Guest Post: It’s your party and I’ll cry if I want to: Why the St. Claude Night Market needs to talk to its neighbors

This past Saturday night, there was a community event on my block. Or at least that’s what the people there told me was going on. I wouldn’t have known about it if I hadn’t been home and wondering what all the noise was. My first thought was that Treme was filming in the lot across the street from my house, but then I realized there hadn’t been any signs up, nor any flyers stuffed in my shutters.

Even before I went to check out the event, I had a flash of resentment towards it, akin to the anguished feeling of not being invited to a classmate’s party in grade school. Why didn’t I know a planned “community” event was going on across the street from my own house? Who is organizing such things and not telling the neighbors?

This feeling turned closer to anger when I opened my front door and found a stranger’s bicycle locked to my elevated(!) front porch, and my neighbor distraught at the possibility she might not be able to park directly in front of her home if she went out again. Far from lazy, this is actually a serious concern given her caretaking responsibility for her disabled mother-in-law (which necessitates quick and easy access to a vehicle in the event of a medical issue), as well as the very real threat of violent crime, particularly against women, in our city.

When I went to see what was happening, I found that it was an art and food market coinciding with the monthly St. Claude Avenue “walk” amongst and through the neighborhood’s art galleries. Though the market was festive and interesting, I felt a little strange attending a party on my block that I didn’t feel invited to, or even informed about.

It wasn’t so much that I felt awkward or unusual navigating the space of the market; it was more that I experienced it as an imposition on my neighborhood. This was especially weird because the majority of the market vendors and attendeees were young white scruffy people, just like me. As the presumed intended audience demographic, I was perturbed that I did not know who the organizers were, they didn’t seem to care to know me or even tell me the event was happening on my block, and so the whole thing felt forced.

While I should have been happy that a normally desolate corner of my street was inhabited by brightly lit creative enterprise, I felt like a bunch of people just came, had their party, and left, with no thought as to their physical or psychological impact.

This impact was echoed in my neighbor’s concerns about parking, my feelings of invasion when I saw that bike on my porch (and there was even valet bicycle parking at the market!), the overall sense of disorder brought by the vendors’ cars parked in all kinds of directions on my one-way street, and the slipshod approach to neighborhood ingratiation. It seemed that the people behind the event expected that such a thing would be embraced and celebrated by the “community,” but they didn’t even check in with their next-door neighbors about it, some of whom are artists and craftspeople themselves and might have wanted to participate in the market as vendors.

So, to the organizers of this market, I think that you should take a look at your goals and the realities of this city we inhabit, and come to a more sensitive threshold from which to make future decisions. You may be artists and entrepreneurs, social movers and shakers, concerned citizens and the like, but you are also a mostly white gentrifying force, bringing all the baggage that entails.

Yes, you bring your clever jewelry made from repurposed materials, but you also bring an anxiety to residents who do not know your intentions. You bring your “shamanic consultations,” along with a sense of unrequested spatial appropriation.

What I’m saying is that while your aims may not necessarily be antithetical to those of the neighborhood, it would do us all a great service for you to come to an immediate understanding of how your presence imposes upon your surroundings.

I do not object to you as individuals, to your DIY aesthetic, to your livening up the block with art, people, much-needed street light; in fact I was intrigued by much of your crafts and goods. I do object however to your lack of community outreach and to your overall neglectful attitude towards the very residents of the block you occupied last Saturday night, however briefly.

Indeed, when I tried to look up your event on Facebook (which is not a medium easily accessible to all my neighbors, it should be said), I found that you had listed the address of the market space completely incorrectly – there is no 3600 block of Independence Street – betraying at best a sloppy approach to event-planning, at worst a lack of localized knowledge.

I suggest for the next time – and I do hope there is a next time, as your intentions seem to be from a sincere and good place – you do some meaningful outreach in the neighborhood beforehand and gauge the residents’ mood towards your event: What are the concerns? What bothered us about last time? What would we want to see next time? After all, when you look around your event in Bywater – or anywhere in New Orleans, for that matter – and the faces you see are almost exclusively white and young, you are not having a community event.

I say this as a person who looks very much like you, who moved here post-Katrina, and who grapples with the very same conundrums of racial, economic, political, and social life that beset your operation. I did not ask my neighbors if it was alright if I moved to the block. But I do invite them to my parties.

Sincerely,

Arielle Schecter

PS: Also, please do a better job of cleaning up your trash when you leave next time. I don’t think that organic empanada detritus was there before you arrived.

__________________________________

Editor’s note: Arielle’s post was first published on her blog, Shtetl Chic, where she received quite a response to this issue including the event organizer here.

Bywater Home Tour This Sunday

Bywater Home on the 2009 Tour

The weather forecast for Sunday looks perfect for the annual Bywater Neighborhood Association Home Tour which is a self-guided walking tour – my favorite kind. I walked the tour in 2009 and thoroughly enjoyed the laid back pace as I got a look into several homes I’d always wished to see and gardens only glimpsed from the street. General admission tickets are $15.00 and can be purchased at the beginning of the tour in the park at 710 Clouet St where complimentary maps are also available. The Bywater tour is one of the most affordable home tours in the city ($15!) showcasing an eclectic, colorful and friendly community of shotguns, camelbacks and creole cottages (among others) that will not disappoint. The tour runs from noon to 4:00.

