Monday, July 18, 2011

New Orleans Neighbors Speak

There are many neighborhoods that have come together in times of crisis, but after Hurricane Katrina none was so striking as in New Orleans.  Many times I have heard people wonder, "Why do they stay?" but those questions were answered when I saw a video of a neighborhood conference in 2008 designed to highlight community efforts from New Orleans residents themselves:

This clip provides highlights from New Orleans Speaks, an event of the New Orleans Institute for Resilience and Innovation, to discuss ways in which local knowledge and experience had led the renewal of the city.

New Orleans remains troubled by deep race and class divides and high levels of crime, but the city, by all accounts, also had a lot more civic life than most of the United States --- not just cavorting in the streets during Mardi Gras season but a long tradition of gregariousness and neighborliness; people knew their neighbors, talked to strangers, called everyone by endearments, invited everyone on the block to the crawfish boil, had strong networks in carnival krewes, second-lines, music groups, social clubs, churches, to say nothing of the extended families so many people have. It's why a lot of people come back, or want to, and it's a major resource for reclaiming the city after Katrina. - Rebecca Solnit, 2007, The Nation

Would your neighborhood stay?

Friday, July 8, 2011

The World at Your Fingertips?

If you are reading this, you are probably in front of a computer screen or a smart phone, ostensibly with the world at your fingertips.  That’s pretty powerful: the world at your fingertips.  You can “go” anywhere in the world through the power of the internet.  You can wirelessly connect to anyone in any country with such ease that it is hard to remember a world without internet, which in fact wasn’t that long ago.

But look up and look outside… now come back to the screen so you can finish reading...  What did you see?  What was happening?  What did you feel when you looked at it?  We spend so much time looking at the world at our fingertips that we are tempted to forget the world just outside our front door. 

In fact, the world at your fingertips is just a slogan used by technology companies.  Many of us long to see the world, to travel, to see new things and for only the cost of a monthly cell phone or cable bill, these companies are telling us we can get there!  The first thing I did when I started making an actual paycheck was get internet.  It’s an incredible technology and communication tool.  Without this technology, you wouldn’t be reading this blog and we wouldn’t be able to spread our neighborhood message, but we want to remind you that the world outside your front door can be just as exciting as the one on the screen in front of you!  Plus, it broadcasts in 3D without you needing to wear those dorky glasses.

My challenge to you today is to do as much exploring outside the front door as you do online.  Start really looking at your neighborhood and all of its eccentricities.  Here’s what I recommend you try this weekend:
      Walk around the neighborhood.  Try a time you don’t normally walk and see if you catch different people or see different things.  I walked at night yesterday because it was too hot to walk earlier and was stunned by the number of families out at the corner ice cream store at 10pm!
    Take photos of your neighborhood as you walk.  Upload your photos, and you can use the world wide web to enhance the world outside your front door by connecting with people.  Check out this great blog to see how one person does it:
      Sit on your front porch with your laptop or smart phone… just make sure to look up every now and then and wave at people at cars who go by.
      Does your City have a Neighborhood Services Department?  When something happens in your neighborhood that is exciting, hilarious, eccentric or just plain story-worthy, write it down and email it in to them!  These are people who love to celebrate the uniqueness of neighborhoods and they will always be interested to hear what’s going on.

Have fun in the world outside your front door this weekend!  And if you have a great story to share in the end, make sure to email us at