Long Term: The Future of New Orleans' Culture
Written by Katie Silberstein and Polina Bakhteiarov
In order for the spirit of New Orleans to live on once the physical city ceases to exist, programs must be instituted in the greater Louisiana area that will promote cultural awareness. These should include festivals, museums, libraries, and memorials that will celebrate New Orleans’ rich history.
The preservation program, although mainly focused in Louisiana, will also operate in Mississippi and Texas, where large numbers of displaced New Orleanians will reside. Festivals will be carried out on a smaller scale in cities with a large population percentage of New Orleanians. Museums commemorating the history and culture of the city will be constructed in Baton Rouge, Shreveport, and Lafayette. Libraries the contain updated, solid historical records of the city and documents regarding Hurricane Katrina that would be available for public perusal will also be erected in the tri-state area.
An analogous situation can be found in western New York. This land, like practically all of the United States, once belonged to Native Americans. Today, most places in the area are commemoratively named after Native American tribes and words, such as Chautauqua Lake, West Seneca, and Cattaraugus County. True, simply naming a place after historical inhabitants does not automatically recreate the original physical city, but, at the least, these names keep the old places alive in the minds of the people. This can help maintain a love for the old city while still working toward developing a new, modern metropolis. After all, this is the final goal – to preserve a city’s culture while moving on to a safer, more efficient municipality in a new location.
One might not realize the importance of preserving memories of this destroyed city, but modern American society owes much to New Orleans. In many ways, the city brings its own flavor to the American melting pot. Cajun- and Creole-style food, like jambalaya and crawdads, which originated in New Orleans, is now consumed nationwide and there are restaurants specially catered to these cuisines in all major U.S. cities. With regards to music, jazz greats Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, and Fats Domino were all born and raised in New Orleans. Thanks to their musical efforts, America can claim jazz as its indigenous music genre.
Music is also part of the festival culture of New Orleans. One of the world’s largest and most widely attended music fests, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, will celebrate its 36th anniversary this April. For decades, this event has been the culmination of all things New Orleans – local cuisine and crafts, immensely talented musical artists, and a local sense of community, vivacity, and creativity. Since the scale of the jazz fest grows every year, this gives incentive for the festival to find larger venues so that it can attract more people and be held closer to displaced residents, who can then keep on celebrating jazz and New Orleans culture in their new homes. In the future, while the smaller New Orleans will continue to host key celebrations such as the Jazz Festival and Mardi Gras, scaled-down versions of these festivals, as well as other traditional New Orleans neighborhoods parades, will also be launched in major Louisiana cities, such as Baton Rouge and Shreveport.
Finally, the state of Louisiana should establish September as New Orleans History Month, so that students will begin each school year with awareness education about the city’s contribution to American history and culture. This plan will particularly ensure that the heritage, culture, and irreplaceable spirit of New Orleans are never forgotten after much of the land is lost to Mother Nature.
In the end, we hope to effectively safeguard New Orleans’ culture while moving the people to places that offer environmentally safe living conditions. Throughout such a process, a general awareness of the past is absolutely necessary in ensuring a better future.