Understanding New Orleans One Neighborhood at a Time 2011 Recap
New Orleans is a city of neighborhoods — by some counts, as many as 85! No matter where one lives, it’s difficult to visit every single neighborhood in New Orleans. That’s why the Greater New Orleans Foundation created the “Understanding New Orleans” program, which showcases the diverse neighborhoods and the amazing nonprofits working within them. The program began in 2010 and visited Central City, Gentilly and Lakeview. These tours were met with such an enthusiastic response that they were continued in 2011 with visits to the Bywater/Ninth Ward, Mid-City/Hollygrove and the Vietnamese community of New Orleans East. Here are some highlights…
The first tour of 2011 began with a historical tour of the Marigny, Bywater, and Ninth Ward by Richard Campanella, Tulane professor and urban geographer. Participants then arrived at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), where they were greeted by Sally Perry, NOCCA’s executive director. After Sally spoke, they were treated to a musical theatre performance by two talented NOCCA students. As they dug into lunches of pulled pork sandwiches provided by local eatery The Joint and red-velvet cupcakes from the nearby Cake Café, they heard from five fantastic nonprofit leaders, including Pam Bryan, director of Operation Comeback at the Preservation Resource Center; Patricia Jones, executive director of Lower Ninth Ward NENA; Katherine Bray, program director at the Creative Alliance of New Orleans; Kat Dobson, development director of Sweet Home New Orleans; and Lauren Anderson, executive director of Neighborhood Housing Services.
After lunch, the group boarded the bus and headed to the riverfront where they met Allen Eskew of the architect firm Eskew + Dumez + Ripple. Allen gave an inside peek into the redevelopment of the riverfront in the Bywater, which will soon be transformed into a public park.
The second tour went to the Mid-City and Hollygrove neighborhoods. Once again, it began with a historical perspective by Richard Campanella. Then Jeff Schwartz, executive director of Broad Community Connections, led a guided tour of Broad Street, and explained the redevelopment projects his nonprofit is engaged in.
The bus then arrived at the lunch destination, the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club. They met Clarence Becknell, the historian of the Zulu Club, who explained how Zulu got started. Afterward, they met three dyanmic nonprofit leaders working in the Mid-City area, including Sonya Robinson, program director for Artist Corps New Orleans; Jim McNamara, president and CEO of BioDistrict New Orleans; and Martha Kegel, executive director of UNITY of Greater New Orleans. As the nonprofit leaders spoke, the group tucked into its lunches, provided by Liberty’s Kitchen, a nonprofit dedicated to workforce training for at-risk youth. Lastly, Kevin Brown, executive director of Trinity Christian Community, led a tour of the Hollygrove neighborhood. Kevin, a Hollygrove native, showed some of the sites in the area, including the senior center and the Hollygrove Market and Farm.
New Orleans East Vietnamese Community
The third and final tour of 2011 went to the Vietnamese community of New Orleans east. Intrepid tour guide Richard Campanella led the way. The first stop was the Van Hanh Buddhist temple, where the group met Lisa, the wonderful Buddhist nun who runs the temple.
After touring the temple, they crossed Chef Menteur to arrive at Ba Mien, a Vietnamese restaurant that was the lunch destination. They were greeted by the Honorable Joseph Cao who welcomed them and explained the rise in civic engagement in the Vietnamese community post-Katrina. They ate grilled shrimp vermicelli bowls as they met three nonprofit leaders who are galvanizing the Vietnamese community of New Orleans East. First up was Cyndi Nguyen, executive director of VIET, who spoke about how her organization got started and about their current projects. Next was Minh Nguyen, executive director of VAYLA, who discussed the role of the youth in the Vietnamese community. Lastly we met Daniel Nguyen, of MQVN-CDC who discussed the environmental justice challenges and successes that the community as faced.
After lunch, the group re-boarded the bus and Martin Gutierrez of Catholic Charities led us on a tour of some of the nonprofit sites in the community. Afterward, they stopped by the Rosary Child Development Center for a visit with Sister Ann, who runs the school. A unique learning environment for children aged 1–5, the Rosary Child Development Center is a pillar of the Vietnamese community, where children are taught bilingually in both English and Vietnamese. Although it was naptime, they were able to observe the children sleeping and met with many of the nuns who teach there. What a treat!