Tag Archives: New Orleans

Wendell Pierce on Rebuilding Pontchartrain Park

Actor Wendell Pierce has written a new book titled The Wind in the Reeds: A Storm, A Play and the City That Would Not Be Broken.

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In the book he talks about how Hurricane Katrina destroyed the neighborhood he grew up in.  Wendell grew up in the Pontchartrain Park district of New Orleans which is the oldest planned black middle class community in that city.

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He also talks about the rebuilding efforts going on in Pontchartrain Park and the politics he has run into when it comes to opening a business.

On the morning of Aug. 29, 2005, Katrina gashed the levee in two places north of the bridge, which traverses the Industrial Canal, the economically vital artery for shipping from the Mississippi River to Lake Pontchartrain and, via two other man-made canals, out into the Gulf of Mexico. Millions of gallons of water washed through the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. In a single morning, a historic black neighborhood of 14,000 souls, among them the city’s poorest, ceased to exist.

Days later, after the water receded, there was nothing left but ruins, and corpses. In the heat and moisture of south Louisiana, weeds, vines, and trees rapidly consumed the desolate lots and sidewalks. Rattlesnakes and cottonmouths moved in, chasing the rats that overran backyards where children once played and stoops where families used to barbecue. Sometimes, packs of wild dogs owned the streets. The few residents able to return not only had to fight nature just to hold their ground, but also lived in fear of predatory rapists and other savages lurking in the rotting ruins and dark thickets that used to be a neighborhood.

I knew intimately the agony of the people of the Lower Ninth Ward. Six miles north of the neighborhood, where the Industrial Canal meets the lake, the district of the city where I grew up—Pontchartrain Park, the first black middle-class subdivision in New Orleans—had been virtually annihilated when a breach in a different canal to the west caused the neighborhood to fill with water up to the rooftops.

Built in the mid-1950s as the wall of segregation was beginning to crack, Pontchartrain Park symbolized the opening of the American dream to black folks in New Orleans—people like Althea and Amos Pierce, my schoolteacher mother and my photographer father, who in 1955 bought a modest ranch home there and started a family.

Check out the entire excerpt from Wendell’s book at Slate.com and the book is available at Amazon.com.  Also check out Progress in the Park: Pontchartrain Park 10 Years After Katrina.

10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

This week marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina which caused severe destruction along the Gulf Coast. Hurricane Katrina caused over $100,000,000.00 worth of damage and over 1,800 people lost their lives.

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Hurricane Katrina started as a tropical depression on August 25, 2005. By August 28 the Gulf Coast region was being evacuated. New Orleans was particularly a target due to some of the city being below sea level. Then mayor Ray Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans but unfortunately some residents could not leave the city due to not having access to an automobile.

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Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans in the early morning hours of August 29 and by the end of the storm thousands of homes were destroyed and over 80 percent of the city was flooded.
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While many residents who left New Orleans came back to rebuild their homes many other residents have stayed away. Black residents were more likely to live in areas of New Orleans that was harder hit than other areas and where recovery has been much slower. Ten years after Katrina there is also a racial divide when it comes to how residents view the recovery in New Orleans.

The Washington Post has several very good articles about the changes going on in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast area including the gentrification of several neighborhoods and the influx of new businesses.

The New York Times has a very good article about the changes going on in New Orleans with an emphasis on New Orleans native Alden McDonald.

Check out New Orleans, 10 Years After Katrina at The Atlantic.com.

Stop Blaming Me For Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina

10 Years After Katrina

Hurricane Katrina 10 Years Later

The Lost Children of Katrina

Obama to New Orleans 10 Years After Katrina: You Inspire Me

Pontchartrain Park

August 29th marks the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  CNN.com has an interesting article about families in the Pontchartrain Park section of New Orleans who are banding together to save their historical community.

(CNN) — “This can be yours,” the black-and-white newspaper advertisement promised above an image of a tree-lined ranch home in Pontchartrain Park.

At the bottom, it said “Available to Negroes.”

It was the 1950s in segregated New Orleans, Louisiana, and the promise of a slice of suburbia for black Americans lured hundreds to the new community.

