Recommendations for an Antiracist Approach to New Orleans

Organization: 
Author: 
Pamela Nath with European Dissent
Date Published: 
September 25, 2007
Recommendations for an Antiracist Approach to New Orleans

Tips on being a culturally-sensitive visitor/volunteer

•    Avoid making demands on the places and people you visit.  Efforts to rebuild the city, address the many injustices that impact people’s lives, and respond to the many visitors flooding the city post-Katrina consume lots of time and energy.  People may not be set up to drop everything to give you a tour or answer your questions.

•    Be aware that a more humane pace and laid-back approach to life is part of the culture of the city.  Accept that spontaneity and waiting can likely both play important roles in your visit to the city.

•    Whenever possible, make donations to the people and places that you visit

•    Some excerpts from Catherine Jones’ “What I Wish I Knew: My Own Goals for Anti-Racist Practice” (entire document available on the web—see web resources below)
o    Don't expect people or organizations of color to tell you how to be in solidarity with them, but be willing to modify or toss out any of your ideas if they think there's a better way for you to support them. Have a very rough plan that you can be flexible with and that's based on an authentic and accountable understanding--not just your own thoughts--of where people and organizations of color can use your support.
o    Build accountable relationships with other white anti-racists who can both support you and call you on your shit when it's necessary.
o    Give Practical Support!!!!! What are your resources that you can share with organizations of color? Maybe you can provide food or childcare or translation at meetings, maybe you can help phonebank for specific events, maybe you can volunteer to work at the front desk, give people rides, find out where a group can get donated computer equipment, or throw a fundraising party at your house. There are tons of ways for white folks to give necessary behind-the-scenes support to organizations of color.  Be willing to do what's needed. Maybe you really want to be working with some amazing and popular organization of color that doesn't actually have a whole lot of opportunities for you to plug in, while another organization down the street is doing less high-profile work but really needs some folks to help them with fundraising. Take the opportunity to be of use.
o    Be conscious about how you prioritize your work- spend a significant chunk of your time doing the stuff that really is unsexy and be conscious about what you do and don't commit your time to.
o    Take care of yourself but be real about it. Figure out the things that rejuvenate you and do them; take breaks when you need them, but don't use the excuse of "self-care" to get out of doing the work. Set realistic boundaries for yourself and stick to them
o    Don't abandon the work if it makes you feel "uncomfortable." This is a pretty common feeling when white folks are actually working with people of color. Acknowledge that you feel this way, try and figure out why, get support from other white anti-racists who you respect, and keep going. Most of us have been there.
o    Take criticism from people of color for what it is--a gift.
o    If you have political disagreements with a person or organization of color that you're doing political work with, think critically about what your issues are and where they're coming from. Don't abandon your principles simply because a person of color may have a different take on a certain idea, but don't be afraid to challenge some of your deeply-held beliefs if you find that they don't hold up when you look at them with an anti-racist framework. Be open to criticism, even criticism of your politics, if it comes from an anti-racist perspective.
o    You're gonna make mistakes. You're gonna feel embarrassed when you do. This is not a reason to stop doing the work! In my experience, if people know that you're a generally accountable person who shows up and kicks ass when you're needed, they won't take it nearly as hard if you say or do the wrong thing every now and then. But learn from your mistake, don't make it again, and do what you can to smooth things over in a principled way.
o    Build authentic and good personal, as well as political, relationships with people of color.
o    This is my motto--say less, think less, do more. Remember that you're not a whole lot of use to the movement if you're sitting in a workshop. Put your knowledge to use. The struggle needs you!
Places to Visit

•    Backstreet Cultural Museum, 1116 St. Claude Ave. http://www.backstreetmuseum.org/  

•    Congo Square—Located in Louis Armstrong Park along the block of Rampart St.  For info, see http://www.jass.com/congo.html

•    African-American History Museum  1418 Gov. Nicholls St.  (504) 586-1919 http://www.neworleansmuseums.com/directory/location.php?locationID=1243

•    Ashe Cultural Arts Center   1712 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard (504) 569-9070.  For more about the center, see http://www.ashecac.org/  For listing of events, see http://acabnola.blogspot.com/

•    St Augustine’s Catholic Church of New Orleans – 1210 Governor Nicholls St. New Orleans, LA 70116  504-525-5934  See http://www.staugustinecatholicchurch-neworleans.org/  

•    Some “street” sites worth seeing:
o    Statue commemorating white citizen’s league behind Canal street center
o    Historical lightposts along Rampart St. that commemorate Spanish/French/US occupation
o    Insert ideas from monument tour that Freedom School ran; Pam will contact David Billings and ask about monuments.
o    Monument on Decatur Street across from Virgin records commemorating the “founding” of New Orleans
Recommendations of Grassroots Groups to support with time, money, etc.
•    People’s Hurricane Relief Fund --  See http://www.peopleshurricane.org/   
For volunteer registration form, go to: http://www.peopleshurricane.org/volunteer/  
To donate online, go to:  https://www.vanguardsf.org/index.php?s=40 and choose PHRF from the drop down menu
To donate by check, make your check out to People's Hurricane Relief Fund and mail to:        Vanguard Public Foundation
383 Rhode Island Street
Suite 301
San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: (415) 487-2111
Fax: (415) 487-2124
E-mail: vpf [at] vanguardsf [dot] org

•    Safe Streets/Strong Communities  -- See http://www.safestreetsnola.org/ 1600 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.  504-522-3949  To donate, see http://www.safestreetsnola.org/donate/

•    NENA – grassroots group working in the Lower 9th ward  -- Contact:  Linda Jackson 504-451-9871

•    Agenda for Children – See http://www.agendaforchildren.org/home.htm   For ways to get involved, see: