Oct 212014

jewel bush

Last week, an eighth grader at a ReNew Schools charter in New Orleans East suffered second-degree burns from having scalding water thrown on him by another student. He required skin grafts for the wounds to his legs. This wasn’t the first time this student had been attacked on campus. A few months earlier, a different student slammed his head into the concrete.  He reported that incident too.

I applaud this student for being brave enough to come forward. It takes guts to speak out against bullying.

Anyone who caught the RTA, or the “Rita” as we called it, to school in New Orleans in the 1990s or 2000s has a wild story or two to tell about extreme bullying. Continue reading »

Jun 102014

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You’ve seen them at many intersections and overpasses across the city.

They weave in and out of traffic at red lights, often dressed in team jerseys or uniforms, their sweet faces so hard to say no to.

They work in teams usually. There are the sign carriers. Sometimes the signs are pithy and drum up sympathy. Other times, the words on the poster boards are a scrawl so faint you can hardly decipher the exact message. One thing is unmistakable, though. They want money. Continue reading »

May 132014
Students present their plans at the Contemporary Arts Center. (photo by jewel bush for UptownMessenger.com)

Students present their plans at the Contemporary Arts Center. (photo by jewel bush for UptownMessenger.com)

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With the unleashing of their imaginations and mentorship from the National Organization of Minority Architects, four teams from Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools, Sci Academy and Urban League College Track spent the last year analyzing the needs of various neighborhoods around the city and then developing architectural plans designed to meet those needs.

Security, transportation, employment, shelter and food were among areas the youth considered during the urban planning process. They sought to define space and place and answer questions like: Does a church fall under the category of public space, entertainment or education?

And what the budding architects, ranging in ages 11 to 18, envisioned is nothing short of thoughtful, innovative and really, really sweet. Continue reading »

May 062014

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Today, consider foregoing eating out or that fancy cup of Joe and give to one of the more than 300 nonprofit organizations across the city participating in the community-wide online giving campaign, GiveNOLA Day.

The minimum gift is $10, less than the cost of an IMAX movie ticket or a happy hour special. Continue reading »

Apr 292014

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The New Orleans Public Library System is in trouble.

Next year, the city has to find an additional $3 million just to keep the 13 current libraries open. That’s keep-the-lights-on money. Purchasing new books or investing in new library technologies are both out of the question under this scenario. Continue reading »

Apr 082014

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Dianne Honoré has been a French Quarter tour guide off and on for more than 20 years; and this, she said, is the worst it’s ever been.

“My heart breaks when I walk through the French Quarter sometimes,” Honoré said sipping a coffee in Treme Café on St. Philip Street. “It disgusts me the lack of protection, the level of filth.”

Honoré is talking about the all-time high population of “gutter punks” that blanket the French Quarter. The gutter punk colonies run along the river, along Decatur Street. The 500 block of Bourbon Street is a gutter-punk haven; basically all over the French Quarter is, she said. Continue reading »

Mar 252014

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Less than three months passed between the arrest of George Junius Stinney Jr. and his execution. The whole Stinney trial took only one day – including jury selection.

The year was 1944 in Alcolu, a South Carolina town established by a lumber company in the late 19th century. All of the townsfolk worked for the mill; and in fact, were paid in metal coins emblazoned with the letter “A;” legal tender accepted at the company store to pay for everything from groceries to a doctor’s visit.

Stinney was 14 when he sat in the electric chair using the Bible he carried into the death chamber as a booster seat. From the looks of his mug shot, Stinney could have passed for as young as 12 when he was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder of two pre-teen white girls by an all-white jury in a town that was more than half black. Continue reading »

Mar 182014
Glenn Ford. (photo by jewel bush)

Former death-row prisoner Glenn Ford was released from prison last week, and is transitioning back to society at the Resurrection After Exoneration program in New Orleans. (photo by jewel bush)

jewel bush

What do you say to someone who has spent 10,950 days — 3 decades and his last 30 birthdays — wondering if today would be the day he would be put to death for a crime he did not commit?

“They give you a $20 debit card and say, ‘I’ll be waiting on you,’ ” said John Thompson, who spent 18 years in prison, 14 of them on death row, wrongfully convicted of murder.

On March 11, Thompson welcomed home fellow exoneree Glenn Ford, Louisiana’s longest-serving death row prisoner. Ford was released from death row and exonerated after an informant told police that the real killer — one of the original suspects — confessed to the 1983 murder. Continue reading »

Mar 112014
Torence "Lil Boosie" Hatch speaks at a news conference Monday. (via boosiespeaks.com)

Torence “Lil Boosie” Hatch speaks at a news conference Monday. (via boosiespeaks.com)

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The fanfare surrounding 31-year-old Torence “Lil Boosie” Hatch’s release from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola after a four-year sentence on drug charges has been surreal.

