Community centers have long been central to
In a city where many people are still in crisis, most federal support still has not arrived, insurance companies have evaded responsibility, and every repair seems to take longer than expected, a lot of these spaces need help. Few of have received anything close to the funding, resources, or staff they need for their work, and some are working unsustainable hours while living in a still-devastated city. Because
Many spaces were in poorer neighborhoods, which were more damaged during Katrina. This is the case for The Marcus Garvey Resource Center, a community space for African American youth located near the former Magnolia housing projects, which received several feet of water.
Many of these centers are Black-owned businesses which nurture the cityâ€™s culture, while supporting the community and local organizing. For example, in the legendary Creole restaurant Dooky Chase, Martin Luther King, Jr. held strategy meetings with local community organizers, the walls featured stunning artwork by Black artists, and figures from James Baldwin to Ray Charles would stop in to eat. For almost 65 years, the restaurant stood as a community anchor across the street from the Lafitte projects. Today, 18 months post-Katrina, both are still struggling to reopen. After months of work and the support of many prominent national allies, Dooky Chase is scheduled to open its doors in April. Lafitte remains shut behind metal gates, and is the focus of grassroots struggles, congressional hearings, and a federal lawsuit.
Other community spaces were part of public housing developments â€“ such as the Sojourner Truth Center, which hosted a 2005 performance tour sponsored by INCITE Women Of Color Against Violence. The
Rising rents and costly repairs forced the Neighborhood Gallery, a Central City-based venue for everything from theatre, paintings and sculpture to dance parties and community meetings, out of their home.
More than damage from the storm, the Neighborhood Gallery was a victim of a housing market that has doubled in many areas. With much of the city still blighted, speculators snapped up non-flooded properties and affordable spaces became scarce. With tourism down and the population decimated, businesses around the city are suffering, and for Black-owned businesses and community spaces, the situation is at a crisis.
Before closing post-Katrina, Neighborhood Gallery had been open, in various locations, for almost twenty years. â€œEvery neighborhood weâ€™ve gone into, weâ€™ve enhanced it,â€ Gallery co-director Sandra Berry tells me. â€œWe take the arts to the â€˜hood. Weâ€™ve taken artists to a deserted field and built a playground.â€ Neighborhood Gallery co-founders Sandra Berry and Joshua Walker are now organizing events at schools, coffee shops, and other spaces.
Two community spaces that share a Central City building,
During the reopening, the owners of
Jordan Flaherty is an editor of Left Turn Magazine and a community organizer. To contact