Sallie Ann Glassmans'
New Orleans Hope and Heritage Project
Pre-Katrina was a lifetime and a world
We miss our homes, our bizarre and wonderful
city, our dear friends, who have scattered
to the wind. We will never forget what we
experienced in New Orleans, or the horrific
images that continue to haunt us: the wide
eyes of silent children sitting next to
desolate parents, the manic gleam in the
eyes of berserk looters, the bowedheads
of those forced to forage for food, or the
broken debris of once-magnificent Live Oaks.
Nor will we forget the warm and accepting
welcome we have received from people on
the road, the kindness and generosity of
friends, family, strangers. The love, concern,
and energy that has poured out to us is
real and palpable and has sustained us throughout
these difficult times.
Everyone who stayed in New Orleans during
Katrina has a story to tell. This is mine:
I stayed because I had too many animals
and too many Vodou godchildren to fit into
the one car that we shared between us (not
to mention that I, like so many New Orleanians
- don't drive and don't own a car myself).
We decided to vertically evacuate to my
friend, Pres's, apartment in the French
We did yet another hurricane ceremony Saturday
night, asking Dantor to take the storm to
the East and reduce it from Category 5.
People kept asking me what was my gut feeling.
"We will survive this, it will go to
the East. But I don't trust my gut on this
As it turned out, the storm did downgrade
and did pass just to our East. In fact,
the storm itself didn't do all that much
damage. We even walked Ayizan, my trusty
Akita, while the eye was passing. The gusts
took your breath away, but there was nothing
like the total devastation that happened
on the Louisiana, Mississippi Gulf Coast.
There was a lot of debris, lots of battered,
dead birds, lots of torn up trees, but we
could certainly have picked up in a few
weeks and moved on. We thought we had gotten
The electricity had gone out at 6:25 a.m.
Every clock in town was frozen at that moment.
We were transported into the Twilight Zone.
All communication was suspended and chaos
started to seep in.
We spent that Monday night in Pres's French
Quarter apartment, right off of Bourbon
St. It was incredibly surrealistic on the
balcony overlooking the Quarter. Absolute
blackness outside. The only lights were
those of the police cars searching through
the streets and the million stars suddenly
visible overhead. Add to that the relentless
noise of helicopters hovering over the tops
of buildings, a random gun shot here and
there, people shouting and running. It was
straight out of the scene in Apocalypse
Now when they come to the bridge too far.
No one is in charge and there's nothing
but chaos out there in the dark. End of
the bloody world!
Then, the next day, the levee broke and
slowly, ominously, the water started to
rise and people started to seriously worry
about food supplies and water to drink.
Would we be trapped there for a month? Would
anyone come to get us? Where was the rest
of America, any emergency assistance, any
instruction of any sort? We would go out
foraging for food and police would give
us food that they had confiscated moments
before from looters. Very weird, but we
certainly were not going to turn down any
supplies, even canned caramel sauce or pecans
We climbed over the balcony at Pres's apartment
and took food out of his absent neighbor's
refrigerator -- all kinds of gourmet, organic
delicacies -- and left a little note saying
we'd remimburse them when this was over.
It was more like we were playing at scavenging
than realizing that we were in a life and
death struggle. But it was getting increasingly
dicey out in the street and felt increasingly
Apocalyptic. I was getting flashes of grammar
school when fall-out shelter salesmen would
terrify us with tales of having to bear
arms to prevent rabid, formerly civilized
neighbors from breaking in to contaminate
your space and steal your supplies.
Meanwhile, the New Orleans flood water
was steadily rising. I became unwilling
to let anyone out of my sight for fear that
something would suddenly change again and
we'd be forever separated. I had no idea
where most of my friends were evacuated
to. Or, drowned? Shot? Barricaded in their
homes? No phones, no t.v., no newspaper,
nobody in charge. Looters everywhere --
some just getting food and water, some just
wreaking havoc. There were also isolated
police here and there with shotguns in their
As we wandered around the French Quarter,
looking for food, we'd pick up people who
would throw their lot in with us for a block
or two, then disappear as they became distracted
by some other plan. I particularly wondered
what became of a vacationing Italian couple
who spoke no English and were last seen
trying to comprehend my pantomimed instructions
that they not drink the water.
As the black night laid down on the city,
Pres moved me, my friends, a strange Indian
man named Sonjee, who had attached himself
to us, two dogs and our combined four cats
up to one of his hotels across from the
convention center. A battalion of police
had commandeered the hotel, so we had lots
of food and
water and gasoline for the generator. But
the police were also stranded there with
no information, no assistance, no instructions,
no supplies. They had looted the Walmart
to get the food and water that we were now
consuming. But we felt relatively safe from
the mayhem outside.
The police captain turned to Pres and asked,
"What are YOU still doing here?"
It was clear that only the poor, disempowered,
and worthless were supposed to still be
in the city. I thought the Spirit must have
wanted Pres to be with me so that he would
have to see and experience all this from
the street level. I thought Spirit must
have also wanted me to be with Pres so that
my ass would be saved.
