Sparking Creativity was moderated by Nathan Rothstein of NOLA YURP as well as NAC contributing writer and editor Brentin Mock. The panel consisted of Dirty Coast T-Shirt company creative director Blake Haney, Neighborhood Partnership Network director Timolynn Sams, Consciously Rebuilding co-founder Andrea Floyd, and Dr. Janet Speyrer, associate dean for research and economics at the University of New Orleans.
To get a little bit of background on this group, there was a friendly dynamic between Blake and Timolynn, as well as Nathan. The three of them alone brought many supporters and close friends and it seemed, at first, to be an open forum on what they felt was happening in New Orleans in a general sense and quickly evolved into some thoughtful discussion. The social and economic divisions that New Orleaners work hard to prove non-existent begin to show when Dr. Speyrer factors in the wealthy to the solution to the housing crisis. Statements are padded with introductions like, “now I don’t want you to feel sorry for the wealthy, but…”
Poverty in New Orleans has bonded the city together. Katrina made everyone poor and homeless. Even the wealthiest residents had to abandon their homes. The fact is, crisis unveils our human instinct. The concept of “homes for the wealthy,” even when discussed as numbers and statistics, raised eyebrows and emotions from the other panelists and from audience members. As you can see from the video, the mention of money makes New Orleans uncomfortable. However, Speyrer brought up what I felt was the most interesting contribution to the discussion – when we talk about investing in human capital, we should not be selective on what type of humanity is supported. The fact is, the professional business class, doctors and professors are wealthy and they contribute just as much to a community as the working class. These are the people leaving the city.
To get to the core of our topic: “Sparking Creativity in New Orleans,” we had to allow the group to vent community frustrations. We touched on this topic: Blake gave a basic blueprint to starting businesses like his – saturated with multimedia and local culture. I had doubts as to the nature of Haney’s business at first, but I could see it in his eyes that he’s community-centered. Timolynn Sams, who should be a paid lecturer, is the same way – she refers to self-governed neighborhoods as a result of poor state and federal management. New Orleans is a throwback to the 1950s suburbs, where you knew the people you did business with personally. And this applies to just about everything except the French Quarter, which is a separate world in itself. More on that later. Generally, the audience was happy about the opportunity to come together, tackle issues, vent and talk about the role of creative youth.
I see discussions like this as wholly positive, regardless of what is discussed. As long as every viewpoint is allowed equal opportunity to speak – and I’m sure that’s a vision that fits in with most New Orleaners. I want to note that at this moment, I was very disappointed with the media’s portrayal of this city. I don’t see the city government taking control of anything.
To read more of Jeff’s recap of NAC’s trip to New Orleans, CLICK HERE