The Rambling Millennial: Let’s Talk About New Orleans – Your New Orleans and My New Orleans Probably Aren’t the Same

Once again, I can’t express how much it means to me that you guys read this thing and give me your thoughts. Having people stand behind you, in support, is a truly undervalued gift. Let’s keep rambling.

Do you know what it means to live in New Orleans?

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Y’all, I’ve been roaming the neighborhoods and streets of the Big Easy for a little over two decades now, and what I’ve gathered is that a big part of what makes New Orleans special is that her definition varies greatly, depending on who you ask.

You’ll hear a whole lot of folks declare what Nola is about or what the culture is like, and what I’ve learned is that the fact of the matter is that, all of those mantras and definition are heavily based on situational, personal experiences.

I’m more inclined to think that a more accurate definition of New Orleans would start off with “My New Orleans is..”

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Another Comparison to America

I’ve said many times before that New Orleans is an impeccable model of how this entire great nation operates. New Orleans is a land where most people generally have a lackadaisical unawareness of any of the things happening around them. Simultaneously standing firm in their limited grasp of the evening news and CNN headlines.

A lot of American people live in an information bubble, and the city of New Orleans is no different, actually, it’s a great place and opportunity to witness these bubbles up close. Much like a America, Nola is pretty much designed to be just like that. It’s like saying, you do your thing, I’ll do mine, and I’ll see you at the game….because we’re still family.

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Bubbles?

Yeah. So. We’ve all heard the term “living in a bubble”. It’s usually when someone is wildly unaware of the things happening around them, thinking that whatever rules apply to them and their life, apply to everyone else.

Well, the Big Easy is a place consisting of about 15 or so bubbles (neighborhoods/boroughs), with each bubble containing people with experiences pertaining to their respective bubbles.

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All the while, assuming that their take on New Orleans, in their bubble, is the same take the general population has experienced.

Woah Now, What Do You Mean?

If you’ve spent any real time in New Orleans, you know that the city is made up of many different areas and neighborhoods, and if you’ve grown up in NOLA (or spent 7+ years here) , you probably know that some of these areas are so distinct and full of culture, that the areas themselves have developed characteristics that produce people with character defining qualities and behaviors. Chalmette, Kenner, Marrero, and Westwego…we may all be looking at you. No shade.

Huh?

What I’m talking about here is that if you were to ask someone from Hollygrove, Uptown, the Quarter, the Lower 9, or the West Bank, what New Orleans meant to them, you would get significantly different answers…and that’s truly okay.

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The issue is that, much like ‘Murica, NOLA’s laws and policies, government, and plans for the public school system, are all conducted and voted on under the guise that all of the citizens of the Big Easy are living the same lives. When you can literally walk from street to street, in some areas, and immediately know that is complete malarkey. Sound familiar?

Our Minds Are a Little Narrow

What I mean is that; a day in the life of a black woman in the Lower 9, and a day in the life of a white woman in the French Quarter are vastly different, but they both live in New Orleans. However, nor the black or white woman ever takes a moment to consider the other person’s perspective or situation, but then form their opinions and truths around the guise that everyone is living the same life as they are. The cycle is nearly never ending.

Damn, Matt. Is this about race in NOLA…again?

Yes. The “white neighborhoods” and “black neighborhoods” are grotesquely unequal. It looks like the goddamn gilded age, in the certain areas of the city. From Lakeview to the Lower 9, from West Bank to East, it’s insane, the levels of poverty that have been reached in some areas of Nola. While in others, the levels of affluence are just as surprising.

Might I call to attention, once more, that this isn’t from city to city or even parish to parish, this is from district to district, neighborhood to neighborhood, street to street, and block to block.

Go for a Drive…hell…take the bus

Ever been for a drive all the way down (and I mean all the way down) Esplanade Ave? Orleans Ave? North Claiborne? The differences in ways and qualities of life are staggeringly different, and it’s ridiculously easy to see that, just driving block to block.

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– these aren’t images of a rural road in Mississippi, it’s North Claiborne in the lower 9th Ward

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My Brother, that’s cool and all…but, ain’t nobody got time for that

I know you probably won’t take that ride. However, brothers and sisters, we can’t just keep showing up to the Saints Game and Mardi Gras, and then not discuss the dysfunction in the family.

Y’all. Some of us have it great, some of us have it okay, some of us are surviving, and some of us can’t eat.

The Big Easy is easy….just not for everyone

We all need to do a better job of being aware of All the people that make up this great city. Get to know the city you love. Your whole city. Walk it. Stroll it. Learn it. And I promise you that you will see the need for progressive change and equality.

Is it 2015 or 1965

Y’all there are no schools for the children to go to in their neighborhoods. I don’t even like babies or children, and I still know that’s a problem. There’s a school in the French Quarter, where the population of school aged children is a staggering, solid 15.

The Orleans Parish School System has been unapologetically, purposely gutted by the push for private and magnet schools in areas where families either can’t afford to go to the schools in their own districts or they’ve fallen victim to systemic, discriminatory, sugar coated admittance practices.

New Orleans is still amazing, Family

She just needs a some serious, consistent TLC. Her people need to focus equivalent energy on being concerned with their government, criminal, and education systems, as they do the Saints Game and Mardi Gras.

We should demand that the government of New Orleans stop acting and passing legislation as if New Orleans is just the French Quarter, Uptown, and Lakeview. Oh, and making movies.

We should also probably start demanding that those benefitting directly from New Orleans, her people, and her people’s money, have a hand and voice in fixing the problems within her walls. If you’re making money (a lot of money) off of New Orleans, you have to help fix her. Drew Brees and Hollywood, I’m looking directly at you. The Brennan Clan could stand to dust off their work boots as well, but, I digress.

Guys. We don’t have to wonder about the fate and future of New Orleans, if we all put on our thinking caps on.

Basically, get your paddles and let’s bring the ship back to shore, we’ve drifted. Let’s drift on back. Maybe…let’s even turn the motor on this time.

#nolaiseveryone #thebigeasy #couldbeeasyagain #coffesready #letsworkcelie #blacklivesmatter

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The Rambling Millennial – Let’s Talk About the Red Dress Run

Hey folks, I hope you enjoyed the first installment of this little project. This is gonna be a brief one as I want to just elaborate on my last statements about the Big Easy.

By now I’m sure you’re wondering if there’s any truth to my claims of a wildly white New Orleans being ushered in at an alarming rate. So, I wanted to post just after one of New Orleans’ favorite annual events, The Dress Run. The Red Dress Run is a mini marathon race, that features men and women pretending to race for about 4 hours, then spending about the next 10-12 hours drinking, and like a lot of things in the Big Easy, it started out as a charity, a charity benefiting breast cancer research. However, in true New Orleans fashion, it eventually morphed into all day drinking marathon.

Once again, I wish I could say that this was one of the exceptions, and you could go out and finally experience that ever elusive melting pot that is the Big Easy, especially given that most of the people who participate in this event, don’t even register for the event and just put on a red dress and get drunk, but nah, it’s as Lilly white as ever. Lol.

Yet again, an exemplary example of just how white our fair city has become. Once more, even the website’s main page and advertisements look like ads for a Kenny Chesney concert. Yet again, we are left wondering, “Where in God’s name are all the black people?”

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The organization doesn’t even appear to care to make the event even look all-inclusive. Not. One. Brown. Person. In. One. Ad. Hell, Solange (yes, Bey’s sister), recorded a video to her instagram titled “my front yard” the day of the event  featuring the swarms of people walking in front of her French Quarter home and not ONE brown face walks by. ROFL.

I know this STILL won’t be enough to convince you. But.

#dontworry #theresmore #nola #thebigeasy #neworleans #reddressrun #werenotmadwithanyone #butwehavetoopenooureyes #westillgotworktodo #theramblingmillennial

#tobecontinued #improbgonnarunformayor #wakeup #staywoke #getthecoffee #wegotworktodoCelie #itmaybebig #butitainteasy

The Rambling Millennial – Let’s Talk About New Orleans…all of it.

After 25 years of drunken foolishness in the Big Easy, I believe that I have a bird’s eye view on the way this entire country operates. New Orleans is a mystical land of blissful fuckery. Where brown people of all shades; quietly, perpetually, and more often than not, happily take positions of lifelong servitude. While neighborhoods are gutted and home-grown New Orleanians are displaced…the biggest question posed to brown people by their white counterparts? “Um…could you bring out some more bread?”.