The hotel had a phone line out that could
only make long distance calls. I called
my brother, my ex-sister-in-law, and my
dear friend, Claire. For the first time
I realized the desperation of our situation.
It was something about their shrieks of
relief when they heard my voice, and my
own tears when I heard how worried they
were for me.
I met a Jamaican man, Johnson, who was
the chef at the hotel. He had no money,
but had a full tank of gas in his car. Still,
he couldn't leave because his two daughters
and his wife were stuck in a hotel in Kenner.
One of the daughters had leukemia and was
running out of medicine. He was out of his
mind with worry, but had the most beatific
smile on his face. He said that he had to
smile. That is what he was here for, and
we all needed him to smile. I know I did.
He also kept pointing to the police saying,
"Remember. It's martial
law now. They're in charge. It's their city
now. You have no rights."
I watched people coming up out of the flooded
parts of the city to the Morial Convention
Center. Already hundreds of people were
there without food or water or shelter from
the sun. Lots of people were joyriding on
stolen scooters, brandishing guns that had
been looted from stores and homes. Could
this really be the United States? Were we
really U.S. citizens? It felt more like
of Saigon and we had missed the last helicopter
out. There were no National Guardsmen, no
Army, no Red Cross, no FEMA, no one. We
were being left to drown. It seemed a bit
like the Nazi gas chambers. Corral everyone
you don't want into a little room, turn
on the gas, then say how appalling it is
to see these awful people climbing over
each other to get some air.
Everyone was so appalled at all the looting
and lawlessness. What was happening in New
Orleans would have been called a slave uprising
in colonial days. In the sixties it would
have been called a revolution, except here
there were no leaders, no philosophy --
just blind rage, spilling over. It was the
direct result of slavery, after all. I thought
it would likely spread to other cities where
there is unrest, disempowerment, bitter
poverty in the face of excessive wealth
-- just as there would surely be other natural
disasters that befall other cities in other
terrains, due to global warming.
On Wednesday evening, two of my friends
got through to their parents who said they
would come to get them. That left us enough
room in the car to make our get away with
my dog, three cats, and my bottle of Joy
perfume. We drove out of the city over the
Crescent City Connection -- the last route
out -- just before it was closed. The bridge
was lined with hundreds of desperate souls
who sat on the side in the 100-degree heat
with their babies in shopping carts or cardboard
boxes, no food, no water, no hope. What
would happen to those broken people? I heard
that people who walked over the bridge were
met with gun-toting police and dogs, who
refused to let them come over to the West
Bank. How nice.
As I looked back at my beloved, ruined
city I wondered when or if I would ever
see it again. The levees of my heart broke,
and I cried and cried. We drove out of New
Orleans, and back into the United States.
Duck, here comes the Apocalypse.
Shortly after we left, the police kicked
everyone out of the hotel and left them
on the street in front of the Convention
Center. Johnson was last seen walking away
in the other direction. He did not have
his children with him. I had given him Pres's
phone number and some money, but I never
heard from him again. His gracious smile
haunts me. My friends made it back to Pres's
apartment, where their parents miraculously
found and rescued them. Now all my friends
are scattered to the wind.
Politicians throw blame, then take the
blame, make all sorts of declarations and
promises, offer new deals. Maybe Katrina
marks a turning point for our society. People
will always look back at this and say, "We
were living wrong and this is the event
that changed us."
It's now over two weeks since the catastrophe
happened. Still no FEMA, still no Red Cross.
My insurance company plays a recorded message
that says they'll be closed for a very long
time. Our leaders and our organizations
have failed us. People all over the world
are pouring out love and money. Where is
it going? It's not coming here.
Will New Orleans be under water for forty
days and forty nights? Has this been a biblical
cleansing? What will we preserve from our
old way of being? Can we reinvent ourselves?
What is the transformation that is possible?
Can we go there?
The shrinks are wrong -- it is possible
to sustain passionate, romantic love. All
of us who live here love New Orleans passionately,
maybe unreasonably. Like any lover, she
can be difficult, problematic, inept. New
Orleans can be tacky, violent, corrupt,
impoverished. But she has a way with moonbeams
and dreams. She knows how to wrap a glamour
around herself. Those of us who are now
dislocated in the great, undifferentiated
wasteland of American suburban sprawl know
what a unique treasure New Orleans is.
I snuck into New Orleans last weekend with
a few friends. We went to six of our houses
and businesses and my Vodou temple. All
were pretty much unharmed and none of them
had been looted. I opened the door to my
temple and found pristine altars, undisturbed
cornmeal ritual drawings from our last hurricane
ceremony, and food offerings still on the
centerpole. I was less than a block away
from the utter devastation of the Lower
All the members of my Vodou community
and all their pets and precious ones had
gotten safely out of the city. I had a roof
over my head and food on the table. I gave
thanks to the Spirit for all these precious
gifts, and for the opportunity to grow my
The whole historic portion of New Orleans
-- everything we think of as New Orleans
- - was relatively unharmed. The trees on
St.Charles Ave. were a bit beaten up, but
still standing. The birds had come back.
