Last January, a group of first-year Bonner Community Scholars travelled to New Orleans for a unique J-term experience. Working closely with long-term partnerships established by Macalester's Civic Engagement Center, students collaborated with a handful of organizations and schools across the New Orleans area to learn about civic engagement, social change, and community resiliency through participation in community-based projects.
The scholars' J-term course, New Orleans and the Performance of Urban Renewal, combined readings and discussions with hands-on experience through these projects, which gave students opportunities to interact with and learn from those in area schools, Native American tribes, and other community organizations, many of which are still feeling the effects of Hurricane Katrina. This was the sixth year that Macalester students have traveled to and worked in New Orleans since Katrina struck in August 2005.
Bonner students kept the Macalester community up to date via the group's Facebook page. Take a look below to get a feeling for what they saw and did.
January 12 at 9:16 p.m.
Macalester Bonner Community Scholars head out to NOLA this Saturday. "Like us" to learn more about our New Orleans and the Performance of Urban Renewal J-term Course and first-year alternative break January 14–21, 2012.
January 15 at 11:40 p.m.
After much airplane de-icing, we had a safe flight to NOLA yesterday. Today's adventures included learning more about the environmental and human geography of New Orleans with Tulane professor Rich Campanella; joining a second line and dancing our way through Central City; and ending the day with a home-cooked gumbo dinner at Richard Green's Make It Right home in the Lower 9th Ward.
January 17 at 10:35 a.m.
Yesterday we visited the Vietnamese Initiative for Economic Training (VIET) in New Orleans East, a Vietnamese community project. The previous night we watched the video A Village called Versailles, an inspiring film about the commitment of community members to rebuild post-Katrina and to confront injustices that the city had imposed on their community. It was a meaningful experience for Bonner Scholars to witness and partake in the community. During reflection last night we discussed the importance of human relationships in working toward social change.
January 17 at 10:33 p.m.
This morning Damekia Morgan, the campaign director for Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children (FFLIC), had lunch with us and discussed the School to Prison Pipeline. The pipeline is the tragic process of militarizing campus security and fostering children's entrance into the criminal justice system. It was shocking to learn about the frankly ridiculous disciplinary actions that have resulted in suspensions and expulsions, including 80,000 students removed in 2009 for a vague, catch-all infraction categorized as "willful disobedience." The racial inequalities in the suspension/expulsion rates were also disquieting: in each of the reasons given for disciplinary removal, African American students led by a third. We compared our own experiences of high school and the greater amounts of support and encouragement we had received from school administrators and teachers.
January 19 at 9:41 a.m.
Yesterday was the day we've been waiting for for months. We were invited into ARISE Academy, a charter school in the Upper Ninth Ward, to experience the charter system firsthand and perform some service work. Months ago we sent letters to some of the fourth grade scholars, and we finally got to meet them today. It felt amazing to interact with children so intelligent, fun, and charming as our pen pals. We hope to continue the connection, fostering a stronger bond between two communities. Later in the day, we had a passionate conversation about the charter school system and its policies, especially in regards to how it fits into New Orleans life. While we all felt very strongly about our opinions, in the end we all just want what's best for these great children.
January 19 at 9:47 a.m.
We want to thank Tulane University and Xaiver University for inviting us into their Community Art class and leading us in a thoughtful, engaging conversation about what it takes to make a community and how we as students engage with the people locally.
January 20 at 6:36 p.m.
Yesterday we had a free afternoon and evening to spend some time in the French Quarter. We shopped, wandered, and danced the night away. Most of us went our separate ways, but some came together for some interesting stops, including the House of Blues. There was an amazing comedy show including SNL performer Darrell Hammond (famous for his impersonations of Bill Clinton). The evening was a lot of fun, and we all have stories to tell about it.
January 21 at 12:58 a.m.
On Friday we visited Grand Bayou, a fishing village on the Gulf Coast. The community's members, descendants of the Atakapa Native Americans, have inhabited this land for thousands of years. They welcomed us warmly into their homes and shared their experience of the devastating effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, coastal erosion, land subsistence, and development pressures, especially those created by oil companies. Despite these hardships, the community has remained close-knit and resilient in their efforts to preserve their culture and way of life. We were especially touched by their faith in us as young people to make change.
January 21 at 1:13 a.m.
Friday night we attended a talent and step show at Tulane University. The event commemorated the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., and featured performers from Loyola University New Orleans, Dillard University, Xavier University of Louisiana, and Tulane. It was moving to see students celebrate and advocate for the struggle furthered by King. The show was fabulous and inspired all of us to attempt our own step routines, resulting in many laughs.
January 21 at 3:53 p.m.
As a farewell, we had some delicious snowballs from the French Market and visited Congo Square in Louis Armstrong Park.