My NOLA, My Story: Tremé Culture Amidst Gentrification

Title

My NOLA, My Story: Tremé Culture Amidst Gentrification

Format

Video

Subject

This is an interview with Liz Johnston, the Development Director at Anna's Place New Orleans. Anna's Place is an after school program that supports youth in the Tremé area and greater New Orleans academically, culturally and socially.

Description

Working in the Tremé area post-Katrina after being a New Orleans resident prior, Liz has seen the effects of gentrification first-hand. Through Anna's Place, she supports youths in the hope of restoring a strong sense of community in a culturally important neighborhood.

Creator

Lundon Shields, Osoniya Wodi and Kutemwa Masafwa

Source

My NOLA, My Story via Youtube

Publisher

Mass Communications Department at Xavier University of Louisiana

Date

April 13th 2022

Contributor

Liz Johnston

Rights

My NOLA, My Story

Relation

Language

English

Type

Adobe Premier, video

Coverage

Digital Humanities project by Xavier University of Louisiana's Xavier Exponential students, led by Dr. Shearon Roberts.

Original Format

videos

Transcription

Liz Johnston 0:02
We talk about being here in New Orleans, the importance that we ascribe to this area, we don't see any of that here anymore due to the gentrification.

Liz Johnston 0:30
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the Treme neighborhood is, well, the first thing I'll say is history. The second thing I'll say is an authentic look into the accomplishments of people of color in New Orleans and across the South in general. With Treme being one of the first established black neighborhoods in like not just New Orleans but the country, it's such a hugely important place. It's the birthplace of jazz music; it's the birthplace of so many interracial, interfaith, intercultural exchanges that really make New Orleans what it is today. In terms of that, it's also really sad because if you walk through this neighborhood today, you won't really see that. The history we talk about being here in New Orleans, the importance that we ascribe to this neighborhood, to this area, we don't see any of that anymore due to the gentrification of the city that's been really unfolding for several decades now but we've seen an even stronger push that's given us more gentrification since Hurricane Katrina.

Liz Johnston 2:44
I'll say because I'm from Uptown, I am not originally from Treme. I'm from the Irish Channel Garden District area. It's a different neighborhood and a different part of town so I can't really speak to that authentic experience of growing up in the Treme but I will say even with being from Uptown, which has had a history of money. It has had a history of being mixed. I will say that the entire energy. the culture, the feel, and the population are incredibly different. You go from growing up in a place where you see people who look like you, who understand you and your culture. I'm someone who is Creole so I did grow up with a little bit of my language with a little bit of purity. With a lot of aspects of that culture being a huge part of life and how it was raised in my thought process and how I view the world, the afterlife, and all these other existential questions that are engaged with that culture because it's mine and it's what I grew up with, and I grew up around other people who had it. Being fairly young when hurricane Katrina happened, which is really when we started to have to face that change. I think it's a misconception that Hurricane Katrina happened and suddenly, everything magically went downhill. There were little rumblings and little things there prior to, but Hurricane Karina put us in this spot where we couldn't really deny those things. We couldn't really deny those things; we couldn't really deny people being pushed out of their homes; we couldn't really deny the increase in prices; we couldn't deny that our schools were being taken over by businesses; that instead of having a very balanced private or catholic school and public school system. Also, a lot of inequality here. I was actually talking with my co-worker Brooklyn snout about what it was like - being just playing. It made me so aware and she shared the same sentiments with me in Texas. It made her both myself and a lot of other people so aware of how unique New Orleans culture was down to our language because a lot of us like, we call it 'yet,' which is our New Orleans colloquialisms and our little words and things that we say. It's so entrenched in the way that we talk and what we do and say that we don't notice that other people don't speak that way and don't express themselves that way and often have no clue what on earth we're saying. You know, people throwing the word "refugee" around a lot to people who evacuated from Hurricane Katrina which traditionally "refugee" has such a negative connotation like people very rarely use it to speak of someone positively but it's also like someone who evacuates for a hurricane is usually not that's not what a "refugee" is supposed to be but it puts you in this very weird space of like the negativity with that and how people negatively viewed New Orleanians and a lot of the stigmas that came from me. It's a really strange feeling, especially coming back after hurricane Katrina and even as things got more gentrified to go from being in a place where you saw a lot of people who looked like you, who understood you who understood culturally how to act in a place how to speak in a place what was going on, to suddenly be home and it not feeling like home like you don't see people who look like you anymore; like neighborhoods are becoming, you know, less diverse you're seeing more businesses that really are not opened by people who are from here and not really for the people who are from here like it's a really strange feeling where home doesn't really feel at home anymore. I believe that there truly is an overly romanticized view of what performance is, and I think any place that's a 'touristy' place has that, but there is something to saying that. The feel of the city is different. That music, that magic it just feels off it feels different; it feels weird seeing such a strange place where people don't react the same. We have what's called 'speaking,' like if you see someone on the street you speak, and New Orleans culture is very friendly. You can go to make (well, other people say buying groceries we say make) groceries at a store and end up talking with a stranger for like 20 minutes you know that's a very common occurrence and that's sort of gone. The ways that you would just subtly greet people like walking down the street, a lot of that's gone and it's like you can tell even in such a subtle thing you who's from here and who's not from here. I don't know it's a little bit isolating because you're like where are like my people at. It's strange when you see important historical places really get torn down and torn into overpriced apartments and not really valued and people fighting over land. You have all these beautiful creole cottages and shotgun homes that are historic and someone bought a property in between that and like decided to make like a shipping container house or like a weirdly modern place that doesn't go with anything.It's like you can tell who's buying the property and who's living there based on like the changes you see in the architecture.


