New Orleans Saints’ Super Bowl Parade Celebration Webcast This Afternoon…and What the Win May Mean to The Ninth Ward

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The Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints will have a Black and Gold victory parade late this p.m., February 9, starting at 5:00 p.m. They will pass by the vicinity of Mother’s Restaurant, at 401 Poydras Street, corner of Tchoupitoulas in downtown New Orleans, where NOLA.com will webcast the joyous proceedings from this site. Public schools will dismiss early for students to witness the event. All of the 250 players, coaches and staffers will proceed on floats that were created for other Mardi Gras krewes marching this year, and were donated for the occasion. These signature floats are from the Krewes of Endymion, Bacchus, Rex, Zulu, Alla, Caesar, Tucks, Muses, Orpheus and Babylon.

Some of you may ask, what’s a krewe? A krewe (pronounced like the word, crew) is an group that organizes a parade or a ball during Carnival or Mardi Gras season in New Orleans. Season? Carnival is a season, too? Mardi Gras is not just celebrated the Tuesday before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, but for three weeks before Mardi Gras. All of the krewes mentioned above have parades, parties or balls during Carnival season or at Mardi Gras. During the rest of the year, some support charities, or care for other members and their families in times of need (social aid) and put on picnics, parties or social occasions for its members (like Zulu, the African American krewe that eventually became a foil to Rex), or sponsor other fundraising events.

What to expect:

In Tuesday’s parade, more than a dozen local marching bands, a horse-pulled steam fire engine, modern fire trucks from New Orleans and Jefferson Parish, and the Budweiser Clydesdales and wagon will be sprinkled among the floats.

Saints owner Tom Benson, Saints players and the team’s staff will be toasted at Gallier Hall by a wide array of public officials, led by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, acting Jefferson Parish President Steve Theriot and Gov. Bobby Jindal, and including several of the state’s congressional delegation, other local elected officials from the New Orleans area, and several from neighboring Mississippi.

While stopped at the reviewing stand, the Saints also will be serenaded with a rendition of “Halftime (Stand Up & Get Crunk)” by the Ying Yang Twins, said Ceeon Quiett, communications director for Mayor Ray Nagin.

“How could you have this parade and not have this group that’s coined the theme song that everyone loves,” Quiett said.

Yeah, and it wasn’t that long ago that Benson thought about moving the Saints after the catastrophe that was Katrina. Now everybody political and economic and their mamas want to be seen with the Saints. And Benson’s float, probably the Rex, will be tossing out gold-colored footballs instead of the usual beads.

And what about the embrace the powers that be have for the common man in New Orleans, specifically those in the Ninth Ward? The people that Drew Brees stayed for and exhorted his guys to fight for? Jordan Flaherty has one answer:

For now, the city is united in an ecstatic euphoria over its first-ever Superbowl championship and for a beautiful moment it seems like the country’s attention and support is focused on New Orleans. It’s an open question whether the city’s new political leadership can keep this often divided city together, and oversee a much-needed revitalization. Even within the celebration, there are worrying signs.

On Saturday, January 30, the first major parade of Mardi Gras season – called Krewe du Vieux – rolled through the Marigny and French Quarter neighborhoods. The parade is known for it’s biting and often obscene satire, with floats often featuring the city’s public officials in graphic sexual poses. This year, the majority of floats depicted Mayor Nagin. He was a pig being roasted on one float, Nero fiddling while Rome burned on another, and buried in a cemetery in another.

Ray Nagin has not been a great mayor. In fact, as the city’s first businessman mayor, he has narrowed the public sector. He has been a champion of the demolition of public housing and the transformation of New Orleans schools to a mostly charter system, and has done little to stand up for Charity Hospital, the city’s provider of free public health care. But many of those who have demonized the mayor (recent polls gave him less than 5% approval among white residents of the city and about 20% among Black residents) are missing their mark.

The problems in New Orleans began long before Nagin was elected, and were multiplied by Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans needed tens of millions of dollars to rebuild its infrastructure even before the Hurricane. Schools were falling apart, public transportation was unreliable, and the city’s tourist-based economy offered few opportunities. Today, more than 60,000 residential addresses – about a third of the city’s homes – remain empty or abandoned. The city has one of the nation’s highest murder rates, a homeless population estimated at above 12,000, and a police department facing federal investigation for a wide range of crimes, including post-Katrina killings of unarmed civilians. Even if we had a great mayor, it would not be enough. The city needs federal support and visionary leadership. Only time will tell if those needs will be met.

