I love my city and I try my best to represent it well and share the story of the heart and soul of New Orleans. My life, as well as the lives of many more New Orleanians, especially our ancestors, tells a story of suffering, survival, and sacrifice in a city we love so much. It was hard for us to see life beyond the bricks as we worked for pennies in the million-dollar tourism industry and on riverboats. We managed by working overtime, creating a side hustle and took on a second and third job while leaning on our faith in God and our neighbors to look after our family in our absence. Working mothers were oftentimes forced to leave their own children home alone to care for a wealthy white woman’s children in order to put food on the table. This great sacrifice enabled many to buy their own homes and open businesses in their communities which is why we stay. After overcoming hardship, suffering, loss, and segregation there are some that stay to share the legacy, tell the story of how we got over and ultimately continue to apply pressure and fight for a city that technically belongs to us.
I desire to be a vessel to tell these stories of my people who through blood, sweat and tears built New Orleans and are the biggest contributors to the rich culture. I will use my platform to show you how we are being manipulated and live in fear by as we are forced out of communities that our ancestors nurtured in order to make room for wealthy transplants and AirBnB’s. I understand that gentrification is happening all over the country, but what’s happening in New Orleans is a form of genocide. the culture and traditions of New Orleans continue to survive because of people of color living in urban communities. The African American population was once the majority, and now we are being pushed out at a steady rate, only to be replaced by those who fail to understand the culture and even worse how to be a neighbor.
I find it amusing that those who supported and encouraged segregation in the suburbs and other parishes now want to swap places. The same people who avoided Treme, St. Roch, the 9th Ward and etc before Katrina are paying big bucks to move into our communities. Not so long ago black people were routinely beaten by Jefferson Parish Police just for driving past the city line, now we are greeted with open arms. I would say it’s a good thing, but it’s only a front as we are sent out of New Orleans.
We need to stand up lay claim on our city ask for reparations and back wages due to our African and Native Indian ancestors who worked as slaves for the city after slavery was over. We need to be given back our land and homes that were taken away with the use of slick tactics by the government after Katrina. We deserve to reap the harvest of the tourism industry as well. Generation after generation paved the way, literally paved the very cobblestone streets and sidewalks that lead to New Orleans being named as the #1 travel destination and is one of few cities known by people all over the world. We have always been the cultural and hospitality Ambassadors of New Orleans, and we get no credit. It’s sad that the Mardi Gras Indians whose suits are photographed by people from all over the world and displayed in museums haven’t been justly compensated for their contribution to the cultural. In addition to that, the story of how the Mardi Gras Indians became a part of Mardi Gras is absent from the history books. Sadly, that’s the case with all things Black History here in America. But I made reference to the Mardi ras Indians to make a point on how black people contributed to the culture and aren’t compensated or acknowledged let’s say in comparison to the King and Queen of Rex.
My goal is to share New Orleans, through my eyes and soul. I actually moved back home, after feeling a deep desire within me to be there. It was as if the soul New Orleans found her way to Minnesota to take me home. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, I felt nervous about giving up the nice life I made for myself, but comfort and peace trumped financial security at that time. But as if she sensed my worry the soul of New Orleans told gave me a scripture, Deuteronomy 26:15 New King James Version (NKJV)
15 Look down from Your holy [a]habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel and the land which You have given us, just as You swore to our fathers, “a land flowing with milk and honey.” ’ She promised I would be ok and that I would survive until it was Harvest Time. When I arrived she pulled me into her bosom, wrapping me up in all of her love. Her heartbeat was a familiar comfort that I longed for and needed. I cried and cried, and she encouraged me to cry more. telling me that a good cry was good for my soul as teardrops moistened to dry soil beneath my feet which held the seeds of my hopes and dreams of long ago. I felt a soft breeze brush across my face as if removing any trace of hurt from off my face as it whispered “You are home. Momo is here, but only in the physical. Your Daddy and Mel are gone on over so what are you do you think you should do now that the very people asked you to come back over the years are gone?
It takes for my landlord and neighbors to describe what I looked like as I pulled up weeds from a small 6×2 area of what was all weeds with my bare hands. As I pulled and dug my hands in the hard dry New Orleans dirt I felt as if I was pulling up my dreams and goals I left unattended for the weeds to destroy. This only gave me more strength to pull up weeds with roots so long and thick so that I could make room to plant new seeds if need be. I was unearthing my life, sweet memories and the stories family members had told me over the years and it felt amazing. My life had meaning again and I felt renewed.
As I continue to dig up my NOLA memories, dreams and stories my hope is that you will accompany me on my journey of recovery of all that was lost, stolen and denied.
I am New Orleans and she lives within my soul and beat of my heart. So, if you would please jump on my bandwagon and let me show and tell you the story of not only my NOLA but the story of others as well. In sharing with you I hope that we can find ways to preserve our culture, traditions, and legacies.