A Year in New Orleans: An Account of an Alternative Spring Break Trip
Every year many Park Scholars participate in Habitat for Humanity or Alternative Spring Break trips. For me, the ASB trip to New Orleans tied together the tenements of service, learning and media — what it means to be a Park Scholar.
Everything I did this year in the Park Scholar Program seemed to be leading to the ASB trip. As a freshman journalism major, I started this year in Dr. Matthew Fee’s Globalization and Media Class, discussing the positive and negative merits of globalization and how as future media makers, we can use our talents to change the world for the better. In Dr. Fee’s class, I learned about issues like compassion fatigue, culture jamming, and how blurry the definition of “globalization” can be.
For starters, what does globalization mean? With this year’s book selection The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein, I learned globalization can incorporate how law and policy makers utilize “crisis” to push through tough economic reform, what Klein calls the “shock doctrine.” I read Klein’s case studies about how after Hurricane Katrina, the shock doctrine was used to push through charter schools in New Orleans.
My studies with New Orleans continued as I attended Tia Lessin and Carl Deal’s documentary screening of Trouble the Water. Watching the documentary, I realized the continuing impact of Hurricane Katrina — how even five years after the hurricane, much of the 7th and 9th Wards were still in ruins while the commercial districts of “the Big Easy” were back in business.
Moreover, I had begun making media — writing articles about these issues for Buzzsaw Magazine, and listening to the accounts of Park Scholar Seniors, who went to New Orleans this January, as I prepared for the trip.
Of course, none of my studies could have prepared me for what I saw and how it affected me. On March 13, 2010, I left for New Orleans to finish what the senior Scholars started in January. We were to help Pastor Bruce of the St. John’s Church and his parishioners, working to finish Audrey’s house. Although we did finish knocking down the ceiling and started putting up dry wall, speckling and sanding, I left New Orleans on Friday, March 19 with a different perspective on how Hurricane Katrina continues to affect the city.
For starters, I saw how it was not just individual houses that were in ruins, but entire communities. I saw the houses where the words “no demolition, we will come back!” were spray painted, and how five years later, the families had still not come back. I saw the numbers on the houses, signaling how many people were found dead after the hurricane. I listened to Audrey tell her story about how contractors stole from her, how her family got separated and how her two grandchildren had to go to two separate schools because of the different charter schools. Still, despite the setbacks, the people of New Orleans had incredible hope.
“Nothing’s gonna bring me down,” Audrey told us on our last day.
Although I have returned to Ithaca, I will never forget the things and people of New Orleans. In fact, after returning from Spring Break, I have started a new club on campus to raise awareness about how for the people of New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina is still going on. Lastly, as long as these issues persist, I continue to make media. I will write.
By Qina Liu