My 11-year-old son used his allowance to purchase a BB gun at Academy Sports & Outdoors on a shopping trip with his grandfather a few weeks ago. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy about it. My father, who grew up in Rosa, a rural agricultural community in St. Landry Parish, thought nothing of it. He grew up hunting deer, rabbit and whatever else was in season along with his eight brothers and scores of cousins.
By 10:30 a.m. yesterday, the eve of the 2014 mid-term elections, I had already received three political campaign calls. When my cell rang for the third time in an hour with a call from yet another unfamiliar phone number, I was beyond perturbed. I heard President Barack Obama’s voice and immediately hung up. Yes, I hung up on the leader of the Free World. The calls continued throughout the day.
My son was 5 years old when he made the disturbing announcement that “Cornbread” had been shot. He told me a detailed account of Cornbread dribbling a basketball in the rain when “they” shot him — shot him in the back! Panicked at the thought that my son might have somehow witnessed a murder, I interrogated him: Who is Cornbread? Who is “they”? Where did you see Cornbread?
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.
I respectfully request that you discontinue the Christopher Columbus holiday observance, posthaste. It is an act of disrespect and deceit to continue to prop up Christopher Columbus as America’s first great hero. He was no darling. With romantic whimsy, textbooks recount the arrival of the Niña, Pinta, and the Santa Maria on October 12, 1492. Students are taught to herald the bravery of Columbus and his crew, to hail them as sailors who braved stormy seas and the unknown to discover our beloved America.
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.
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. We’re talking about blueprints that seek to put restorative justice centers in schools, solar panels on library roofs, grocery stores that include nail shops and community kitchens in food deserts and schools in “education deserts,” a term used by a member of the Rethink architecture committee.
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. In a world where being awarded unrestricted grants to run nonprofits is increasingly difficult and many local groups compete for the same donor dollars, GiveNOLA Day, sponsored by the Greater New Orleans Foundation, is a way to help bridge the budget gap or add some lagniappe in the nonprofit sector. And the lagniappe is what makes GiveNOLA Day — a virtual can-shake — a potential boon. Every dollar raised will be increased with additional lagniappe dollars provided by GNOF and other GiveNOLA Day sponsors.
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. In 2011, the New Orleans Public Library Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the library, hired a consultant to evaluate the system’s performance.
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.