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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

New Orleans ~ What Will Oral History Have to Say?

Too much reworking, remolding and redoing, can be the destroyer of something once beautiful, once precious and once unique, in all its past glory, it is mangled for looks.

Link to "Who's Killing New Orleans?" By Mike Davis, on The Nation. The article is extremely descriptive and candidly factual. I can only imagine how drained and exhausted the author became after the last period of the last sentence. Though the story will be retold over and over in bits and pieces, its timeline should never be forgotten. Mike Davis hits the nail on the head and pounds in the points with each paragraph he skillfully lays out. I'm impressed with this writing and at the same time sadness of its meaning deeply mingles with my sense of the right and wrong of it all.

Case in point...The "Southbottoms" in Sioux City Iowa, was erased by the city leaders many decades ago and strategically divided its citizens by nationality and culture at the time. The river edge neighborhoods, considered a shanty town, faced flooding every year. Parents deposited their children in the trees until the flooding ceased, then routinely swept the mud out of their homes and went back to daily life. One big mixture of diversity - citizens and immigrants, was bulldozed out, chopped up and divided to separate sections of the city. The Germans went to Leeds, the Polish to Morningside, the African American and Native American to the Westside and the Wasp's to the upper Northside and the Catholics to the lower Northside.

I was lucky enough to have spoken to people who survived those floods, to give me an oral history lesson. I also learned that the "Corn Palace" in Mitchell South Dakota originally belonged to Sioux City before it was sold. Sioux City was also considered "Little Chicago" during the reign of the mobster days. Sioux City like other American towns and cities just blend into the national landscape today, they are fashioned after small groups of someone's power idea of what perfect is, in their minds. I learned much from other peoples stories, not from the city's museum, not from the library books and not from the old newspapers....couldn't find even a tiny mention of the "Southbottoms." Oral history was all that was left.

Is that what New Orleans is destined oral history lesson, a distant memory of a rich cultural heritage?

Read...Link...Who's Killing New Orleans? by Mike Davis, on The Nation.
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