Gulf Oil Disaster
Click here for a listing of Eve's stories chronicling the impact on the ecosystems, economies, people, and cultures of the Gulf Region.
For thousands of years, people have walked the intricate patterns of labyrinths as a form of meditation, prayer, and spiritual journey. Here in New Orleans, Trinity Episcopal Church hosts a weekly organ and labyrinth hour open to the public.
Much Mardi Gras revelry takes the form of parody, poking fun, and being what you’re not. The four year old krewe, ‘tit Rex (pronounced: T-Rex), is a parade in miniature, whose name plays on both it’s French translation – little king – and also what it literally sounds like: the abbreviation for the huge predator dinosaur, Tyrannosaurus-rex. But the “Rex” in ‘tit Rex has spurred controversy with another, 140 year old Carnival Krewe, which questions the legal precedent of this word play. I visited the tiniest parade in New Orleans, to witness first hand the creativity this amicable dispute has produced.
Lines of trombones, clarinets and snare drums on a sunny, Saturday afternoon generally mean it's time for a second line or a football game. But when four separate marching bands, all playing the same song, converge in one place? The Marigny Parade - a one time performance, future video art piece, and original musical composition -- also kicked-off Prospect.2, New Orleans' second, city-wide visual arts bienniale. I followed the parade and uncovered the story behind it.
What does it take to open a grocery store? In the case of the New Orleans Food Cooperative, nine years, 1800 members, innumerable volunteer hours, and a visionary renovation. For healthy food shoppers all over New Orleans, and especially residents living east of the French Quarter, the New Orleans Food Coop's recent opening was an emotional, celebratory event.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement is part of the Department of Homeland Security; their job is to enforce federal laws regarding border control and immigration. But lately, when it comes to immigration, the lines between federal, state, and local authorities are becoming blurred. Across the country, some state and local governments are choosing to opt out of immigration enforcement; still others are allowing immigration enforcement to spill over into regular policing. In New Orleans, where the sheriff's office and police department have been under scrutiny of the Justice Department, some say this spillover may be eroding the very safety our laws are intended to promote. Assistance on this story by Laine Kaplan-Levenson.
Arranger, composer, bandleader, and producer Wardell Quezergue passed away this September, 2011. Quezergue left his mark on countless Rhythm and Blues hits, arranging and producing records for the likes of Dr. John, Paul Simon, Willie Nelson, Earl King, Professor Longhair, and James Booker. Quezergue grew up in the 7th Ward, playing music with his family, and he started gigging professionally when he was 12 years old. In his last few years, Quezergue was legally blind, yet he worked up until his death, at 81 years old.
The US Congress voted to make Labor Day a holiday back in 1894, following a railroad strike over wage cuts and long hours. In the hundred plus years since then, workers have continued to seek out safer and more just working conditions. Here in New Orleans, as in much of the country, one big change we've witnessed is the role of a worker's race in determining what type of job he or she does. Half a century ago, Freddie Sawyer integrated public transit's higher echelons when he became New Orleans' first black bus driver, and ten years later, Ronald Lewis drastically improved the conditions of the track workers upon whose labor our system of street cars depend.
Thanks to Robin White for research assistance.
In the six years since Hurricane Katrina, a noticeable increase of Latino immigrants have come to New Orleans to work. Many of them have done the backbreaking jobs gutting, cleaning, and rebuilding our city, but for these newcomers, New Orleans hasn't always lived up to its room-in-the-bowl-of-gumbo reputation. How New Orleans accommodates these -- its newest and most vulnerable citizens-- is one barometer for the kind of place a rebuilt New Orleans hopes to be.
Four months ago, I interviewed Tarejk and Arwa Rtami, a Libyan couple living in New Orleans in order to attend the University of New Orleans. When Libya broke out in Civil War, Tarejk and Arwa felt trapped. Their twin sons, then 18 months old, stayed in Tripoli with their family, and their communication home was limited by what they could safely say on the telephone. Months later, when rebel fighters entered Tripoli, the capital of Libya and a vital stronghold of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Tarejk and Arwa spent nearly every waking hour streaming news from home, full of hope for the future.
Translation in this story provided by Khaled Haggazi.
What sport requires no balls or nets, and needs only a surface, two chairs, and two people using one arm each? New Orleans is part of a growing national movement of you guessed it: arm wrestling. The proceeds all go to organizations benefiting girls and women.
Small scale vegetable farming is a tough business. A group of mostly African American farmers, in and around Indian Springs, Mississippi, farm for the love of it, and over forty years ago, they formed a coop to help shoulder some of their economic burdens. But these farmers are aging, times are changing, and more than crops, it's concrete which is spreading.