Don’t let this event pass you by!

Bywater on FaceBook

30 Days 2 Year 5: A Photographic Slide Show

Since we’re at the mid-way mark of our journey to August 29, the 5th anniversary of the failure of the federally built levees in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, (whew!) I’ve put together all the photos from the previous 29 days into a slide show.

Many thanks to the people who have contributed photos to this project so far. All photos except five (that I’m aware of) were taken within the past four weeks with the others taken in the past year so we’ve captured a pretty accurate portrayal of  some of New Orleans’ neighborhoods as they are today. We’ve got the good and the bad, the neglected and the restored. Every home and community is a part of our shared experience, our city and our lives whether the occupants are here or still in exile.

Once a New Orleanian, always a New Orleanian.

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NOLA Street Tiles

Sociological Images is a website I’ve been reading for a while now and has turned into one of my favorites. Today they have a little article with photos about our blue and white street tiles. Another reason we love New Orleans and a good reason to check out Sociological Images.

Originally posted on TravelingMermaid.

52 Days 2 Year 5: A Photographic Journey

Rampart Street, Bywater

This shotgun in Bywater belongs to my friends Chris and Sage who moved here from the west coast in 2006 when they bought the house after the elderly woman who lived there died. I’ve published some before and after photos below of the renovations they’ve done since moving in – seems they are always building and hammering something on their house. They use as much recycled material as possible, both by dumpster diving and from salvage places like The Bargain Center (one of my favorite places), The Green Project, and Habitat ReStore and has done all reno all with their own four hands. The brick patio and fountain surround were constructed with reclaimed and recycled bricks from buildings destroyed by the federal flood or purposely demolished in the months after. That is one damn fine patio – a great place to relax to the sound of tinkling water from the antique fountain. You can’t really tell from the photos but they added a to-die-for huge walk-in shower with skylight to the bathroom at the back of the house. “The Swamp Shack” is an extra bedroom (I have experienced its authentic bohemian comfort!) and a laundry room separate, as you can see, from the main house.

This is what can and has happened to many homes since the storm – nursed back to health by the love and hard work of people who are committed to their neighborhoods and their city. It’s heartening to see that not all X-marked homes are empty. Painting the house is on the bucket list but I’m not sure if they intend to paint over the X. I’ll have to ask.

Celebrating Bywater



(Ms Sallie Ann Glassman’s patio, Bywater Tour 2009.)

I love it when one of our neighborhoods get a shout-out in a nationally recognized and widely read newspaper or magazine. We can use all the positive press we can get with the thing we won’t mention out in our Gulf. Today The New York Times Travel Section has a great slide-show about one of New Orleans’ coolest, quirkiest neighborhoods (and my favorite), Bywater. Check it out!


Ms Sallie’s Temple

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Alters in Ms Sallie's VooDoo Temple, Bywater, New Orleans

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Ms. Sallie Ann Glassman, VooDoo Priestess

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Artwork in Rosalie Alley, Bywater, New Orleans

Halloween in New Orleans is a sacred yet decadent affair. In honor of our observance of the holiday, I’m sharing some photos I took during a tour of the Bywater this past May. Ms Sallie Ann Glassman’s VooDoo temple and Rosalie Alley were part of the tour – the best part in my opinion. Ms Sallie, who has been a practitioner of Voodou in New Orleans since 1977, was a very gracious hostess and allowed me to photograph her and the Temple. The artwork along the fence leading to the Temple was magnificent, as was the entire tour.

More photos of the Bywater Tour are here on my Bywater Flickr set.

Happy All Hallow’s, y’all.

2009 Is Mirliton Fest’s 20th Anniversary

2009 Mirliton Festival Poster

~The Mirliton Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary!~

2009 marks the 20th anniversary of the Bywater Neighborhood Association’s Mirliton Festival. Join us on Saturday, November 7 from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. at Markey Park (corner of Piety and Royal streets). Admission is $5 for the general public and $3 for BNA members. Kids 5 years of age and under are free.

This year’s event promises to be the best yet. The diverse and talented musical lineup includes The Valparaiso Men’s Chorus featuring Alex McMurray, DJ Jubilee, Happy Talk Band, R. Scully Rough 7, Guitar Lightning Lee, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Panorama Jazz Band, King Louie One Man Band and Ratty Scurvics.

The festival will also showcase food from some of the neighborhood’s best eateries. Returning this year are The Country Club, Jack Dempsey’s, The Joint, Markey’s Bar, Sally’s Country Gourmet Foods and Karma Kitchen as well as Bacchanal with a great selection of wines. Newcomers include Satsuma Cafe, Café Roux and Frady’s. For those with a sweet tooth, look for gelato from Sucré and gourmet popsicles from Meltdown. As in years past, Abita and Coca-Cola products will also be available.

The festival will also feature an eclectic mix of artists, a children’s activity area, and some great new merchandise including t-shirts, bumper stickers, and temporary Mirliton tattoos. Dr. Bob has designed this year’s limited edition 20th anniversary Mirliton Festival shirt, so be sure to pick one up. See you there!

For more information, visit our website at www.bywater.org.