Baby Love Child banner

ARD- For those going to N’awlins

Naturally, despite all the fallout here in the aftermath of the Adoptee Rights Demonstration (ARD) (see my “Adoptee Rights Demonstration” tag for an inverse order set of posts about that aftermath) and the withdrawals of many of the original organizers and Bastard Nation some people will be going to New Orleans for the events in about a week and a half.

This is not about dissuading anyone. This is about being aware and showing some respect for where it is you’re headed.

One of the components of the events that I cared deeply about back when I was still working on the event (I am not now) was the fact that this was going to be taking place in N’awlins, a city I care passionately about and yes, a city that even today is still far from ‘back together’.

I advised fellow Bastards going to N’awlins to get up to speed about what peoples’ lives are like there now, in part by reading at bare minimum local ‘mainstream’ media such as the Times Picayne and the Gambit in the run up to the ARD.

More importantly, though, listen to those fighting to retain N’awlins for it’s residents, not just developers.

The city has been changed profoundly in the almost three years since the storm and the flooded aftermath. It’s been used as a hothouse for neocon notions of how to restructure American society (Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” has a useful framework explaining such, and utilizes New Orleans as one case study), in an attempt to shake the city out into a subset of “haves”; tourism built around the French Quarter and St. Charles Ave./parts of uptown neighborhoods, and “have-nots;” not ‘built’ much at all, but everywhere else.

The city is at this very moment a place where matters of survival are still paramount to so many.

A protracted battle where the future of the city is being decided in many cases, not by the neighborhoods, but by those who can tear them down, as part of building their vision of what they think the next New Orleans should be played out against the backdrop of many factors not merely wealth and poverty, nor even a binary notion of “race” (N’awlins has never been merely some matter of “Black and White” it’s a complex gumbo of French and Spanish, Haitians, Free men and former slaves, Cubans, First Nations peoples, and now post-Katrina, particularly Hispanics. All in that Creole, Cajun/Acadian mix. )

And that makes it one hell of a distinct place for adoptees to be trying to do their own efforts on behalf of our own equality.

As I wrote back on January 10th:

How do we do what we need to do in New Orleans while not overlooking or in anyway downplaying the magnitude of the realities New Orleans itself currently faces? On that one, I have no real answer yet. Yeah, it’s going to be strange protesting for open records in a place where day to day fighting for SURVIVAL is a genuine reality. I’m still trying to figure this one out, but the bottom line is we’re there because they’re there- the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Annual Meeting.)

Those still going would do well not be ‘tone deaf’ to the realities of N’awlins.

Don’t be a fly in,-eat only international fast food chains,- do the adoptee hokey pokey- and then fly back out again.

For some of us, going to N’awlins was ALSO about helping N’awlins itself.

If you’ve never been before, sure explore the French Quarter, it is unlike anywhere else in America, BUT also get off the beaten path and find a po-boy at a neighborhood grocery.

Hit a local coffeehouse instead of questing for wherever the nearest Starfucks might be, get out into the neighborhoods and find yourself a corner market, or a PJ’s, a CC’s, Fair Grinds, or go to Neutral Ground among others.

Eat local. Do what you can to help ensure the dollars you spend in N’awlins stay in N’awlins- with those who need it most. And who needs it most may not be readily apparent. Those in need may be, for example in a your waiter in a tuxedo in a fine restaurant in town (who is the third generation in his family to have done so, and is now facing a way of life endangered. See Antoine’s below.)

For that matter, if you can, eat the extraordinary. Tuck in some nice clothes (a good dress, a jacket for the gents) make reservations, and spend an evening doing what for many will be a once in a lifetime meal to remember. There are many restaurants, all of which rely on business like yours to stay alive, each with their own tale of what it took to reopen, but somewhere such as Antoine’s is N’awlins embodied. One will not be coming to your town, or anywhere else for that matter soon. It is an institution woven through the history of the city in ways most visitors never imagine. Every restaurant in N’awlins has its own story of what the storm and the flooded aftermath meant as well as what life was like before the storm. For Antoines, you can catch a mere glimpse of such in articles such as this.

Spend your tourism dollars locally. Tip well. Be kind.

Learn from your time in the city. N’awlins continues to be one of America’s most unique and interesting cities. Take time to listen.

Be respectful of the fact that there are neighbors, family members, and friends who are now spread far and wide, and are missed constantly by those who have chosen to stay and fight for the heart and soul of the city. Some may have left permanently, others are alluded to as ‘visiting a spell’ somewhere else, with hopes that perhaps they may eventually return. While the most immediate areas ARD protesters are going to be in may appear ‘just fine’, there is plenty of the Gulf Coast that has simply been swept away.

This is a place unlike any other.

And then there’s the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center itself. (The Washington Post’s take on the post Katrina history of it has it’s own problems, but does lay out some of the core of it.) and the attempted change of name controversy.

In all, I suppose I’m saying be clueful. Realize that where you’re going to be; speaking about the demand that adoptees receive equal treatment under law in a place where law and even treatment as human beings broke apart.

I’ve never known how to do such under those conditions. But if you’re going to go, do yourself a favour and be aware that for many, it’s about the closest thing to ‘sacred ground’ some of us are willing to recognize. It’s not merely a matter of people died there, it’s a matter of people were left to die there, murdered by a complete lack of empathy (and no, I’m not speaking of average people, as but one example the bravery of the ‘Cajun navy’ boat rescuers can attest.)

The city, and its people that still survive today deserve nothing less than your best.

If you haven’t thought about some of that, perhaps you should.

Because ARD, wasn’t only about sign holding and marching, it takes place in a context not a vacuum, it’s going to be in particular places which have pre-existing histories, some both horrific and infuriating, and most of all, it’s in N’awlins.

Be good to my friends down along the River and the Bayous.

Leave a Reply