Brooke Gladstone is one of my radio heroes. Whip smart, articulate, and fearless, Brooke is the co-host and managing editor of NPR’s On the Media, as well as a former editor of All Things Considered and NPR’s onetime Media Correspondent. Brooke recently authored the book, The Influencing Machine, which is about -- what else? -- the media. On a trip to New Orleans, I was lucky enough to talk with Brooke about her book.
June 11, 2011 marks the 50th anniversary of Preservation Hall, the French Quarter sanctuary for traditional New Orleans Jazz. Despite five decades' of changes, the Hall still showcases New Orleans indigenous music each night, and nurtures the culture it’s inextricably tied to.
This is part of a larger project about Preservation Hall Eve has been working on. Take a look at the book version of the project.
With the Mississippi River cresting in New Orleans at 17 feet this May, there’s one community that’s had a ring-side seat to the water’s rise. The folks who live in the Batture – the small strip of land between the levee and the Mississippi River -- have been watching the river flow into their yards and underneath their homes over the last several weeks. The Batture once stretched all the way to Audubon Park, but now it’s a cluster of 12 camps, or houses, in Old Jefferson, just past the Orleans Parish line.
Late last year, a panel of poets and scholars nominated three accomplished poets to be Louisiana’s next Poet Laureate -- the state’s literary ambassador. From that list, the governor recently appointed Julie Kane, a tireless promoter of poetry in the state. Kane is a recipient of the National Poetry Series award, the Donald Justice Poetry Prize, and a Fulbright Scholarship. In 2005, she was selected as a juror for the National Book Award in Poetry.
Revolutions and wars on other continents can feel remote. Even with the news – with photographs and videos and reports – you can always stop paying attention to other peoples’ problems, and go back to regular life. But for some people, there’s no escape. Eve Abrams, and her translator, Khaled Hegazzi, recently spoke with a young Libyan couple living in New Orleans. She learned that even here, across an ocean and in a different language, they’re trapped.
The eighth annual New Orleans International Human Rights Film Festival, otherwise known as Patois, opens with an evening dedicated to another looming anniversary: the Gulf Oil Disaster. Eve Abrams found out how oil and movies mix.
December is often a time for cutting trees – usually pine or spruce -- bound for tinsel and blinking lights. But, thanks to the Federal Stimulus Package, it’s also a great time for planting trees. Last week, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana teamed up with the National Park Service and dozens of volunteers to plant 1000 bald cypress trees in a new wetland area restored from abandoned oil and gas canals in Jean Lafitte Park. These four foot cypress trees play a big part in an even bigger job: restoring the swamp -- and New Orleans' storm surge barrier -- to its natural state. Eve Abrams sank into mud up to her knees to bring us this story.
For lovers of New Orleans music and Rock and Roll, the name Cosimo Matassa is synonymous with hits. Matassa's J&M recording studio, which once sat on the edge of the French Quarter, is one of those legendary buildings, a place touched with musical magic -- where Fats Domino and his longtime collaborator, trumpeter and producer Dave Bartholomew, as well as Ray Charles, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Roy Brown, Sam Cooke, Jerry Lee Lewis, Professor Longhair, Earl Palmer, Dr. John, James Booker, Guitar Slim, Smiley Lewis, Lloyd Price, and many others recorded some of the greatest R&B and Rock & Roll songs of the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s . In September 2010, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame designated the site of Matassa’s first studio a historic rock and roll landmark.
Lately, I've become really interested in finding out where the food I eat comes from. Lucky for me, I buy the bulk of my cheese, as well as my yogurt, goat meat, and eggs from a very nice farmer named Bill Ryals at the Farmer's Market here in New Orleans. Bill and his son Blake farm their sprawling family goat farm, along with two Latino workers who live on site, in Tylertown Mississippi, about two hours due north of New Orleans. Bill and Blake take a lot of pride in what they do, and with good reason. They work very, very hard, they farm responsibly, and they sell yummy things. On my recent visit to the Ryals' farm, I met a lot of well cared for animals (a rarity in our modern world, it seems), and I also got a small taste of what's important to the people I depend upon in order to eat the way I want to eat.
On November 14, 1960, three six year old African-American girls were escorted by US Marshals into McDonough 19, an all-white elementary school on Saint Claude Avenue in the Lower Ninth Ward. The story of another girl, Ruby Bridges, who desegregated the William Frantz School, is well known, but the history of Leona Tate, Tessie Prevost Williams, and Gail Etienne Stripling – who, in climbing 18 steps into McDonough 19, took a mammoth stride forward in the battle to desegregate Orleans Parish Public Schools, has been largely overlooked. Fifty years later, the contribution the “McDonough 3” made to the Civil Rights Movement was publicly honored.
