New Orleans, LA: Post-Katrina

First of all, hi friends. I apologize for my long absence. There is a lot that has happened in between the last time I wrote and now which I hope to catch up on in future entries. There is something I need to write about though while it is still fresh in my memory.

My family and I recently took a cruise through Norwegian Cruise Line. The port that we sailed out of was in New Orleans, LA. We flew into Louis Armstrong airport and the humidity took me back to my time in Philadelphia! Philly was still worse though 😅 I was super excited to check out New Orleans because I have heard it is a fun city with lots of history. I also did a paper in graduate school on Hurricane Katrina and wanted to see in person what post-Katrina New Orleans was like.

Pre-cruise, my family and I stayed at Hyatt Place Convention Center. One of the perks of being single and not married was having a king bed to myself 😍 I was able to experience just a taste of New Orleans jazz by going to Tommy G’s Coal-Fired Pizza where there was live music for my family to enjoy while we ordered (and devoured) pizza, pasta, and beignets. Can’t forget those 🤷🏼‍♀️

The morning we sailed, I did some walking around the port area we sailed out of. It was Easter so many of the shops (including my bougie coffee shops – DARN) were closed. I ordered Easter day brunch from True Food Kitchen which also has a Los Angeles location among others and walked about a mile with it back to the hotel.

Our cruise was a week long and when we got back, Mom had booked us a ride from the port to our hotel which was a Homewood Suites this time. Our ride was through Bernard Transportation from a New Orleans local named Reuben and his friend Harold. Not only did my family get a ride to our hotel but we also got a full tour of New Orleans and specifically parts of the city that had been impacted by Hurricane Katrina. This tour is one of the only ones of its kind that goes underneath NOLA’s cleaned up exterior and reveals the destruction that ensued from Katrina and continues to impact NOLA’s long-term residents.

Some of the things that really stuck with me from the tour:

  • The 9th ward. The attached article provides some information about the 9th ward PRE-Katrina and how post-Katrina looks entirely different in terms of the racial make-up and gentrification of neighborhoods.
  • Prior to Hurricane Katrina, the racial make-up of NOLA was 67% Black. As of 2020, it was 59% and it is still declining.
  • Increasing property taxes are continuing to push people out and prevented people who had generations of family in NOLA from returning to their homes.
  • Out-of-state buyers and the creation of AirBnBs have continued to increase the housing costs and taxes which have pushed generations of families in NOLA out of their homes due to unaffordability.
  • I saw a couple of homes that are still standing but that have “do not enter” signs and the X codes marked on them. The attached article is fascinating and discusses in detail what some of the X codes meant, but it was basically FEMA’s way of signaling how many alive and/or dead people and animals were in the house as well as possible biohazards.

I also was able to see Bourbon street, a mausoleum, a (very) sobering plantation farm with attached slave quarters, some of the French quarters and the beautiful City Park. Despite Hurricane Katrina’s impact, NOLA remains a lively city with rich Southern history (in both good and bad ways).

On one last positive note, I was able to experience a true NOLA Po’boy at Parasol’s which was a great suggestion from Reuben! I got the shrimp po’boy with sweet potato fries 🤤 After that I headed back to the airport. I really enjoyed talking with my Lyft drivers, both of whom were also born and raised in NOLA and survived Katrina.

Before the tour I felt somewhat of a spiritual darkness surrounding the city. It felt haunted. After the tour I still feel that way. It also feels like my eyes have been opened. I was reminded of the devastating power of nature; the unpredictability of the world; the fact that racism and racial injustice are alive and well; and the efforts the government goes through to paint a pretty picture. It is just one example of cancel culture in the U.S., and it is sad.

In many ways the tour has continued to haunt me and my thoughts. I think that is important though. I need to be haunted to remember. We all do. We need to remember the stories. We cannot forget about racial justice. We need to never forget the lives lost in the tragedy of Katrina and we need to not forget the devastation that was only made worse by the failings of the government’s response to it so we can do better. I also need to never forget why I am in this field…to keep the U.S., government, and its people/leaders (especially those of privilege and majority) accountable to hearing and empowering some of the nation’s most vulnerable populations.

I highly, highly recommend anyone going to NOLA take Reuben’s tour. To Reuben and Harold, thank you for continuing to tell these stories. It is people like you who will truly plant the seed of change in the soil of this country after the storm (no pun intended).

More posts to come soon!

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