Monday, December 04, 2006

A dream deferred...maybe

I read this on the wire today and I immediately emailed one of my friends from college who still lives down there.

Though I have mixed feelings about the leadership and recovery process in New Orleans, I felt like this was a sign of hope. A much-needed, long overdue one.

However, when it comes to examining and discerning any kind of news and information about New Orleans, I like to get the perspective of native residents, like my friend, who's well familiar with the machinations of the system down there and are well aware of what such news will really mean to them.

My friend grew up in Marrero, a Westbank suburb of New Orleans, located right over the river, in Jefferson Parish.

We graduated from Dillard University together and she’s remained there ever since.

Like many residents of New Orleans and its surrounding areas, she’s fiercely loyal. Always talking about ways to make it better, to overhaul the economic and political barriers that have held the city back long before Katrina’s floodwaters.

And when the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina scattered her and her family throughout Texas and other areas of Louisiana, it was no question that she would be one of the ones to return.
Just like most other American cities, (probably even more so) Lord knows New Orleans needs her kind: Twenty-something, college-educated, professional, mid- to –upper class income. She’ll have earned her graduate degree in May.

She’s often shared with me just how hard it is to get adjusted to her post-Katrina city. How life is so much different, much more challenging and how bleak the future looks. Through conversations with her and some of my other friends who live further into the city, I feel like I have almost a daily glimpse of the devastation that continues to go on there despite the sunny ads that indicate otherwise.

However, she’s always had hope as well. That trademark Big Easy loyalty always rings through her conversations. “It’s going to get better. We have to stay here to make sure of that,” she would say.

That is, until I got her response to my email today.

While she was happy about the news, I was disheartened to read the next part of her email “I think I am giving up on N.O.”

It’s sad to know that after having endured so much already, she, like so many others are throwing their hands up in defeat. I mean what’s the point of hanging around when, besides a parade or football game here or there, there’s just not much sign of things of any real change?

How can you feel that you won’t continue to be overlooked or neglected when commercials are airing everywhere saying that everything is OK, that things are returning back to normal? I can’t say that I blame her at all. In fact, I told her she did good to hang around as long as she did.

Amazingly, even though my friend’s given up, she hasn’t quite thrown in the towel just yet. Like a good relationship gone sour that you’re just not ready to end yet, my friend said she’d give it another try. About four more years.

Then came that familiar resilience of hers peeking through at the end of her message: “But I still have a plan, DP, and I still have hope.”

I hope she’s not the only one.

What would you do? If it were your hometown would you return? Do you think New Orleans is coming back for real? What do you think the new New Orleans should look like? What do you think it will look like? What do you think it will take to keep the ones who have returned there?

Thoughts anyone?


Anonymous said...

I lived in NOLA for a number of years, got a graduate degree from the University of New Orleans. I was gone before Katrina, but I have thought of moving back to help the city out. I think all the people who went back after the disaster should be applauded. They've got guts! I'd like to think I would have done it, but I'm not sure. I read somewhere the other day that 30% of the current population of NOLA will leave in 3-5 years. Dont quote me on this, because I cant find where I read that. Will NOLA ever be the same? I hope so, but kind of doubt it. It might get close, but with that much of the population gone that helped make New Orleans, well, New Orleans, I'm afraid that certain "je ne se qua" will be gone. I hope I'm wrong.


krystlerb said...

Although I'm from Shreveport, I graduated from UNO, and I'm currently out of state working on my Master's in Public Administration. Although NOLA was my home for four years, in that short time, it worked its magic on me, pulling me in, and making it hard to let go.

Because the scope of my work focuses on Emergency Management, I am one of those optimistic people that not only feels that New Orleans will be back, but one who wants to play a part it its recovery. While the possibilities for moving far far away from NOLA are increasing every day as I get closer and closer to finishing the degree, my heart and my determination rests in the recovery and resurgence of one of the best cities in America. Partially because NoLA is such a great place and I love emergency management, but mainly because I love my Louisiana. The bowl of culture, tradition, and spirit that I call NOLA is merely an interlocking piece of the jigsaw puzzle that comes together to create this wonderful state.

We'd be lost without NOLA, and I'd be lost without my Louisiana. I'm proud to call it home, and proud to come back and help put the pieces together.

Donecia Pea said...

Miles... 30 percent huh? Wow, if those numbers are true that is just sad and a true loss not just for the city but the entire state. NOLA is the lifeline of this state. And I agree, it's hard to imagine it ever being the same. Unfortunately, (at least unfortunately to me) I can only foresee some kind of highly commercialized, cookie-cutter style Disneyland-type of re-creation of the city with absolutely no flavor (the people) whatsoever. I REALLY hope I'm at least partially wrong...Anyway, thanks for sharing your insight!

krystlerb...I certainly know what you mean about that city working it's magic - I still call it my home away from home for those 4 years I spent there. But kudos to you for your optimism and for taking it a step further and actually learning about ways that you can make it even better! Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing.