporter Mac McClelland
12:00 “Paradise Lost” environmental panel moderated by Steve Picou
2:00 Politics Panel hosted by Peter Athas
3:15 “Why Can’t We Get Some Dam Safety in New Orleans?” presentation by Tim Ruppert
3:45 Presentation of the 2010 Ashley Morris Memorial Award
4:00 “Down In the Treme” moderated by Maitri Erwin