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“Race is the Rubicon we have never crossed in this country.” That’s David Billings’ thesis in his provocative new historical memoir, “Deep Denial: The Persistence of White Supremacy in the United States History and Life.” It documents the 400-year racialization of the United States and how people of European descent came to be called “White.” Billings tells us why, despite the Civil Rights Movement and an African-American president, we remain, in his words, “a nation hard-wired by race.”
The New York Times sent Gary Rivlin to Baton Rouge and New Orleans, days after the storm, to cover Katrina as an outsider. Rivlin’s instincts had him looking forward “to the mess ahead. Eventually the flood waters would recede. How would New Orleans go about the complicated task of rebuilding?” This carefully researched, beautifully written book describes that process from then until now.
“Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas” by Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedeker (2013) is part visionary road map, part post-traumatic Katrina therapy, and part poetic love ode/lament to our city. One chapter addresses systems of containment – levees and prisons. In Angola, jailhouse lawyers organized voting blocks of outside allies to push for prison reform and to have decades-long solitary confinement declared cruel and unusual punishment.
One morning after Mass at the Poor Claire Monastery, Maria Victoire, a volunteer with the Fourth World Movement, broached the idea of a collaborative book written by extremely poor New Orleaneans scattered to the winds after Hurricane Katrina. She was asking my opinion as an author about what to do with the 50 or so interviews she had conducted and how to get them published as a book.
The red carpet at the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities was teeming with elegant, poised, radiant young HBO stars, ready to introduce the film about them, The Rethinkers, and discuss it. Inside it was standing room only, and barely that. “The Great Cafeteria Takeover” was premiering this night as part of the HBO series, “The Weight of the Nation.”
Jamal Joseph’s “Panther Baby: A Life of Rebellion and Reinvention” is a story of love, revolution, rage and redemption. Joseph’s brilliant, honest, insightful narrative of his coming of age in New York City in the late 1960s at the height of the Black Power movement is so riveting that I had a hard time putting it down, even to sleep. And when I did, it invaded my dreams.”
Many survivors of Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans and the U.S. Gulf Coast in August 2005, have been seeing their own reflection in media images of Haiti earthquake victims and feel personally driven to help organize assistance for the people of Haiti.
Black History Month Special: "Big Man," a founder of the Black Panther Party and the first editor of the Black Panther newspaper, reviews an excellent new book telling the story of the shootout in September 1970 between the Panthers and the New Orleans PD in the Desire public housing development through the words of the people who lived it.
New Orleans – “A school should not feel like a prison. A school should feel positive, safe and welcoming. A school should feel like a second home. As I walk through the doors of my school, I want to be treated with dignity.” These are the words of Vernard Carter, a rising 10th grade Rethinker at a well-attended press conference held July 23, 2009.
At the press conference held by Rethink: Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools, 19 middle school Rethinkers rolled out a riveting multi-media presentation describing who they are, what they have learned and their 12 recommendations for ALL public schools in New Orleans.
The Common Ground Health Clinic arose in the New Orleans west bank community of Algiers above the apocalyptic flood waters in the fall of ‘05. The founders' visions, fueled by endorphins of kindness and adrenalin of desperation, were a beautiful thing to behold.