I didn’t always harbor such ferocious contempt for New Orleans, for there was once a time I too relished in the opportunity to serve the white man in the world-famous French Quarter.

It wasn’t until I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Ireland for several months that I finally saw New Orleans for what she was; a land of overt, masterfully hidden,  normalized racism. Covered in glitter, soaked in vodka, and with just a tiny dash of…absolutely no shame.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Ireland definitely still has some work to do. For I was definitely judged by the color of my skin. But. Generally it was in a ferociously more positive light. Instead of being profiled as a “thug” or “Tyrone”…People saw my skin color as a badge of fortitude, masculinity, strength, creativity, and natural soulfulness. These categorizations are, indeed, super racist, haha, BUT, no one gets shot in the face because of the color of their skin. It sincerely humbled me to see what can happen when images of black people acting a fool aren’t CONSTANTLY shoved down the throats of a nation’s people. Like, NO ONE THERE HAS SEEN MADEA…ANYTHING. But. They have seen “Scandal” and “Roots”.

And I don’t even need to get into the gross contrast that is American media.

The Big Easy, of course, is no exception to the rule of media in America. You may not know this. LOL. But. New Orleans is one the most dangerous cities in America and home to some of the highest murder rates in the country. Soooo…what does that lead to?? You guessed it, a shit ton of black dude’s faces plastered across the local evening news every single night. While these men ARE committing crimes, the representation of black people, black culture, and black criminals are grossly disproportionate. What do I mean? I mean when it’s time to discuss the bad things about New Orleans, black and brown faces cover the pages of the stories. But. When it’s time to promote… I do not know…anything in New Orleans (Jazz Fest, Vodoo Fest, Mardi Gras, SOUTHERN DECADENCE, etc..) white faces cover the brochures  from cover to cover. (Please keep your example of the TWO black people in one of the brochures to yourself). When seeing these ads, everyone suddenly forgets that New Orleans is 64% black and none of these promotions of the amazing things that happen in New Orleans feature black people. We wish we could say it was just a couple ads, but, every day, in a city that is 64% black, we walk around wondering “where the hell are all the black people at?”.

But white people just don’t notice because they just went to Brennan’s this morning and a very nice man named Jamal waited on them…so everything must be fine, right? But what my white people fail realize is, nah, none of it’s fine.

That this a city where white folks from Michigan, Ohio, and Denmark can come up, live, and FLOURISH in black New Orleans culture and then in turn be chosen to represent New Orleans over the men and women who have created and maintained this culture for the last century. It’s literally like, “Alright ladies and gentlemen, here with some authentic New Orleans Jazz, here’s… Peja Stojakovic.”

Before you beat me to it, no, it’s not that we don’t want to share, that’s kind of the whole point, but it’s not being shared, it’s being taken from us.

I mean, like literally. The French Quarter, Marigny, New Marigny, and Bywater are laughably white. People make jokes about it, all the time. The crazy part? People aren’t noticing.

Let me rephrase, their noticing, but it’s not effecting them on the same level as brown people…so…umm..go America, right?! Nah.

Even the tourists and transplants, who are also in the midst of taking New Orleans from us, look around and wonder where in the hell this fucking so called melting pot is located.

With such gems as “Where can we find some ‘authentic’ jazz, I mean, it’s not that those cats on Frenchmen weren’t getting down, but…uh…Louis Armstrong is from here, right?”….”Dude, I guess our server was black, but this is one of the whitest places we’ve ever been to, and we’ve been to Vermont AND Toronto….twice.” And my absolute favorite from my new, brilliant, educating, latina sista, from New York…”So, umm…where the black people at?”.

And the most puzzling part of the maze? Very, very few white, native and white, naturalized New Orleanians are asking same the questions. It’s as if they’re content with sitting in a sea of white faces at the bar.

Like, omg, how could I ever come to be the only black person at a bar in New Orleans, and be the ONLY one to notice. ROFL.

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#tobecontinued #improbgonnarunformayor #wakeup #staywoke #getthecoffee #wegotworktodoCelie #itmaybebig #butitainteasy