We're Still Here Ya Bastards: How the People of New Orleans Rebuilt Their City
Roberta Brandes Gratz
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We’re Still Here Ya Bastards presents an extraordinary panoramic look at New Orleans’s revival in the years following the hurricane. Award-winning journalist Roberta Brandes Gratz shares the stories of people who returned to their homes and have taken the rebuilding of their city into their own hands. She shows how the city—from the Lower Ninth Ward to the storied French Quarter to Bayou Bienvenue—is recovering despite flawed governmental policies that promote disaster capitalism rather than the public good. While tracing positive trends, Gratz also investigates the most fiercely debated issues and challenges facing the city: a violent and corrupt prison system, the tragic closing of Charity Hospital, the future of public education, and the rise of gentrification.
By telling stories that are often ignored by the mainstream media, We’re Still Here Ya Bastards shows the strength and resilience of a community that continues to work to rebuild New Orleans, and reveals what Katrina couldn’t destroy: the vibrant culture, epic history, and unwavering pride of one of the greatest cities in America.
of their education. This is culture with a small ‘c.’ But what we have in New Orleans is culture with a large ‘C.’” Sonya agrees with much of the school-reform effort, but, she added, “one is not allowed to speak from the center. If you question any part of the canon, you are against it and you’re immediately put in the other camp. There is no room for nuance.” At the Ellis Marsalis Music Center in the Ninth Ward, director Michele Jean-Pierre sees evidence of the impact on student learning that
urban fabric. Population loss accelerated. In the mid-1960s, as a young newspaper reporter, I witnessed this government-sponsored devastation, writing about New York City neighborhoods experiencing destruction.3 I observed people fighting to save their homes and neighborhoods. The only successful efforts were those where demolition was resisted—where people rebuilt their homes, favored new construction that fit in with the existing neighborhood, and fought to save parks, neighborhood landmarks,
Development accelerated as the nationwide move out of center cities began. But Lakeview is a white suburban enclave with an important and unique characteristic: it is within city limits. As new as Lakeview is considered to be in this three-hundred-year-old city, it illustrates how even relatively new communities have deep, rich histories. Lakeview sits roughly between 1,500-acre City Park, the fifth-largest urban park in the country, and the 17th Street Canal not far in from Lake Pontchartrain.
since 1938 a treasured resource for the 7th Ward black community at a central location at the corner of Claiborne and St. Bernard Avenues. A distinctive white stucco building with a round cupola and red tiles on the roof and an arched arcade around it, the Circle miraculously survived the neighborhood destruction caused by the construction of the I-10 in the 1960s, as well as eight feet of Katrina water. Eight years and multiple grants from different levels of government later, Circle Foods
Middle School, an Uptown charter school.12 In a once-a-week activity, Cathy and Karin taught kids not only how to grow food but how to do things with it. They started simply, by actually making lemonade from lemons. “We [also] taught flower arranging with the flowers they grew and we placed flowers around the school,” Cathy told me during a lunch interview a few years ago. “We just planted stuff for fun, like roses at the fence, and it totally beautified the school.” Dr. Anthony (“Tony”)