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.
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. Douglas served as the Minister of Culture for the organization from 1967-1980. Under his art direction and production, The Black Panther, the party’s official newspaper, reached a peak circulation of more than 130,000 a week in 1970. His job was no easy one. He was tasked with communicating complicated political messages to a community with high illiteracy rates, a largely nonreading demographic.
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. The response rate has been abysmal, though. I feel like I’m inking thank-you notes only to throw them down a well.
The city’s only indie, black-owned bookstore, Community Book Center is turning the big 3-0. Over the last three decades, the operation that Vera Warren-Williams launched in her parents’ Lower Ninth Ward home has blossomed into a black literary hub hosting publishing world heavyweights such as Alice Walker, Octavia Butler, Dr. John Henrik Clark and Nikki Giovanni while serving as a home base to local authors like Dr. Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Brenda Marie Osbey, Tom Dent as well as father-and-daughter writer pair: Kalamu ya Salaam and Kiini Salaam among others. The name says it all. Community Book Center is grassroots to its soul. There’s not another bookshop in the city where you can drop in to use the fax machine or Wifi, purchase hard-to-find, Afro-centric works like Colored Creole by Aline St.
Ameca Reali joins a small group at the corner of Orleans Avenue and North Galvez Street near the Lafitte Housing Development. Donning oversized shades, Reali recognizes that this particular day in September is a scorcher and immediately thanks the volunteers for braving the high temperatures, especially on a Friday afternoon. After Reali leads a quick huddle, everyone takes off in separate directions to begin the task of distributing fliers for a unique community event she is organizing: an expungement fair. In 2011, Reali and Adrienne K. Wheeler founded the Justice and Accountability Center, hoping to uncover where the criminal justice system is not working and try to make it better for those already tangled in its web. Today, the bulk of the new organization’s work is expungement.
Uptown Messenger columnist jewel bush, founder of the MelaNated Writers Collective, will be speaking at 10 a.m. Saturday as part of a panel discussion on “Creating Community for Writers of Color” at the Rising Tide new media conference on the future of New Orleans at Xavier University. Below, find a short series of questions and answers with Bush:
How did the MelaNated Writers Collective get started? I was in newspapers for 6 years, and when I left to begin doing communications and marketing for nonprofits and various organizations, I missed the camaraderie of the newsroom. I freelanced for awhile, but it’s not the same as being in a space with other writers. Around this time, I started to take my creative writing seriously and began attending literary workshops around the country like VONA (Voices of our Nation) the only multi-genre workshop for writers of color, co-founded by the Pultizer-prize winning author Junot Diaz and Callaloo when it was at Texas A&M.
Sharon Carter Sheridan lost both of her parents to cancer – lung and colon. Barely in her teens, Sheridan’s sister died of uterine cancer at the age of 13 in 1951. Two of her brothers died of cancer – lung and pancreatic. And, she herself has been breast cancer free for 17 years. But it wasn’t until her sister, her dearest friend and confidant died from the disease that Sheridan became incensed.
When President George W. Bush’s motorcade drove down St. Claude Avenue on August 29, 2006 — the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina — there were many signs, like sentries, stationed along his route to Fats Domino’s house in the Ninth Ward, one stop on his itinerary of ceremonial rounds. The messages, posted on signs lined along the neutral ground and on the actual storm-clobbered buildings, weren’t flattering greetings from the city’s welcome committee. The collective reverberation to the commander in chief’s obligatory pilgrimage to the place he neglected a year earlier was that of a shimmering rage, pithy and piercing in delivery. One of the strongest indicators of this sentiment was a lop-sided, green Port-a-Potty positioned on the very edge of the neutral ground somewhere along St.
The Florida housing development has undergone a metamorphosis at the hands of Brandan “BMike” Odums, a 27-year-old art educator and literacy advocate. When Hurricane Katrina hit, 127 shiny new apartments had recently been built in the Florida housing development, an 18.5-acre tract of land in the Upper Ninth Ward. The Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) had plans to build more. That didn’t happen, though. The units were damaged so badly during and after the storm that HANO closed down the Florida.
The war for the most New Orleansest grocery store in Mid City has been waged. Winn-Dixie’s grand opening pomp and circumstance have included giveaways of all sorts, folks in patriotic-esque costumes meandering around the grocery – to add to the celebratory atmosphere, I suppose – and a saxophonist serenading produce shoppers to add Big Easy flair among other jazzy gimmicks. Not to be upstaged by the new kid on North Carrollton Avenue, Rouses Market had a brass brand – tuba, trombones, trumpet, snare drum — playing near the store’s entrance, a block party hosted by WWOZ and a Sunday Gospel Brunch. This grocery store face off is not your ordinary marketing push. Rouses is delivering a hardcore message: “You can try your best Mid City accent, but if you’re from Florida, we’ll know it ten tables away.” This is just one of the talking points in Rouses’ “You’re Either Local or You’re Not” campaign.