That included Meldon Woods, an Air Force corporal who had been given a home loan for his military service through the GI Bill. He and his wife, Audrey, a schoolteacher at the time, purchased a two-story home in 1957 where they raised their four children.

Fifty years later, he was forced to evacuate that home as Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans on August 29, 2005.

Actor Wendell Pierce, who starred in the HBO series The Wire and currently stars in the HBO series Treme is one of many long time residents who’s helping to rebuild Ponchartrain Park.

Pierce staged a massive effort to get the city of New Orleans to start rebuilding the neighborhood’s blighted and abandoned properties.

Only 30 percent of the neighborhood’s rsidents had returned two years after Katrina — the second slowest rate of return in New Orleans behind the city’s devastated and impoverished Ninth Ward, according to Pierce.

Ponchartrain Park, a neighborhood in New Orleans was one of the first suburban style communities developed by African Americans for African Americans. It was developed after World War II.  Ponchartrain Park was badly damaged during Hurricane Katrina.

On August 21 and 22 CNN has a special titled New Orleans Rising.  The show will feature the residents who along with Wendell Pierce are helping to get Pontchartrain Park back on it’s feet.  The special will air at 8:00 ET.

When I read about the history of Ponchartrain Park, it reminded me of the neighborhood I grew up in when I was living in Atlanta.  During the 1960s my family and I lived in the Collier Heights neighborhood of Atlanta.  Collier Heights was the first community in the United States built by African Americans for African Americans.  You have to remember that like Ponchartrain Park, Collier Heights was developed and built in the South during the days of racial segregation in the 1950’s.  We eventually moved from Atlanta to Silver Spring, Maryland in 1968.  You can read more about the history of Collier Heights here and here.

Princess Tiana: An American Princess

Yesterday’s Post had a very interesting article about the character Princess Tiana from the upcoming Disney film The Princess & The Frog.  The movie is scheduled for nationwide release in December 2009.

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Disney is already promoting the film with the unveiling of the Princess Tiana doll last month. Actress Anika Noni Rose, who appeared in Dreamgirls and currently stars in HBO’s The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, is the voice of Princess Tiana.

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Princess Tiana is the first black Disney princess

A Fairy Tale Beginning
Snow White, She’s Not. Among Disney’s Royal Ladies, Tiana Is a Notable First.

By Neely Tucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 19, 2009

Long ago and far away, she was an unnamed little princess in a little story called the “The Frog Prince.” She and her amphibious friend lived in a very small, mostly forgotten corner of the fairy tale universe.

Many years passed.

And then one day, through the magical powers of Disney animation and commercial marketing, the forgotten little princess was transformed into Tiana, a beautiful black princess from New Orleans. She became the star of “The Princess and the Frog,” a movie set to premiere in November. Her doll and toy set were unveiled last month, and the Disney promotional machine is already humming, for Tiana is the first Disney princess in more than a decade, and the first ever to be black.

In the 72 years since Walt Disney’s animated version of Snow White captivated audiences as “the fairest of them all,” there have only been eight such Disney princesses. Through these movies and a line of toys, dresses and figurines, the Disney princesses have become global, doe-eyed icons of childhood. Sleeping Beauty awakened by a kiss, Cinderella’s clock striking midnight, Belle waltzing in the Beast’s castle, Ariel with Prince Eric in the moonlit lagoon — these have become heroines whom parents the world over feel safe to let their young girls idolize and mimic. And while Disney has brought us nonwhite princesses before (see “Mulan,” “Pocahontas”), Tiana is a first.

The implied message of Tiana, that black American girls can be as elegant as Snow White herself, is a milestone in the national imagery, according to a range of scholars and cultural historians.

Her appearance this holiday season, coming on the heels of Michelle Obama’s emergence as the nation’s first lady, the Obama girls in the White House and the first line of Barbie dolls modeled on black women (“So in Style” debuts this summer), will crown an extraordinary year of visibility for African American women.

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The article also discusses the inspiration for the story:

On its most basic level, “The Princess and the Frog” is a vintage Disney princess fairy tale, in hand-drawn (2-D) animation, a Broadway-style musical. It draws inspiration from an 18th-century fairy tale from the British Isles, and “The Frog Princess,” a 2002 teen novel from Maryland writer E.D. Baker. Disney transferred the story to 1920s New Orleans and changed her name, race and almost everything else.

In the Disney version, Tiana is a young waitress and talented chef who dreams, like her father, of owning her own restaurant. She eventually kisses a frog and is transformed into one. She must journey into the dark bayou to get a magical cure from a good voodoo queen. She is aided by a goofy firefly and a trumpet-playing alligator. The frog turns out to be handsome Prince Naveen, from the far-off and fictional land of Maldonia.

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Besides Anika, other voices in the movie include Oprah Winfrey, John Goodman, Terrence Howard, Keith David and Bruno Campos who is the voice of Prince Naveen.  For all you Nip Tuck fans Bruno Campos was Dr. Quinton Costa, aka The Carver.

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Murray says she was pleased the studio is portraying Tiana with skin of a “darker hue” and slightly full lips. Tarshia Stanley, a professor of English at Spelman College in Atlanta who often writes and teaches about portrayals of black women in film, says that the character’s hair — straight and pulled back in early images released by the studio — seems to be the appropriate, middle-of-the-road bet, too.

“They might as well make it straight so little girls can comb it when the doll comes out,” she notes, wryly. “We as African American women haven’t fully dealt with how sensitive the subject of our hair can be, so I certainly wouldn’t expect Disney to know what to do with [that issue].”

You can read the entire Washington Post article here.

I read this part and thought since black folks are some hard to please folks, somebody out there will complain that Princess Tiana should have her hair worn as a natural. I just know the hard to please black folks will bitch and moan about this.  Some black folks are already fussing about the prince not being black. You know black love and all, despite the fact that in real life there are more black men who are dating/married to non black women than there are black women dating/married to non black men. So you know black folks will be scrutinizing this film like nobody else’s business.

Just read this article, Disney to feature its first black princess… but critics complain as she falls in love with a WHITE prince.  See how white is capitalized cause the horror of it all 😉

Move over Snow White. Make room for Disney’s first black princess.

With America’s first African-American president in the White House, Disney is counting on an African-American princess to be a big hit in Hollywood.

But even though The Princess and the Frog isn’t released until later this year, it is already stirring up controversy.

For while Princess Tiana and many in the cartoon cast are black – the prince is not.

Which has led some critics to complain that Disney has ducked the opportunity for a fairytale ending for a black prince and princess.

You can read it all here at the Daily Mail Online.

Treme

David Simon, the creator of two excellent tv shows, The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Street, is working on a new tv show which he hopes will be picked up by HBO.  The new show is called Treme and takes place in the New Orleans neighborhood of Treme (prounounced truh-may).  PBS recently had a special about the Treme neighborhood.  The documentary is called Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans. One of the writers for the upcoming Treme series, Lolis Eric Elie who’s a reporter for The Times-Picayune newspaper, produced the PBS Faubourg Treme documentary.

David Simon Treme

‘Wire’ creator David Simon begins work on ‘Treme’ in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS — David Simon, creator of the critically acclaimed television shows “The Wire” and “Homicide: Life on the Street” is in New Orleans working on his next project.

Named after the Creole neighbourhood known for its rich musical history, “Treme” (truh-MAY’) is a prospective TV series geared for HBO that aims to capture New Orleans’ heritage and traditions as residents struggle to recover from Hurricane Katrina.

However, Simon is quick to say it’s not just another Katrina project.

“This is an American story,” he said in an interview from outside a jazz club where the hourlong pilot was being filmed Wednesday. “This is about an American city trying to pick itself up and doing it without a great deal of help.”

To tell the story, Simon abandons almost all the backdrops New Orleans is best known for – the French Quarter and Garden District included – and gets into grittier, lesser-known neighbourhoods he says have been “under-chronicled.”

Check out the entire article here.

Some of the cast members include Wendell Pierce, Steve Zahn, Khandi Alexander, Melissa Leo, Kim Dickens and Clarke Peters.  Sounds like a terrific cast.  Wendell and Clarke are The Wire alumni.  I hope HBO picks up this show.  I’m looking forward to watching it.

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