whispers from new orleans

the blog is over. i can’t believe how many people have written and asked me to write. this post, number 301, doesn’t mean the blog is back. the blog is over.

it doesn’t matter right now tho, this week is remarkable and i have to hit the release valve a little, produce some content…

i started this week on a crazy trip in canada, at hollyhock, on this island i’ve dubbed heaven. while there i gave a keynote, went sailing, talked to all these geek organizers about combatting net neutrality and danced one night for six hours before collapsing in song in a hot tub with a south african whose name means peace to contemplate the stars and the sunrise. i saw a whale.

i got home monday morning, after the mid-journey beauty of vancouver and visiting my favorite tree in the slightly north, and just generally loving canada…i came home to my beloved ruckutistas working hard. i love those people, seriously. and we had good news this week – we are doing better than ever.

on monday i worked hard, on tuesday afternoon it was decided that tuesday night was the best time to go to new orleans for my third organizational development trip for the new orleans network. the anniversary is past. going a bit too fast meant i packed the wrong things and went to the wrong airport, but i’ve been learning how to respond calmly to stressful situations. i stayed cool, got to the right airport (painfully closer to my house), and hopped on the three leg red-eye to new orleans. i couldn’t wait to get there, i couldn’t wait to see where this team of the most uber-people i’ve ever facilitated had gotten to. and it’s good news too…the directory is up, the calendar is used by tons of people in the community, and in the midst of chaos they seem to have mastered the most evolved community organizing online tool i’ve seen.

i have said, often, recently, that my theory of change is this: contually developing leadership such that impacted communities lead the way. new orleans network, new orleans, is the great proof positive. i love this city, these people. shana and abram, my hosts and dear friends, are perhaps the most Good people i know. they always do the Right thing, not for show and not for attention, but just cause it’s Right. when given the choice between easy and Right they choose Right.  it’s a good match, they have naughty mouths, they have the best hearts. it’s humbling to be around. it reminds me i could be a better person yet.

all that has happened down here – the frustration of having worked for a year and seen things move forward and backward and sideways, residual misogyny, racism and a general lack of funding and creativity – it builds up. but i am a visitor, everyone i meet is one of the most amazing people i’ve met, people who aren’t victims in anyway i can see, though everything about their situation is unfair.

i met a lawyer today named rania thompson. she’s working with FEMA fund individuals who are now receiving letters from FEMA asking for money back – 10K, 20K or more. Turns out they didn’t ‘qualify’ for the insufficient funds they received, which they weren’t told was a loan, and now they are supposed to repay it. it’s disgusting, it’s unfair. who will help?

i met a woman named greta who is doing food access work, and helps support students at the center, who are sitting on hours of documentary footage of new orleanians directly after that first hurricane. they should charge people to use it, but people down here are too generous with what they have. they need 100k to survive. but who will help?

and now we are sitting in the house – around the corner is a situation. the rumors are – an ak-47, a hostage…the energy is taut and strange and we can’t go to sleep. there are cops on every corner and neighbors poking their heads around the corner. we’re contemplating what the hostage-taker is experiencing, now that his choices are death or prison. and is someone actually held hostage, more than one person, are they going to be ok? why haven’t the infamous new orleans police shot the guy yet. someone noted that the cops were nice tonight, that they are all a bit on edge, pumped up, any of the cops could die in this situation. the block is locked off and we got shuffled in.

we were coming home from jordan flaherty’s second birthday party. all the names i’ve heard, this is who to speak to in new orleans about direct action, organizing, media justice, etc, they were all there and the vibe was tipsy, light, naughty, funny. a gorgeous place new orleans, they know how to party proper.

the dark side of new orleans is always, still, a bit more than anyone should have to handle. the best humor i hear, the best hearts i experience, the most tender honesty. there are all these iconic figures who are floating about feeling guilty and like they haven’t done enough. there are all these people who need resources now more than ever. i was going to ask everyone i came across this month to give money to ruckus, and then i came down to new orleans.

on a side note, i’ve been getting the best text messages of my life. naughty and direct, hallelujah!

i don’t know when i’ll write again i just…it occurred to me i’m going full speed, and i wanted to tell someone about abran and shana and rania and greta. and ashley, and corlita, and jordan, and aesha. and this amazing visionary named joel in canada, and all these amazing geeks up there changing how we are able to communicate to each other. each day, it’s a blessing, life should always be this engaging.

but as usual when it gets to be late night and i’m thinking…who will hear the call – we’re all in need.