A video of his daughter, a wide-eyed girl in ponytails and bows, feverishly expressing her anticipation over her dad coming home went viral. The clip, sweet at heart, was highly problematic though, because of the little girl’s repeated and casual use of the N-word — and it embodies the contradictions in this whole story. Continue reading »

Feb 182014

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As the celebrities and athletes who came to town to party during the NBA All-Star Weekend board planes heading back to their posh lives — after they Instagram images of themselves looking fabulous and doing fabulous things like eating beignets and shooting hoops with underprivileged youth — New Orleans remains as bloody as ever.
Continue reading »

Jan 282014

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Standing somewhere in between the Blue Runners and Trappey’s Butter Beans, a woman in Rouses asked me had I heard that wind gusts were supposed to reach 100 mph.

I was in the supermarket, like everyone else, buying provisions for an intended few days spent home due to sleet, freezing rain; and hopefully, snow, but mostly what’s expected to be an icy mess of local roads and bridges.

But I hadn’t heard that. Continue reading »

Jan 072014
(photo by jewel bush for UptownMessenger.com)

(photo by jewel bush for UptownMessenger.com)

jewel bush

It’s 34 degrees at daybreak; and the temperature is rapidly dropping. The day is as dreary as it is gray, but not even the hawk — or the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) — can keep Brandan “BMike” Odums away from the Florida Projects.

He’s not breaking and entering in the name of creation this time around. The visual artist, who is equally dexterous with spray paint as he is with acrylic and pen and ink, is there to reflect on #ProjectBe, an organic participatory art odyssey that began last summer. #ProjectBe sparked debates among the arties — and authorities – about what makes “legitimate” art and whether a weather-beaten public housing development can ever be more than an underground thrill. Continue reading »

Dec 242013
Seventh Ward Santa with Akhil Isiah Ricco-Thompson on Dec. 23, 2013. (submitted photo)

Seventh Ward Santa with Akhil Isiah Ricco-Thompson on Dec. 23, 2013. (submitted photo)

jewel bush

It’s the weekend before Christmas at Dennis Photography, a quaint picture studio. It’s the calm before the storm, a studio attendant explains, before the gallery is packed with crying babies, active toddlers and parents filling out picture packets on one of the busiest Santa Claus picture-taking days of the season.

Seventh Ward Santa, as he has grown to be known in his 43 years, is nowhere in sight. According to his business agent, Fred Parker, Santa is in between photo shoots as is typical during this time of year working to make as many appearances and greet as many little ones as possible. He’s been on call since Nov. 1 visiting multiple New Orleans daycare centers, elementary schools and high schools daily in addition to his regular sittings at the studio.

“I’m dog-tired. I can’t sleep. I’m up at 5 and then up until 12 and 1 at night,” Seventh Ward Santa said. “I’m looking forward to Christmas Day so I can get to sleep.” Continue reading »

Dec 102013

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LaTanya Killingworth was fresh out of Alfred Lawless High School when she found out she was HIV positive. She casually took a test while visiting a health center with a friend. Weeks later, after she had forgotten all about it, she was called in to get the results.

“The day I found out I was positive I cried because I thought I would never have kids. It was a death sentence at that time,” Killingworth says. “I thought my whole life was gone at 19.”
Continue reading »

Nov 192013

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Should applications for jobs with the City of New Orleans ask if a person has any previous felony convictions? Mayor Landrieu, to his credit, says no.

Referred to as “banning the box,” cutting this query from employment applications won’t do away with background checks. It would, however, prevent a “yes” answer from eliminating an otherwise qualified candidate from the interview process based on biases against those with criminal records. Background checks, as they should, would come down the line once that person is considered for hiring; and even then, a felony conviction won’t be an employment barrier. Continue reading »

Oct 292013

Emory Douglas Postcard

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Graphic artist legend Emory Douglas — whose work is on display now at the McKenna Museum in New Orleans — is responsible for crafting the Black Panther Party’s iconic visual identity, capturing the era’s intensity through fiery artwork that rose above the rhetoric and subterfuge of the day to reach an embattled community in ways words were unable to articulate. Continue reading »

Oct 152013

jewel bush

Over the last year, I’ve met dozens of incredible people both personally and professionally, and I’ve followed up most of these encounters with some sort of thank you — digital, but more often tangible.

I’ve sent greeting cards and handwritten notes, which are no easy task being that my penmanship has never been even mediocre and the physical act of writing sometimes pains me. Not only have I sent notes to the new folks who have entered my life, but I’ve also mailed a variety of correspondence to my old friends and colleagues as well to remind them how amazing I believe they are. Continue reading »