Liz Johnston 9:51
I think that people still crave community here and I think that community members still come together. That's really just Louisiana culture. It's the community. That's why we have the Cajun Navy; that's why we have you know even during covet people coming together. You'll have a random person who'll get together with a couple of friends and be like, "Okay this natural disaster just happened we're gonna go and buy a bunch of food, pull our money together, and serve our community food." They're not with the red cross, they're not with you know whatever organization these are just people coming together making sure their community is fine and trying to do the best that they can do. People who will be like, "Hey, even if you don't know me, I have power at my place. One of the few places with power in this area right now; you can come here and charge your phone you can come here and charge your laptop" - that sort of thing. I think that we still have that, but one of the things that I think is increasingly becoming a problem, even in the nonprofit area, as we see more nonprofits and organizations pop up, is people who have a lot of really great intentions and they see that there are people in need and they don't really understand what those needs are and they don't really want to know they just know what they want to contribute to feel great about themselves; feel like they've made a difference, but not necessarily what those needs are and it's really hard to have a community group to help a community without the voices from that community involved.

Liz Johnston 12:12
So gentrification impacts us on several levels. but the first one is we spend over 30 000 a year on transportation for our students when this program first occurred. Now, many of these kids were like in the neighborhood. They lived here some of them still do, but a lot of them no longer afford to live in this neighborhood. A very common thing with people living in poverty is sometimes you have to work out a lot; sometimes you cannot make your payments anymore which is not a moral judgment against anybody. There's so many things that happen; also, being low income you end up with some boards you do not do things morally or ethically and you end up having to move legally. You can't just raise someone's rent out of nowhere in the middle of their lease, but if you have a slingboard and you're barely able to survive and generally you can't afford them you know deal with all it like that's you're not at least that are so many factors in it, but it's a very common thing that people end up having to a move around a lot and change their phone numbers a lot. There's also some people who have to do once a month releases and sometimes there's a month that's simply not great for me, so one of the reasons why we do that is because it's noticed and unfortunately there are so many studies that support that that children simply just instability to have healthy lives and to even have a chance and you know you may not you can't control what their parents do or where their parents are going to end up going to or if they're going to be living with their have this place to come back. You know you're going to get a meal; you're going to get like a hot healthy meal, you're going to have someone who's going to help you with your homework, you're going to have someone who listens and you're going to have someone who's invested in your future. It's not to say that all of these kids have parents who are not invested in their future; that all of them don't have parents who can provide them. Not to say that; it's just that we are ensuring consistency. My job is ensuring that we get the funding to maintain that. I don't work as much with the youth one-on-one, but my job is still development director to ensure we have the funding to keep this program going and that's also where gentrification comes into play - because as a crisis went up and there's far more wealthy people living in this neighborhood. There are more people who have the capacity to give to this program. A lot of people are not from here they don't necessarily know we exist they don't know these kids they moved here for whatever reason they're not as invested and there's some people who aren't there are a lot of people who are invested.

Duration

16 minutes, 22 seconds
Date Added
April 14, 2022
Item Type
Moving Image
Tags
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Citation
Lundon Shields, Osoniya Wodi and Kutemwa Masafwa, “My NOLA, My Story: Tremé Culture Amidst Gentrification,” MY NOLA, MY STORY , accessed June 25, 2022, https://xulamasscomm.omeka.net/items/show/212.