Feb 142014

Kara Morgan

Kara Morgan

By Kara Morgan

It has been exactly a year since I was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma, having fairly large tumors in my lung and my abdomen. The good news is that I feel great and I have less cancer in me today than I did a year ago. The bad news is that I still have one large tumor and, as of today, there is no cure.

I already knew what was ahead for me as I sat in the doctor’s office on Feb. 7, 2013, listening to him confirm that the lung tumor biopsy results showed my melanoma had returned, three years after I had it removed from my face. The lymph nodes had come back clear, and my dermatologist and I were celebrating moving the big decrease in the chances it would return — except, unbeknownst to us, it already had. I knew the percentages of patients with melanoma metastasis to the lungs who survive one, two and five years are 33%, 18% and 10%, respectively. I also knew there was hope, with many stage IV survivors out there and ground breaking new treatments on the horizon.

But more than anything, I knew I felt good and I needed to get to 8th & St Charles and start setting up for the Muses parade that night before there were no spots left.
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Jun 032013

Mayor Mitch Landrieu joins hands with several children to jump into the pool at the Lyons Center after a grand re-opening ceremony Monday morning. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Irish Channel Neighborhood Association president Kara Morgan gestures to indicate the wide range of communities that use the Lyons Center at its re-opening celebration Monday. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the crowds of city and neighborhood officials with him had a nearly perfect soundtrack of every step of their way through the newly reopened Lyons Center in the Irish Channel on Monday morning.

In the lobby, it was the tinkling of an electric piano as ballet dancers rehearsed in a studio behind the news conference podium. In the gym, it was a group of musicians performing the Harlem Globetrotters theme “Sweet Georgia Brown” as Landrieu shot a few baskets. They kept up the music out by the pool, but were hard to hear over the squeals and splashing as the mayor gently dunked some of his youngest constituents.

Even the background chatter was on message, as the kindergarten-aged “Bears” group of day campers lined up in a hallway and gawked at the TV cameras passing by.

“You’re going to be on the news!” instructor Valencia Delair whispered, a stern smile on her face as she kept the 5-year-olds corralled. “You are super-stars. You are going to be on the news — for all the right reasons!” Continue reading »

May 072013

Kara Morgan (right) and her sister, Kristine Rizzuto, at Morgan’s home in the Irish Channel. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

For years, Kara Morgan has given her neighbors her time, love and energy as the tough, cheerful leader of the Irish Channel Neighborhood Association.

Now that the 39-year-old mother of two has been diagnosed with a deadly form of cancer, the Irish Channel is giving back to Morgan this weekend in the neighborhood’s own irreverent way — with a fundraiser for her medical treatment at a brewery, complete with burlesque dancers, musicians, and all the fierce, unyielding optimism that she and her community bear so proudly. Continue reading »

Sep 262012

Kara Morgan, president of the Irish Channel Neighborhood Association, talks about the importance of providing recreation to area children Monday at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Lyons Center on Tchoupitoulas Street. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Sunlight streams through the gaping holes in the roof of the Lyons Center basketball court. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Desperate to provide recreational opportunities for the children of their neighborhood over the last several years, Irish Channel residents have organized their own basketball leagues, running extension cords down the street to operate a scoreboard.

Those days may soon be over, as the city has finally begun work this week renovating the Lyons Center into a state of the art community space for sports, dance and computer education — with a promised completion date of this coming spring. Continue reading »

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Apr 192012

Tyrone A. Williams (via opcso.org)

The suspect in last week’s attack on a woman jogging in Audubon Park is now scheduled for a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation, but it remains unclear whether the criminal justice system has any remedy to what authorities and neighbors describe as an escalating pattern of troubling behavior. Continue reading »

Aug 192011

A fish fry is planned Saturday to benefit an Irish Channel community group and a family movie night is scheduled for next weekend in nearby Annunciation Square, neighborhood leaders said. Continue reading »

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Aug 122011

With state and local elections two months away, the Irish Channel got an early start on political season Thursday night with a well-attended social event for candidates at a popular neighborhood bar.

At least eight candidates made appearances at Tracey’s on Magazine Street, all of whom other than state Rep. Walt Leger were running for various judicial seats: Regina Bartholomew, Herbert Cade, Nakisha Ervin-Knott, Ellen Hazeur, Clare Jupiter, Kris Kiefer and Franz Zibilich. The social had a decidedly low-key atmosphere, without formal speeches or introductions. Instead, the candidates and their supporters casually passed from group to group of the 30 or so association members and dozens more patrons in the bar. Continue reading »

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Jan 062011

Rebecca Snook shows a photo on her phone of her and her daughter Melissa Martinez, 17, on Christmas in their Irish Channel home. Martinez perished in a fire two days later. (Sabree Hill, UptownMessenger.com)

With nighttime lows well beneath freezing last February, not too many people thought camping overnight in the St. Charles Avenue neutral ground was a great idea.

Melissa Martinez, at right, camps out on St. Charles Avenue during Mardi Gras. (Submitted photo)

Kara Morgan, president of the Irish Channel Neighborhood Association, thought it was perfect. For Mardi Gras immediately after Saints’ triumphant first-ever Super Bowl victory, quarterback Drew Brees was riding in Bacchus, and Morgan needed to secure a conspicuous place on the route so he would see her life-size photo of him from his float.

But Morgan also needed fellow campers, and when most of her friends her age told her she was crazy, she turned to a dear friend and neighbor’s teenage daughter, Melissa Martinez, who “thought it was the coolest idea ever,” Morgan recalled. Along with Morgan’s niece and another neighbor, Martinez brought her boyfriend, and the five froze through the night together, huddling on top of tarps and around grills and space heaters in a makeshift camp near Seventh Street.

At 3 a.m., Martinez cooked burgers for everyone. At some point, a elderly Corgi wandered up lost, and the girls adopted him until his owner, a doctor who lived nearby, came and found him. By the time of the parade the next day, Martinez was so exhausted that she was home sleeping and missed it altogether.

This cardboard cutout of Drew Brees inspired a St. Charles Avenue campout for Melissa Martinez and Kara Morgan during Mardi Gras 2009. (Submitted photo)

The entire point of that night for Martinez had simply been the experience and the camaraderie, Morgan now recalls, trying to understand how the beloved 17-year-old Irish Channel resident ended up among eight young people killed in a tragic 9th Ward warehouse fire two days after Christmas and labeled an outsider by the city she loved.

“I really just think she was there because she loved the outdoors, loved roughing it, and I really think that would explain a lot of why she would be in the building that night,” Morgan said. “To her, that would be something fun to do.” Continue reading »

Dec 092010

Kara Morgan, President of the Irish Channel, smiles while wearing a Saints-emblazoned Saints hat at the Irish Channel Neighborhood Association Christmas party at Tracey's Thursday evening. "We decided to have it at Tracey's to bring a more diverse crowd and because you can bring kids here," said Morgan. "We hope to pick up new members that haven't heard of the Neighborhood Association." The Irish Channel Neighborhood Association collected toys at the Christmas Party for Christmas in the Sixth, a toy drive by the NOPD Sixth District. (Sabree Hill, UptownMessenger.com)

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Dec 022010

Uptown community leaders expressed guarded enthusiasm for the city’s nascent campaign against blight after a third public progress meeting Thursday morning, even though the effort’s effect on specific neighborhoods has yet to be described in detail. Continue reading »

Nov 122010

The Irish Channel Neighborhood Association is continuing its efforts to clean up properties owned by a troubled nonprofit by taking members’ concerns about crime and neglect to the mayor’s office. Continue reading »