What an amazing day here in NOLA! Us in the Building Community team had our first work day with Habitat for Humanity. One group spent the day helping paint the siding on a home in the 7th Ward, and another groups was in Carrolton re-siding parts of a home there! Overall, it was an inspiring day with lots of learning opportunities (and the weather was gorgeous too!) We can’t wait to get back to work tomorrow and the rest of the week!
After our visit and experience yesterday in the Lower 9th Ward, one of the topics that came up after visiting the Brad Pitt homes, Our School at Blair Grocery, and after watching Spike Lee’s If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise, was the idea of control of “rebuilding” the city of New Orleans post-Katrina.
Much of the Lower 9th is still undeveloped and impoverished. However, in certain areas being redeveloped (such as the area with the Brad Pitt homes) there are questions as to whether the interests of the community are really represented in their redevelopment. We felt that it seems that a lot of organizations who do attempt to redevelop areas of NOLA do not always understand the community they are working in. We can’t be certain of this knowledge, but Turner from OSBG had told us that before the Brad Pitt homes went forward, an idea was in place to have all the builders be Lower 9th based or NOLA based. However, the idea was shot down in favour of bringing in external builders from communities across the country. How does this help build community? Wouldn’t it have been more beneficial to have local employers and employees involved in the rejuvenation?
Something else that came up was whether or not the organizations and individuals who come in with “ideas” on how to rejuvenate or rebuild communities like the Lower 9th, can make them sustainable. Turner from OSBG brought up an example of a man who wanted to use goats to eat the grass that was overgrowing on Lower 9th lots. However, he apparently had no clue about how this would really function (including whether he needed a fence for the goats…) This raises a lot of questions about initiatives like it. Another example was of a skate park which was started in an old industrial building, but after the “donor” had seen the start of the project, he basically left. Meaning the project fell apart and is now in disarray. This problem plagues these rebuilding efforts, and contributes to the continued state of a lack of community strength in some NOLA neighbourhoods like the Lower 9th.
That’s all for now! We’ll be back blogging soon! We’re headed to a Jazz concert in Treme tonight, so we will have to update you on that later!
– Spade Group, Building Community (Nancy, Nilou, Klara and Nolan)