New Orleans' niggerati (and some - ok, lots of - white people) rolled deep, traveling by bike, ferry, and motorized vehicle, for a Saturday afternoon performance of Kara Walker's "Katastwóf Karavan" installation that premiered on the West Bank of the Mississippi River for the closing weekend of Prospect.4. Algiers Point residents looked askew at our multiracial coalition of art enthusiasts intent on seeing MacArthur Award-winning pianist Jason Moran's activation of the 38-note calliope inside the nine-ton, pioneer-style wagon wrapped with Walker's signature silhouettes in steel. Viewers circled her work before the performance began, taking selfies and pondering the images' meanings aloud, then made their rounds to the various groups of friends and colleagues perched on the grass. It was like the monument protests of last spring but without the mobs of gun-toting white supremacists - a reunion of sorts, a place to see and be seen.
Finally, Moran sat at his keyboard to the side of the wagon, the front of which featured a girl and a man dragging a woman through a wooded area by her hands and feet as a monster hanging from a tree pulled her heart out, and began to play. I couldn't recognize the songs, though a shade-filled New York Times article explains that the playlist includes both Negro classics like Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?" and original compositions; the music sounded to me like tortured screams being covered up by jolly tunes, the perfect metaphor for New Orleans in 2018. Yes, all this contemporary art talk was just a ruse to rant about New Orleans Tricentennial. In this year 2018 of my parents' lord, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and his administration are trying to drown out the screams of the economically imperiled majority with a festive response to the 300th anniversary of this millennia-old crescent-shaped port and commercial metropolis' misnaming by French colonizers. Here's a few reasons why I am screaming this year:
(1) UPDATED FOR ACCURACY: The City has installed 80 blue-and-red flashing cameras around the city, with 250 more to be added (neither of which need City Council approval) even though studies have already demonstrated that this type of surveillance does not actually decrease crime. An ordinance that's up for City Council vote on March 8th, if passed, will require every business with a liquor license to install a camera outside of their establishment - AN ADDITIONAL 1500 CAMERAS! The 80+250+1500 cameras will feed into the Real Time Crime Monitoring Center, and other private property owners will have the option to direct footage from their security cameras to the Center as well. This is the crown jewel of Mayor Landrieu's $40 billion security plan, in collaboration with the governor and, you guessed it, the Convention Center and Tourism Bureau. The Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans (MaCCNO) has been organizing to ensure that the City Council votes against it. Call your city councilperson and come out next week! (Thank you, Hannah Kreiger-Benson, for rectifying my inaccuracies.)
(2) The City Council approved the building of a $250 million gas-powered electrical plant in the predominantly Black and Vietnamese area of New Orleans East. It's 2018 - nothing new or that expensive needs to be powered by gas.
(3) In the midst of an on-going housing crisis, nearly 4,000 units of housing have been removed from the rental market by short term rental operators. The City's regulatory measures do not actually equip them to, well, be regulated.
(4) Most of what used to be the best restaurants in the city are now considerably less great (originally, I wrote "suck" but that felt disrespectful) cause they're catering to newcomers' and tourists' mayo-and-white-bread palates.
(5) The city government refuses to get out of bed with corporations that are committing human rights violations. Last month, the City Council unanimously passed a proclamation stating council members' plan to create a review board for city contracts to ensure that they were not hiring corporations involved in human rights violations. When the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish something or other of Louisiana responded that it was supposedly anti-Israel/anti-Semitic, they recanted, telling the press that the organizers who'd prepared the document (along with certain city council members, FYI) had tricked them into signing something that somehow none of them had ever read. Mind you, it did not mention Israel or Palestine at all. Though some of the organizers are Palestinian-Americans and/or do pro-Palestine work.
(6)There are active white supremacist terrorist cells in and around the city. I don't think I need to explain this one. It's a regular ol' New Jersey out here (reference: Assata Shakur).
[The above was included to toy with all the idiots who still believe that "the North" is progressive and "the South" is backwards. Step your game up, boo. Take a look - it's in a book and shit.]
(7) Public transportation is paid for by residents and planned for tourists, leaving many of those who fuel the tourism industry with their underpaid labor, already having been displaced to the margins of the city by rising housing costs, with two hour bus trips to and from work downtown.
(8) Cardell "Bear" Hayes was wrongfully convicted for the murder of former Saints' player Will Smith. Just one example of the inefficiency of our so-called criminal justice system.
(9) The white women strippers are mobilizing around the criminalization of sex work, most specifically the NOPD raids of Bourbon Street strip clubs, and they seem to completely lack a racial analysis. Black women, in and outside of strip clubs, will always be more vulnerable to police violence. Plus, any black stripper or person with black stripper friends will tell you that bourbon street clubs are notoriously racist AF. Management has a colored quota they do not surpass, constantly body shames black women, and often refuses to schedule more than one black woman for busy, money-making shifts. I hope that they can develop a more nuanced critique of gendered racism both in the police state and their workplace and push for the implementation of practices that allow all sex workers to flourish, not just save the clubs with all their inequities intact. But really, I'm not even mad at the Beckys cause it's 2018 and I don't expect much from them. I am screaming at all the social justice-oriented black women who are supporting their work via social media and not criticizing this obvious blind spot.
This week's listicle was presented to you by my insomnia and my ancestress Josine who was in New Orleans with four baby daddies in 1740.