The spirit and energy of New Orleans
Consider the wall broken through. New Orleans was my savior, has got me back on track and has re-instilled my faith that this was all happening for a reason....just like yesterday was a test of my faith and determination :)
I'll post the interviews later, but let me say that I am incredibly lucky to be here and even luckier to have had access to the actual community members who have lived through the changes over the past couple years:
--My host Dana from The Urban Conservancy not only gave me a place to stay, but she also brought me to Oak Street (a neighborhood very different from the French Quarter and the other touristy places). There I saw a thriving strip of local independent businesses. What's really amazing is how they tend to grow together....when the used bookstore ( xxx ) grew too big for its crows nest, it moved into ( xxx ), who's former tenant had grown too big and moved into another building on the block.
--I got to meet Norma from The Queen of the Ball....I've learned about how famous Snoballs are here in Nola (it's all about the ice...who wants to open a stand in Somerville???). What was even more amazing was her story about how she lost her vintage clothing business to Ike & Katrina, including a whole plethora of sentimental pieces. After a couple of months of mourning, she decided to open up a completely different business. She said: "I wanted to open a place where people could come and feel happy. I knew I would be here for 8-12 hours per day, so I wanted to be happy as well....but really, I just wanted somewhere for the community to go and forget about their troubles for a minute."
--We checked out Merlin's, a NEW business opened post-Katrina. After interviewing Merlin, I met Miss T....wow.
Miss T opened Juju Bag Cafe and Salon about 1 year ago. She's an academic scholar, a renowned actress and director in the local theater scene, she's been a community organizer and activist for many years....and now an entrepreneur. She talked about how she and her partner wanted to open a salon and bookstore, but how what they really are doing is creating a place for people in the community to come together and get what they asked for: "we want a place to sit! what about food?!? what about wi-fi?!? ....so that's what we gave them."
Her message, by the way, was for me as much as anyway...."Follow your instincts! They are almost always right."
Thank you New Orleans, the rest of the trip should be a breeze :)