No, New Orleans and the Ninth Ward has a way to go before it can be truly shown as coming back. Wasn’t it Martin Luther King who said that it was unheard of to ask a bootless man to pick himself up by his bootstraps? That’s why much of the formerly residential Ninth Ward is awaiting the speculators and the bulldozers to take over and turn it into an industrial center or worse, luxury golf courses that Tiger Woods can stomp around in. While some have been able to return and to rebuild, many more are living in storm damaged and condemned buildings, in homeless shelters and in cars. I have read where three elderly women are living in such a building, and one woman, Naomi Burkhalter, must crawl up the stairs to her home and hope that her wheelchair won’t be ripped off during the night.

“The thing that’s bothered me about the reporting of how well the Saints have done this year is that (the media says that) because the Saints are going to the Super Bowl, that it’s proof of how well the city has recovered from Hurricane Katrina, and that’s not the case,” says Rick Prose, founder and executive director of Lowernine.org, a nonprofit group dedicated to restoring the area. “You can go to the French Quarter and get drunk on Bourbon Street, and you go uptown and say, ‘Yah, it means something that the Saints are going to the Super Bowl, look how this city has recovered.’ But it’s not indicative of what tens of thousands of people are still dealing with on the ground every day.”This place is still dysfunctional.”

[…]

The Saints have been very visible in the community with relief efforts. So has Brad Pitt, who is restoring houses in the Lower Ninth Ward through his “Make it Right” foundation, but even that has drawn criticism from those who playfully call it, “Make it White,” because of the type of architecture being used (eco-friendly green, storm-resistant homes on stilts) and the increased rental fees they say appeal mainly to young urban professionals. “Make it Right” currently houses a number of former residents of the Lower Ninth Ward and has helped lower-income families regain their footing since Katrina, but that’s not the perception in the community.

“A lot of people want to come back here where they grew up but the rent is too high,” says Marguerite Reed, a cook at the St. Claude Food Store, one of the few convenience stores in the Lower Ninth Ward. “Why isn’t Brad Pitt making homes for low-income people? We don’t have no jobs over here, no schools, no hospital, no police, they just forgot about us. I need help, too.”

[…]

“(Outgoing Mayor Ray) Nagin and this administration have just been oblivious to the needs of the citizens of New Orleans,” says Thom Pepper, operations manager for Common Ground Relief, a volunteer organization that provides help for communities affected by hurricanes in the Gulf region. “It’s outrageous. There’s hundreds of millions of dollars that the city is just sitting on. It’s like $400 million. I just think they didn’t know how to deal with it. Everyone has a right to return. There’s not a lot of people here, and there’s just not a lot that’s been done here.”

So perception versus reality. You could say, those millions are not for those elderly, shut-in women, or for those homeless still living on the edge in New Orleans. And Brad Pitt, for all his good works or fine intentions, is not making it real for low income in New Orleans, just those young urban professionals who Money Magazine said were pouring into the city and making NOLA the fastest growing city in the United States right now.

However, in the Holy Cross section of the Lower Nine, thought by some to be the quickest area in which to rebuild, residents cried and danced for joy on Super Bowl Sunday night in the islands of homes that have been rebuilt. The surroundings were mostly silent, although the sounds of firecrackers (and of gunshots fired into the air) and car horns could be heard in the distance. But for over forty people at the home of Kenneth and Vanessa Bourgeois, the saints were indeed marching in.

There were tables groaning with baked chicken wings, potato salad, macaroni and cheese and Big Charlie’s Drunken Chicken with “slap your momma seasoning.” People were celebrating not only the Saints, but the election of Mitch Landrieu as mayor of New Orleans, as well as the Carnival season culminating in Mardi Gras. For some, the stars were in alignment.

“First we got a black President and now the Saints have won the Super Bowl,” said Juan Dismuke, who lost his home in Slidell to the hurricane. “I guess the stars are lining up for us here in New Orleans.”

Hmmmm…well, good thing astrology isn’t a science.

As Jordan Flaherty says, what New Orleans needs is leadership, money and compassion, in that order. And that leadership must include plans for the least of New Orleans, because selling them out, driving them out or neglecting them is no way to make things better for everyone.

~ by blksista on February 9, 2010.

 
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