This year's New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival was a special one.. as I knew it would be. As post-Katrina levee breach life returns to a mere semblance of normalcy in the Crescent City, you wonder how these resilient people can still host such an amazing party in the face of so much utter destruction.
I got to New Orleans last Wednesday April 26. On Thursday me and three of my friends, all from New Orleans, went on a tour of the Katrina Levee zones. Which is basically the entire city... at least 80% of it. Words can not describe what I saw. Mile after mile, neighborhood after neighborhood, destruction... water lines... VISIBLE water lines on buildings... from 2ft to 12 ft... all over the city. It would be easier to list the parishes that did NOT flood. It's mind blowing. And it was not the hurricane that did this… it was the levees. You can SEE where the breaches were, how powerful the water was… how it picked houses up off their foundations and carried them ramming into other houses. Words escape me…
My friend and her husband had just bought a house in July last year. They moved into it in August and were in the house for maybe three weeks when they evacuated. Their beautiful home with gleaming hardwood floors, piano, guitars and instruments, beautiful kitchen, children's rooms.... filled to 8ft with water and sat submerged for 3 WEEKS.
There is nothing left. We went to her house and I was able to walk in... walk around… take pictures. As I exited into what was once her beautiful garden filled backyard, I was overcome with emotion. We all were. To try to fathom that all the miles and miles and neighborhoods that we had just driven through, and that we would leave her house and drive through some more... to think that EVERY home was that way. All those memories. All the collections of furniture and hand me downs... instruments... photographs.... Jazz Fest posters.... clothes.. personal items... all drowned.
It's impossible to convey. You can't even wrap your mind around it.
And then it was Friday, the first day of the Fest. In a city where stores and restaurants that used to be open all night long now close at 7pm, where magazines and mail are just now starting to be delivered again... in a city that has only about 20% of it's people back... this huge party of jazz and heritage was teaming with life and vibrancy. On the way to the fairgrounds you can see people of all colors and ages and shapes and sizes out in their yards, in the streets with garbage bags picking up trash, repainting, sweeping... taking pride in their life... and with all the time in the world to stop and say hello and smile at you. They ask you how you been… more than happy to talk to you about whatever…. give you directions… tell you where to eat!
This is New Orleans . This is why it is the most special city in the world. This is why it must be helped to survive and come back... as it was.
The festival was packed with people. It was more crowded on this first Friday than I have ever seen it. The music was top notch... the food was phenomenal even though the booths were short staffed and slower than usual because of it. But everything was made and served up with love and a smile.
I saw Galactic do "When The Levee Breaks" which was incredible. I saw Eddie Bo sing our (my girls and I) theme song "Check Your Bucket". I saw Clarence Frogman Henry do "Ain't Got No Home"... Dr John, The Meters, Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, Herbie Hancock with Marcus Miller and Terence Blanchard, the Gospel Tent... and so much more. The late night shows were amazing... the people were amazing.
It was a very special weekend. I wish I could have stayed for the duration.
BUT I left with one particularly clear remaining feeling... New Orleans still needs help. Home Depot can't stock enough to help the residents that are back to fix their homes. And the people there to do the wrecking, gutting, clean up… are from all over. There is plenty of work if you need it. But the most glorious and impressive of all these people are the musicians and residents who call themselves the Arabi Wrecking Krewe: http://www.arabiwreckingkrewe.com/index.php
It's musicians helping to bring musicians back to their home... back to New Orleans.
"The Arabi Wrecking Krewe is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to bring home the musicians who play such a large role in making this great city a unique part of world culture."
I am in contact with them, and I will be helping them with various things they need. I need to help. I feel like I need to do what I can… I just couldn't leave there without leaving a piece of my heart, which was broken looking at this city. This is the only way I can think of to help mend it and the city I love. Please help... they need it!
I took a lot of pictures to share with friends and family. But like TV it's kind of oddly desensitized... unless you see it first hand. The pics just do not do it justice..
I just had to share.