America’s Forgotten Cities: New Orleans

New Orléans has a culture as rich as its food.  Jazz and Bounce music, Creole cuisine, and line dancers are just a few of what this city has to offer the soul-seeking tourist. Many people around the world, from wealthy oil tycoons, to dazed lovers have gone to this rich city to indulge it’s splendor.

My current obsession, “The Originals” even takes place in this beautiful city. Some would  even argue that culturally, it’s America’s richest city, but the locals will tell you a different story. Since the Emancipation Proclamation, New Orléans has been the Holy Mecca for many blacks. For example, Faubourg Treme is actually America’s oldest black neighborhood. At a time when blacks couldn’t even own property, this area was overflowing with black prosperity. In fact, it can be argued that not only was this suburb where the city’s culture was born, but America’s black culture as well. From the  early Civil Rights Movement to the Jazz Age, Treme continues to be the soul of “Black NoLA”. Unfortunately, like the much of the city, this cultural community has been threatened by gentrification since it flooded and many of the locals fear for it’s future.

And while most people are familiar with the renowned French Quarter, no one seems to notice that outlying areas that are such bad shape.

In 2005, the worst natural disaster the city’s history shook the people of New Orléans to the core, as Hurricane Katrina destroyed many communities. A few people, like my family, were fortunate enough to return, rebuild and/or restore their homes or buy new ones while many more weren’t so fortunate. Thousands of people were relocated to trailers provided by FEMA until their houses were deemed safe, some were given aid to rebuild their homes, others simply left the city and went on to create new lives, others still remain homeless. Ten years later and the city still hasn’t recovered, which is baffling if you look at how quickly other disaster stricken areas like San Diego and New York/New Jersey (where Hurricane Sandy struck) have recovered. With crime still being among the highest rate in the country, schools shut down, and the HIV rate alarmingly high, it’s understandable why the city officials might think gentrification might be the solution to the problem. But the real problem seems to be that no one is really talking about what’s happened since the hurricane hit.

By Ian Breckenridge-Jackson (

New Orléans has been known by many as “Murder City” before Katrina, and though crime is reportedly at a 40 year low (according to NPR), it still came in 28th on the list of cities with the highest crime rates. And this was just last year. With investors buying up the city and grand plans to rebuild it to it’s former glory, it’s seems like gentrification might help bring diversity. Many people believe that diversity is the answer, but one look around St. Roch will tell you that city certainly doesn’t lack diversity. Many locals say that the problem lies with communities. In New Orléans, neighborhoods don’t really exist, communities do. You have families who have been there for generations. It’s believed that these families held much of the neighborhoods together. And with a community this tight, I don’t imagine them taking well to outside investment. Especially when these “outside investments” have brought corporations to their small communities (such as the condos being built in Holy Cross in the Lower 9th Ward, a predominantly poor area), replacing mom-and-pop landlords with with big developers, and pushing out neighborhood businesses.

Meanwhile, rent has reportedly risen 46% since the hurricane, while the minimum wage remains $7.25 an hour.This means poorer residents couldn’t return there even with government aid. CNN named the city “the worst for renters” earlier this year, thus understandable why many residents haven’t returned. According to NPR, black residency went down two-thirds since Katrina, while whites have risen. New Orléans remains a predominately black city, but with the increase of investors more concerned with making a quick buck than preserving this once culturally rich city, what will become of the families, small business and the city in years to come?

"Tiara Letrice is a Staff Writer at #mygirlsquad. She enjoys hot cups of tea, modern ballet, and Quentin Tarantino

“Tiara Letrice is a Staff Writer at #mygirlsquad. She enjoys hot cups of tea, modern ballet, and Quentin Tarantino

Written by Tiara Letrice, Staff Writer, #mygirlsquad

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