Breaking the rhythm
Not enough has changed. It's amazing how devastated New Orleans remains. My concern is the effect on the music and culture of the city, traditions passed down organically via neighborhoods, families and homes. It happened naturally, that perpetuation of cultural information. Now that line of cultural transmission has been fractured.
Before the storm, Tipitina's Foundation was focused on uplifting the music culture of the city. After the storm, it's about saving that same culture.
We run after-school programs, workshops, co-ops. We work with kids and all the way up to elderly musicians. On Aug. 29, the two-year anniversary of the storm, we are giving half a million dollars of new musical instruments to New Orleans public schools. We're getting ready to release a Fats Domino tribute recording, featuring Paul McCartney, Joss Stone, Neil Young and Tom Petty. A percentage of the proceeds will go toward bringing back the Lower 9th Ward, where Fats Domino has lived his entire life.
This is the breeding ground. This is where jazz and blues began. As time passes, the lack of improvement continues, and we're in danger of losing one of the most important natural resources in America.
Bill Taylor is executive director of a 10-year-old musician's co-op and nonprofit offshoot of the legendary New Orleans nightclub Tipitina's.
Awaiting a commitment
Living in post-Katrina New Orleans is like watching someone you love rebound from a massive stroke. The recovery is halting, and strangers keep asking, "Is he back to normal?" One day he utters a complete sentence -- a paltry achievement for someone who once spoke eloquently. The strangers are shocked at his diminished state, but you who've been at his bedside rejoice, for you remember the days of incoherent stammering.
We who have not left since the storm ravaged our city find ourselves somewhere between the stammering and the eloquence of old. The city tourists know, mainly the French Quarter and Garden District, is once again its beloved self. But the flooded area, seven times the size of Manhattan, is still struggling back to life.
Our recovery is driven more by the creativity and resilience of homeowners and neighborhood associations, by the 1.1 million volunteers from across the nation than by government. Government on every level has been slow to respond, wasteful of the people's money, lacking in coherent vision and forever looking over its partisan shoulder for an opportunity to place blame or seek credit. Now one senses that our nations' politicians would prefer to move on to a tidier topic.
To move on, to surrender to "Katrina fatigue," would not only grieve us who live here; it would make a calamitous statement about the exhaustion of America's will to be great, to triumph over adversity. Don't think of New Orleans as a flooded city. Think of it as Berlin at the end of World War II, its infrastructure pulverized, its people homeless, its economy shattered. To rebuild from that man-made disaster required a Marshall Plan and years of governmental and civilian commitment. The manmade disaster in New Orleans, caused by the Corps of Engineers' shoddy design of our levees, requires no less.
What would a Marshall Plan for New Orleans entail? It would mean a commitment that only the federal government could make -- to restore the eroding coastline and vanishing wetlands of Louisiana, to build levees and floodgates to withstand a 1,000-year storm, rather than the 100-year event now envisioned. It would cost billions of dollars. It would fulfill the promise delivered by President Bush's reconstruction czar, Donald Powell, who vowed after Katrina to build the "best levee system known in the world." It would revive a city that stands at the fulcrum of one-third of the nation's oil and gas and 40% of its seafood; that gave birth to much of our nation's indigenous culture; and that belongs to us all.
Jim Amoss is editor of the Times-Picayune
Residents take matters into their hands