In nearly 2000 School Based Health Centers across the country and 64 in Louisiana, children are getting everything from routine physicals to emergency medical treatment without ever leaving school. When the 2005 flooding destroyed several New Orleans hospitals, School Based Health Centers, along with other neighborhood clinics, stepped in to provide primary and mental health care for New Orleans' underserved, including kids. But as Federal funding for the School Based Health Centers expires, these Health Centers are forced to close their doors or dramatically reduce services.
Meena is truly an amazing thing. It means "port of entry" in Arabic -- a fitting name for the journal of poetry, art, and literature produced in the ports of New Orleans, Louisiana and Alexandria, Egypt.
This piece first aired on Public Radio International’s This American Life. It’s the third act of the By Proxy episode and it’s a story very close to my heart. It takes place in and about The Neighborhood School, where I taught for over a decade, and the folks in this story are folks I know well.
This story originally aired on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.
After being covered in swarming termites inside my own bathroom, I got out a microphone and started recording.
When Debra Oppenheim and Rick Fifield bought their Marigny home and work space in 2004, it came with a badly faded mural on the outside wall. Brooklyn-based artist Jonathan Blum painted that mural in 1994 on what was then his friend's photography studio. Jonathan recently returned to New Orleans to repaint the mural.
This story first aired on Public Radio International’s Studio 360.
We don't normally turn to artists to solve big, public health problems. But Mel Chin's Fundred Dollar Bill Project may be New Orleans' best shot at fixing a widespread problem of lead-contaminated soil. Exposure to lead-contaminated soil puts children at risk for health problems and learning disabilities, and cleaning it up requires an enormous amount of money. In this story, I take a look at Chin's creative scheme to make money.
A long awaited historical marker was unveiled in February 2009 at the corner of Press and Royal Streets, marking the spot in 1892 where Homer Plessy was thrown off a railway car and arrested. Plessy's planned act of civil disobedience eventually made its way to the Supreme court in the landmark case Plessy vs. Ferguson, and for some, marks the beginning of the civil rights movement. Eve Abrams has the story.
This story first aired on Public Radio International’s Tavis Smiley Show.
Years after New Orleans flooded, some folks are just now returning to their homes. But some New Orleanians from the Gentilly neighborhood aren’t moving back to their old properties. They’ve swapped their old, flood-damaged houses, for brand new ones.
New Orleans is famous for welcoming newcomers, but in parts of Mid-City, there's a disagreement about Bayou St. John's newest additions. Eve Abrams has the story.
Following Hurricane Katrina, Charity Hospital's administrator, LSU Health Sciences, closed the hospital. Now they, along with most city and state officials, want to open a new public teaching hospital in Lower Mid-City, where business and homes currently stand. Many people -- including preservationists, politicians, architects, and health care providers -- say reopening Charity is what's best for New Orleans.
This story originally aired on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Saturday.
One of New Orleans' premiere Mardi Gras parades is the Krewe of Zulu, rolling out on Fat Tuesday for the 100th year. The organization got its start as a way for African-Americans to participate in Carnival.
The Neighborhood Story Project has published eight books in which every day folks from New Orleans tell their stories through writing, interviews, and photography. This week the Neighborhood Story Project releases four new books by five teen authors - written over the course of two and a half years.
This story originally aired on National Public Radio’s Day to Day.
The pace of recovery in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina continues to move slowly. Among other basics, many street signs remain absent: as many as 27,000 signs were damaged or stolen in the storm. Some residents have taken it upon themselves to replace the signs, and take on other recovery-related tasks.
Wardell Quezergue has been a professional musician since he was 12 years old. Now 79, Quezergue is still arranging and producing records for the likes of Dr. John, Paul Simon, and Willie Nelson. Offbeat Magazine has awarded him a "Best-of-the-Beat" Lifetime Achievement Award. Eve Abrams recently spoke with Mr. Quezergue about his career.
Bill Borah is a land use attorney who, in the 1960's, helped fight to keep a highway, known as the Riverfront Expressway, from going through the French Quarter in front of Jackson Square.
The 2005 Federal Levee Failure decimated New Orleans Health Care net. Perhaps hardest hit was care for the mentally ill. In this two part story, which originally aired on The Tavis Smiley Show in May of 2008, I profile Cecile Tebo, head of the New Orleans Police Crisis Unit. I rode around in the Crisis Unit van one day with Cecile and her partner, Earl Wilson, and watched as they responded to 911 calls for folks having mental health crises.
