It’s been a couple weeks since I participated in a panel sponsored by Xavier University’s Communications Department. It was titled “Media, Communication and Community: Private and Public Interests in Rebuilding New Orleans.” On the panel with me was Sakura Kone of Common Ground; Jarvis DeBerry of the Times Picayune; Rebecca Snedeker, the filmmaker who made By Invitaton Only; and Nick Slie, who is co-founder/co-artistic director of Mondo Bizarro. It was moderated by Bruce France, the other Mondo Bizarro guy who also used to teach at Xavier.
Other than Kone, I’d never met any of these folks before. I was honored to be on the dais with them. Of course I’ve read DeBerry’s column in the TP for years, but I’ve never met him in person. Despite seeing his photo every other morning, I didn’t recognize him at first.
DeBerry also said something that got my attention. He talked about the history of New Orleans East. Apparently New Orleans began to lose population around the time that New Orleans East was developed, so that the city was actually expanding geographically even as it became less populous.
Fascinating trivia, but the point he wanted to make was this: Talk about shrinking the footprint does not equate to shrinking the population. That’s an important distinction. “Shrinking the footprint” is a phrase that raises the hackles on many a neck, at least in part because of the implicit assumption that a shrunken city is one to which all may not return.
Later, the conversation turned to property rights, with Kone talking about the high rate of home ownership in the Lower Nine and how nervous people were about losing their land. DeBerry made reference to an editorial that appeared in the Times-Picayune about a corner grocery overrun by rats. Of course, that editorial was written by me, and that gave me a good segue to talk about how very different the situation is in Mid-City compared to the Lower Nine. Irresponsible absentee landlords are a plague on our neighborhood, and we desperately need property owners held to account.
I enjoyed the experience of being on this panel. But after the event, I eavesdropped on DeBerry as he chatted with a Xavier student from Seattle. The student was not very impressed by the whole affair. I didn’t listen long enough to get the whole gist, but he seemed to think the panel would have been more engaging with someone like Jay-Z on it.
Parenthesis Eye was there and took some notes.