I got a message a few days ago from a prof at a Big State University. (No, not my alma mater.) I’m sharing it here in edited form:
I have been following your blog since Katrina… I use your blog and videos to talk to students in a preservice technology education course about the power of technology and its role in reporting first person history, giving voice to everyday citizens, enacting social change, and especially giving voice to children (I have them watch Kalypso’s New Orleans)… As as I am preparing to teach my class on blogs and other web media the week of Valentine’s Day, I visited your blog to read your latest entries. At the end of this post you say “I invite you to join this effort in whatever way you can”…
…I wonder how people who are not in the Gulf Coast could assist New Orleans in their efforts to rebuild and become a reasonably safe place to live and visit? I read similar comments in some of the coverage of your recent friend’s death (My sympathies to all)… I find myself asking – how can those who are concerned throughout the country help in your efforts. What bills and legislation might help to positively improve the situation? And perhaps this is a better question to your wife, as I am involved in training future teachers here, how might we be able to drive home the point that there are real children living in this environment and we all could assist in rebuilding the city and supporting those that have stayed and are teaching the children of the city. (beyond the notebook and school supply drives that seem to crop up in Fall)
I know a lot of people are asking you questions bigger there than you probably ever thought you might grapple with you when you decided to leave Bloomington for the gulf coast. If you had resources or suggestions on how your community could be supported – I have a captive audience of about 70 students a semester who will at least pretend to listen. It was amazing to me last semester, how especially our session on Internet video really got students thinking about a child’s perspective of the city. I do believe it had an impact.
Any thoughts you might have or websites that you think might add to the discussion and encourage participation would be greatly appreciated… I worry sometimes that by presenting my students information without an opportunity to participate or respond – might devalue the perspectives and reduce them to a distant tabloid story or blip on the daily news.
Messages like this are very heartening. But to answer the question, there are many ways that people can help New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Here’s a few off the top of my head.
- First, it’s important to be informed. Many of our local news outlets are aimed to a local audience and are not ideal for people elsewhere. In that regard I’d recommend FoodMusicJustice.com and Voices of New Orleans. Both are published in a blog format which makes it easy to subscribe and get updates.
- There’s an membership organization called Friends of New Orleans. Join up!
- Regarding federal legislation: Urge your congressional representatives to revise the Stafford Act, or even to waive it, to speed up the recovery. The details of this are beyond me, but Christopher Cooper’s article seems to give a good overview of the issues. Of course, federal legislation is a moving target. Today’s cause is tomorrow’s old news. Stay informed using the sources above.
- Global warming is a big issue that affects everyone on the planet, but low-lying coastal cities like New Orleans may feel the pain the first, in the form of increased hurricane activity and rising seas. The scientific consensus is that greenhouse gases are the primary cause of this recent warming trend. There are a myriad of ways for people to get active on this issue. I hardly know where to suggest starting, but Green House Network looks promising.
- Not afraid to get your hands dirty? Plenty of people are coming to New Orleans to help gut houses and do other recovery work. One way to connect is through church groups. That’s how my parents got hooked up with Camp Restore. Secular counterculture types may be more interested in volunteering with the Common Ground Collective. Coming here to help is not for everyone, but it’s a great way to connect to the local culture and also know that you really are helping individual people.
- There are a myriad nonprofits working for a better future for New Orleans. Even from hundreds of miles away, people may find ways to connect with and support the efforts of these groups. I’ll recommend a few that I can personally vouch for: Think New Orleans, The Urban Conservancy, Friends of Lafitte Corridor, Mid-City Neighborhood Organization.
I’m sure there are many, many other ways that people can help. Feel free to post your ideas in the comments.