Across New Orleans, seniors are wrapping up high school this month. For some students, this brings more than a diploma. Over a hundred seniors will leave New Orleans' highest needs public and charter schools with a head start on college. Eve Abrams brings us this story on Bard Early College in New Orleans. Originally aired on WWNO.
Eve Abrams takes a look at race in the race for the mayor in the 2010 election.
As part of Tavis Smiley's Below the Line series, I profiled two families who are working really hard to stay financially above water.
Why stay up for 24 hours in order to draw? Only one way to find out. The fourth annual Draw-a-thon returns to the Green Project on Saturday, November 21, 2009.
When the 2009 Muses parade rolled down St. Charles Avenue, they were accompanied by one of the city's most famous bands: St. Augustine High School's Marching 100. This Mardi Gras Season, St. Augustine's was in a total of 9 parades, but none were as momentous as the parade they marched in 42 years ago, when St. Augustine was the first non-white band to roll down Canal Street. Eve Abrams brings us this story.
File name: St. Aug integrates Rex (in folder)
This story originally aired on National Public Radio’s Day to Day.
The Housing Authority of New Orleans demolished four, large public housing complexes in December of 2007. Most of the sites in the bulldozer's path were empty due to closure following Hurricane Katrina, but one still had people living in it. The plan is to make way for new mixed-income buildings, but the displaced residents are skeptical.
For two nights in between the Jazz Fest weekends, another festival, known as the Ponderosa Stomp, celebrated the unsung pioneers of Rock and Roll. This year, in addition to two nights of non-stop music, and a two day conference of panel discussions and movies, the Ponderosa Stomp Foundation opened a year long exhibit at the Louisiana State Museum, called "Unsung Heroes: the Secret History of Louisiana Rock and Roll." Eve Abrams has more.
New Orleans Jazz giant Danny Barker would have turned 100 this year. This year's French Quarter Festival opened with a tribute show to Danny and his wife, singer Blue Lu Barker. Eve Abrams brings us this story.
The Roosevelt Hotel, on University Avenue, just off Canal Street, was once considered the grand hotel of the South. It originally opened as The Grunewald in 1893, became the Roosevelt in 1920, and reopened as The Fairmont in 1965. The hotel closed following Hurricane Katrina, but this month, it reopened, once again, as the Roosevelt. Eve Abrams reports.
Every craft sign and food price sign. Meet the woman whose artwork you already know, and whose handwriting just may make you feel like dancing.
For the last ten years, The New Orleans Musicians' Clinic has been providing ongoing medical and mental health care to some of our city's greatest assets: our musicians.
The section of Dryades Street in Central City now known as Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard is a part of New Orleans saturated with history. Step into the past and glimpse the future of this street which is more than a street.
From Elysian Fields to the St. Bernard Parish line, St. Claude Avenue now hosts New Orleans' first bike lane. Consider this a down payment on what's to come.
Warren and Sandra Smith are a dying breed: family dairy farmers. Six years ago, they decided to stop losing money by selling their milk to producers, and began pasteurizing their milk themselves. That's both good and delicious news for Louisiana.
For almost 30 years of his life, Louis Armstrong lived in a modest home in Corona, Queens, not far from where his fourth wife, Lucille, was from. By the time Louis moved into his New York home, he was a world-renowned entertainer and a millionaire, but at home in his working-class nieghborhood, he took time to play with children and to write lenghty replies to his fan letters. After Louis' death on 1971, his and Lucille's home became a National Historic Landmark. In 2003, it opened as the Louis Armstrong House Museum.
Green Light New Orleans is reducing New Orleans' CO2 emissions, not to mention our energy bills. They do it for free, and with loving-kindness, one light bulb at a time.
Born on January 13, 1909, this torch bearer of New Orleans music was a jazz banjoist, guitarist, singer, songwriter, and ukelele player. Listen to a tribute to Danny Barker in this week's Street Talk by Eve Abrams.
Animata Brown first started traveling to West Africa when she was 19 years old. Growing up African American in California, she wanted to experience African cultures in a real, authentic way. Over the years, Animata lived in Senegal and Ghana, and she kept returning, for West Africa immediately became a part of her heart and her life.
In 2007, Father Bill Terry, the rector at St. Anna's Episcopal Church, began listing the names of murdered New Orleans citizens on a board outside the church. Last year, 215 names were printed on the board. So far in 2008, there are over 160 names on the board. Father Terry and his diverse congregants are committed to living out their spiritual beliefs on the streets of New Orleans. Clearly, something needed to be done to curb the violence plaguing our city. From this concern, and with an orientation grounded in social justice, Horns for Guns was born.