Saturday, November 11, 2006

11/11/2006 Community Gumbo

audio Democracy Now (11/10/06)
  • Who Voted and Why? A Roundtable Discussion on the Ethnic, Religious and Social Makeup of Voters in the Elections
  • Coalition of Antiwar, Veteran Groups Launching National Movement to Impeach Bush and Cheney

Charles Sheffield, "It's Your Voo Doo Working," Louisiana Gumbo, Putumayo, 2000.

audio Rebuilding New Orleans one volunteer at a time
It's been more than 14 months since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita assaulted south Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. From the perspective of most homeowners, recovery has been largely a private endeavor. Thus far, only 22 Louisiana Road Home applications to rebuild homes have been granted, and many homeowners continue to fight with their insurance companies for fair settlements -- if they had enough insurance in the first place.

Meanwhile, in order to prevent a proliferation of flooded properties from turning into permanently blighted properties, the city's Good Neighbor policy requires homeowners to show a good faith effort that they are caring for their properties by gutting their homes and clearing their yards of overgrowth. For tens of thousands of residents who can't physically or financially comply, scores of volunteers are trying to help -- but the waiting lists are months long.

One of the groups most successful at recruiting volunteers has been the Common Ground Collective, operating in the Lower and Upper Ninth Wards. Hundreds of volunteers arrive every week to drag still-soggy furniture to the street, and to attack moldy sheetrock until nothing is left but studs.

Swarthmore College students Melissa Grigsby and Loretta Gary recently traveled to New Orleans to join a Common Ground Collective housegutting crew.

More information about Common Ground can be obtained by visiting COMMONGROUNDRELIEF.ORG.

A list of organizations helping residents with housegutting can be obtained by visiting CITYOFNO.COM

Carol Fran and Clarence Hollimon, "Door Poppin'," Louisiana Gumbo, Putumayo, 2000.

Eddie Bo, "Piano Roll," Louisiana Gumbo, Putumayo, 2000.

audio Save St. Francis Cabrini Church
The historic Holy Cross School in New Orleans Lower Ninth Ward was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters. Just a month ago, the Archdiocese of New Orleans voted to move the school to develop a more spacious campus on comparatively higher ground in the Gentilly neighborhood. The move was widely celebrated, in particular because the Archdiocese had been talking about moving the school out of New Orleans to neighboring Jefferson Parish. Now, however, Holy Cross School plans to level a church on the Gentilly site, which parishioners and preservationists say should be saved.

Parishioners feel trapped in a delicate balance between wanting to save their church, and wanting to allow the school to move to their neighborhood.

Supporters of St. Francis Cabrini are holding a 1:00 rally today at the church, located at 5500 Paris Avenue (TP photo of St. Francis Cabrini Church).

They will also be seeking a court injunction on Monday to stop the demolition so that the church’s historic status can be considered, and so that negotiations can be held with Holy Cross officials to find a way to incorporate the church into the school’s building plans.

Stephen Verderber is an architect at Tulane University, and a St. Francis Cabrini parishioner. His letter to the editor was printed in The Times-Picayune on Friday.

The complete letter follows:
Dear Editors:

This morning, with little debate, the New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission (HDLC) voted to grant historic landmark status to the exquisite, award winning 1963 church in Gentilly that was designed by the architectural firm of Curtis and Davis. This is the same firm who designed the Rivergate and the Superdome, among other 20th century New Orleans civic landmarks. As an architect, professor at Tulane who has worked and lived here for 22 years, and as a private citizen I find the impending destruction of this important place of worship to be extremely tragic. I could never have imagined that this church, which sustained relatively minor damage from Katrina's floodwaters due to its solid brick construction, could be cast off in such a cavalier manner. This, without any opportunity for parish parishioners and other concerned persons and groups to weigh in on the decision making process. There is no doubt that if the Archdiocese of New Orleans so wished, this church could be saved from the wrecking ball and meaningfully integrated as part of the Holy Cross campus.

The Archdiocese needs to stand up tall and immediately reassess its position -- there would be no better location in the metro area to redesignate St. Francis Cabrini Church as a national shrine to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. In so doing, the church would be preserved and visitors would travel to Gentilly from throughout the United States and indeed the world to visit such a memorial. The walls of the outer chapel, known as the Baptismal, would be an ideal space--covered with the photographs of every single soul who perished. The church's architecture in and of itself is spiritually moving, and these qualities, reinterpreted vis-a-vis the Katrina National Shrine, would be a powerful statement to the entire world of the power of the human spirit to prevail in the face of severe adversity. To underscore this, leave the cross which sits atop its slender spire askew, as rendered by Katrina's ferocious winds.

The bottom line: How did the situation deteriorate to this very low point, truly the eleventh hour, without any serious thought accorded to restoring this civic landmark to its pre-Katrina grandeur? This entire affair has had the tainted appearance of a "done deal" from the start, unfortunately. I simply cannot believe that otherwise logical minds would insist that the Holy Cross deal is "off" if the church remains. With careful site planning there is no question that the school and the church can co-exist side by side. Surely there is enough land to do so. Perhaps it is not too late for the Archdiocese and Holy Cross to put their heads together and do the right thing. CALL OFF THE WRECKING BALL.

Stephen Verderber
Tulane University
New Orleans

audio In the Brown Zone with Mother Cabrini
A reading by Mark Folse, from a Wet Bank Guide post authored in June.

Stay Local: The Urban Conservancy Campaign to Support New Orleans Businesses -- postponed until next Saturday. Sorry :-(


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