". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, February 22, 2008

New Orleans - Resistence to Erasure

Larry Blumenfeld on New Orleans’ Refusal to Vanish

[ All politics is local, Tip O’Neill famously said. Hell, every single thing is local in New Orleans—the city that author Ned Sublette calls “an alternative American history all in itself.” Big Chief Harrison figures in the coda to Sublette’s new book, “The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square.” “They refused to cooperate in their own erasure,” Sublette writes of Harrison and his fellow chiefs in their elaborate beaded and feathered suits during the first Mardi Gras following Hurricane Katrina. “They were still men, and these were still their streets.”

Make no mistake, what’s happening in New Orleans today—often by virtue of what’s not happening or despite what mustn’t—is an erasure, growing increasingly willful-seeming as the disaster grows more manmade and less natural. If things go as HUD has ordered and as the New Orleans City Council approved late last year, most public housing units in the city will be bulldozed away. Gone, at least for now. Among the striking images in my two years of post-Katrina reporting from New Orleans was the black Ninth Ward family I came upon during the second anniversary of the storm who stood by and watched as a TV anchorwoman held her microphone in front of their devastated home. “The producer said he doesn’t want us in the picture,” the father told me, holding his baby in his arms. Most Americans can’t see what’s actually in the frame in New Orleans anyway, and how could they without a working knowledge of local culture steeped in history? Where is the outrage down there, the resistance? Listen to Mardi Gras Indians chant “We won’t bow down!” Or fall in behind a brass band as part of a Sunday second-line parade. These are the protests, assertions of future and past in a present barely there at all. New Orleans is two cities now—one inching toward renewal, the other still caught in what, shortly after Katrina, David Winkler-Schmidt of the local Gambit Weekly called “the horrible unending of not knowing.” ]

There's a great deal more of this 2500 word TruthDig article about what is currently happening in New Orleans, prompted by jazz writer, Larry Blumefeld's reading of the book, The World That Made New Orleans.

1 comment:

Foxessa said...

Here's the general itinerary for a while re The World That Made New Orleans:

1) South Louisiana next week to do some events, hear a little music, and eat some jambalaya, so if you're in the area, stop by and bring your friends:

New Orleans:

*) Octavia Books, 513 Octavia (at Laurel) on Thursday 2/28 (6-8 p.m.)

*) Faulkner House Books, 624 Pirate's Alley (French Quarter) on Saturday 3/1
(4-6 p.m.)

*) Community Book Center, 25232 Bayou Road on Monday 3/3 (5-7 p.m.)

*) Tulane University, 100A Jones Hall on Tuesday 3/4 (6-8 p.m.)

Baton Rouge:

*) Barnes & Noble, 2590 CitiPlace Court on Wednesday 3/5 (7 p.m.)

*) The Hill Memorial Library, Louisiana State University, Keynote speaker at conference: Rhythmic Rituals of Performance: Revisiting the Past and Realizing the Present in the Gulf South and Circum-Caribbean Musical Discourses on Thursday 3/6 (time TBA)

Back in New Orleans toward the end of March for the Tennessee Williams Festival (more later) and on the West Coast in early April (SF, Portland, Seattle).

Love, C.