This post, which covers New Orleans public radio station WTUL’s “Deep Dialogue” series, comes from Ada McMahon, a media fellow at Bridge The Gulf, a community journalism project for Gulf Coast communities focused on justice and sustainability. A version of this post was first published on Bridge the Gulf’s website.
Where are you from, originally?
This simple question was the topic of a discussion at Community Book Center in New Orleans in April, and prompted a sweeping conversation about race, class, displacement and what it means to be from a rapidly changing city with deep roots.
The event was the first in the “Deep Dialogue” series hosted by the city’s WTUL “News and Views” show and the Bridge The Gulf Project. These in-person community conversations, recorded to air on WTUL, focus on topics that matter to New Orleanians and are made possible by funding from the Public Insight Network.
Here are just two excerpts from the conversation that I’ve been thinking and talking about since. They’ve been edited for length below, but you can listen to the full conversation here.
This first excerpt addresses some of the layered meanings behind the question: “Where are you from?” It features:
- Ben Mintz, who spoke about his discomfort about telling people he is from New Jersey, because he runs a news site about New Orleans
- Yasin Frank Southall, a community organizer who talked about people assuming he is from New Orleans because he is black, and the offensive things he hears when people realize he isn’t a local
- Shana griffin, an activist and researcher who grew up in public housing in New Orleans, spoke about feeling erased by post-Katrina policies
- Jennifer Turner (aka Mama Jennifer) of Community Book Center, who grew up in Central City and talked about the segregated New Orleans of her childhood
- Catherine Michna, a cultural historian at Tulane, who spoke about grappling with the “Where are you from?” question since high school, when she moved to New Orleans from Baton Rouge
The second excerpt touches on coastal land loss, climate change, and race. It features:
- Jonathan Henderson, who works for the Gulf Restoration Network
- Monique Verdin, who recently made a documentary film about how the Houma side of her family has been threatened by coastal land loss and Hurricane Katrina
- Amber, a young African American woman from New Orleans
- Shana griffin
We’re inviting others to join the conversation by leaving a voice message at (504) 457-8439.
Some of those messages will be aired on WTUL.
Community members can also participate by suggesting a topic for the next “Deep Dialogue” event, which will be held on July 23.