Danae Columbus: Court Watch NOLA celebrates 11 years of citizen advocacy

The volunteers at Court Watch NOLA are a well-oiled data collection machine that have made a significant impact on the operations of the Orleans Parish criminal court system for more than a decade. “We are a basic exercise in democracy,” said director Simone Levine. Through the information skilled volunteers collect, the agency publishes reports “that spur dialogue and bring much needed transparency and accountability to the courts.”

Founded after Hurricane Katrina by the New Orleans Business Council and other forward-thinking organizations, Court Watch NOLA seeks to shorten the gulf between “insiders” and “outsiders,” Levine explained.  Outsiders are the crime victims, witnesses, defendants and jurors. Insiders are the public officials who run the system, including the judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, police officers and Sheriff’s Office officials. “Court Watch NOLA teaches outsiders the language of court so that outsiders can bring accountability and help to solve some of the problems that insiders have so regularly lived with that they often no longer see as problematic,” Levine said.

‘King Ester’ honors Pre-Katrina New Orleans, normalizes marginalized voices

The New Orleans Film Festival turned 30 this year, and their diversity in films and filmmakers is a point that they stress. This year, they screened “232 visionary, thought-provoking films that represent a wealth of perspectives,” 26% of which were Louisiana-made and 56% directed by people of color. One series based in Uptown New Orleans made its debut on the NOFF big screen and online simultaneously. “King Ester”—directed by Dui Jarrod and presented by Issa Rae’s ColorCreative production company—takes the viewer into the world of a black trans woman right before natural disaster. Filmed all over New Orleans and based in Pigeon Town (P-Town), the series is described as such:
“Ester is a trans woman struggling to find her path in New Orleans during the week before Hurricane Katrina. In the face of an evacuation order, she is forced to make a choice that will impact her future forever.”

Xavier will celebrate famed photographer with ‘Picturing Creole New Orleans’

Xavier University of Louisiana, in partnership with The Louisiana Creole Research Association, will celebrate the opening of “Picturing Creole New Orleans: The Photography of Arthur P. Bedou” on Saturday, Oct. 26. The exhibition is part of LA Creole’s 15th annual conference, and it will feature collected photographs by the heralded New Orleans native who was personal photographer to Booker T. Washington. “The purpose of the conference is to showcase Creole life in New Orleans in the early 20th century through the lens of Mr. Bedou,” conference organizers said. Lectures, a panel discussion, presentations, and workshops inspired by Bedou’s legacy will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Xavier University’s Convocation Center Annex, 7401 Stroelitz St., Building 62 (at Fern St.).

Celebrating Black Masking Indians, ‘Spy Boy Dow’ premieres tonight at Film Festival

Dow Michael Edwards — a lawyer from Uptown New Orleans who grew up loving the Black Masking Indian culture — is headed for a big screen debut in the short film “Spy Boy Dow.” The film directed by Carl Harrison Jr. follows Edwards’ suit-making process in preparation for Mardi Gras Day. This is Harrison’s second project to be accepted into the New Orleans Film Festival in three years, and it premieres at The Broad Theater tonight (Oct. 18). The birth of Spy Boy Dow
“The Spy Boy is first in the front… he is ahead looking for trouble.

NOLA Vegan Café: Former social worker brings plant-based cuisine to Leonidas

At the corner of Leonidas and Spruce sits the Community Commitment Education Center, a public space for neighborhood engagement, summer programs for children, and now a plant-based restaurant. Formerly Stella’s Coffee House, the kitchen space at 1923 Leonidas St. is now officially home to NOLA Vegan Café, which opens today, Oct. 1. The café is the work of Uptown’s Sonya Brown, a social worker and chef known for her vegan popups.

Uptown Public School Series: Excellence, Rigor, and Diversity of Options

In the third part of our ten-essay series by parents of students at public schools Uptown, Celeste Sparks writes about her children’s experience at Andrew H. Wilson Charter School. Uptown, like New Orleans as a whole, has many public school options for families—from college preparatory schools to three different language immersion programs, from a Montessori program to a technology career pathway school. In this series, we hear from parents themselves on why their child’s school is right for them. Part of the Family: Why My Children and I Love Andrew H. Wilson Charter School
By Celeste Sparks, Parent

I have three children and I love them so much. Trinity, the oldest, is in fourth grade.

Award named in honor of activist Felicia Kahn

The New Orleans Coalition is holding the Felicia Kahn Citizenship Award Dinner on Thursday, Sept. 26, to honor the legacy of political activist Felicia Schornstein Kahn, who died June 21, 2018, at the age of 91. Kahn fought long and hard for equal rights, civil rights and the Democratic Party. At age 90, she was the second-oldest delegate to the Democratic National Convention, her 10th convention. She was among the inaugurating members of the New Orleans Coalition, one of the city’s first integrated political organizations.

Kingsley House unveils Patrick Taylor statue

Kingsley House has unveiled a new sculpture, “Pointing the Way to a Better Future,” in commemoration of the late New Orleans philanthropist, Patrick F. Taylor. Taylor pushed for the Lower Garden District agency’s expansion before his death in 2004, and whose foundation was a significant donor to its newest facility. The dedication ceremony on Friday included remarks from Phyllis Taylor, widow of Patrick F. Taylor, representatives from the Mayor’s Office and City Council, before the statue was unveiled by Kingsley House children. Kingsley House, headquartered at 1600 Constance Street, has facilities throughout the metro area. The statue is at its Lower Garden District location at 901 Richard Street.

Danae Columbus: New PRC exhibit celebrates Pontchartrain Park

The Preservation Resource Center opens a new exhibit tonight on the history of Pontchartrain Park, the city’s first suburban-style subdivision for middle-class and affluent African-American residents. Featuring historic neighborhood ads and newspaper clippings, information about architectural style and neighborhood design, as well as incredible personal family photos and stories from some of Pontchartrain Park’s founding residents, the exhibit is being mounted as a celebration of a joint submission to the National Register of Historic Places. The PRC and the Pontchartrain Park Neighborhood Association collaborated on the application for designation. “Pontchartrain Park was our Mayberry,” said neighborhood association president Gretchen Bradford, referring to a 1960s American television program that epitomized life in a small town. “I have lived in the Park my entire life; it’s the only neighborhood I’ve ever known.”

The concept for an African-American subdivision came from local civil rights activist Rosa Keller.

Uptown Public School Series: Diversity, Community, and Warmth at Hoffman

In this second of our ten-essay series by parents of students at public schools Uptown, Anna Derby and Rodolfo Machirica write about their children’s experience at John W. Hoffman Early Learning Center. Uptown, like New Orleans as a whole, has many public school options for families—from college preparatory schools, to three different language immersion programs, to a Montessori program, to a technology career pathway school. In this series, we hear from parents themselves on why their child’s school is right for them. Diversity, Community, and Warmth at Hoffman
By Anna Derby & Rodolfo Machirica
We have two young children: Gabriel is three years old, and Elijah is four months. Both as educators and as parents, we care deeply about where we send our kids to school, and we know these early years matter.