We will rebuild. We are reimagining already.
Our lives will be different. New Orleans
will be different. We will take the warning
from the Earth Mother. This time we will
build a city that is ecologically conscious
and sustainable and will be spiritually,
rather than financially driven. We need
double levees and
light rail trains that can speed tens of
thousands of people at a time out of town
when the next big storms come. We need adequate
public transportation within city limits
and bicycle paths so we can move away from
gas dependency and allow the earth to cool
down a bit.
Every one of you who thinks I'm crazy for
eating vegan, riding a bike, and not using
air conditioning, please think about the
realities of global warming and the fury
of the storms it brews. If we want to survive
on this earth, we have to give up some comforts.
And everyone is invited to next year's hurricane
ceremony, the third weekend in July!
THE NEW ORLEANS
HOPE AND HERITAGE PROJECT
We are learning to ride the turbulent waters
of Apocalyptic change. It's all about the
silver lining and the opportunity to add
to the Soul of the world. Here is what my
family and I have come up with as a place
The New Orleans Hope and Heritage Project
The New Orleans Hope and Heritage Project
is dedicated to supporting the efforts to
rebuild and transform the city of New Orleans,
while staying true to the unique heritage
and culture of our beloved city. We will
focus our efforts on rebuilding one neighborhood
at a time by channeling the interest, support
resources of individuals and organizations
worldwide who share our passion for authentic
and inspired reconstruction. We recognize
that with any crisis also comes great opportunity.
Together we can realize the potential of
the state of emergency caused by Katrina
and related flooding to afford a mindful
reconstruction, with an emphasis on environmentally
aware, socially conscious urban planning.
We are passionate about staying small,
yet mighty. Our community-driven organization
will create opportunities for one individual
to help another by supporting small, personalized
acts of hope and empowerment that will create
a new paradigm for community. The New Orleans
Hope and Heritage Project was formed in
response to a general sentiment that local,
state and federal government failed to prepare
and protect its citizens from Katrina and
the storm's aftermath. We believe that an
appropriate, strategic response to the crisis
our city currently faces must be lead at
the neighborhood level, with passionate,
feisty native New Orleanians directing efforts
to re-imagine and rebuild our city.
Topline Objectives (In no particular order):
Citizen driven community home insurance
Lobbying for insurance reform.
Citizen driven evacuation plans for humans
and the pets they love tailored to the needs
of each neighborhood in New Orleans.
Home rebuilding program (grants and labor).
Commitment to award work to local contractors,
with a preference given to independent contractors
and small businesses.
Innovative incentive programs and grants
to encourage displaced people to return
to New Orleans.
Carpentry residency and internship program.
Residency and internship programs for teachers
and holistic healers.
Counseling for PTSD, with an emphasis on
Develop neighborhood cultural centers which
offer resources including yoga and nutritional
and mental health counseling.
Citizen driven policing and security.
Citizen driven education, including year
round schooling and 9 hour school days.
Citizen driven, environmentally responsible
mass transit system.
For more information on The New Orleans
Hope and Heritage Foundation or to contribute
to the work of Manbo Sallie Ann Glassman
and La Source Ancienne Ounfo as they help
to rebuild and refocus New Orleans, please
visit her website at www.feyvodou.com
nola hope and heritage http://www.nolahopeandheritage.org/nola/
Ann Glassman is the author of Vodou
Visions, published by Random
House in May, 2000, which has received
acclaim from Vodou practitioners
around the world. She is co-creator
and artist for The New Orleans Voodoo
Tarot, published by Destiny/Inner
Traditions, and is the illustrator
of The Enochian Tarot, published
Web Site www.feyvodou.com Visit
Katrina Ya Ya project is an invitation to
see beyond New Orleans' drained streets
chalked with the memory of flood lines and
the scars worn on her wind-battered houses,
and further into what must be protected."
The Katrina Ya Ya project is an invitation
to see beyond New Orleans’ drained
streets chalked with the memory of flood
lines and the scars worn on her wind-battered
houses, and further into what must be protected.
We invite you into a deeper story that has
endured fires, territorial feuds, and floods
to meet our true city: her rich, unique
cultural heritage that must be preserved
if those who have not had the chance to
know her mystery and secrets are to understand
precisely what is worth sustaining and why
she is worth saving. As Richard Ford has
written: "You can rebuild a city, but
you can’t re-make it." Quite
simply, our country has not been invited
to experience the soul of New Orleans, and
we want our nation to understand who we
are as we work to rebuild.
project is a gumbo of New Orleans' voices:
the insider's voices: the insider's view
into New Orleans ranging from award-winning,
published local writers, our nationally
renown Vodou Priestess, New Orleans musicians,
spoken word poets who lived in the Lower
Ninth Ward, to locals who speak freely the
language and pulse of this city that our
country has, perhaps, never heard before...
at least not served in this roux.
are currently airing on radio a collection
of narratives that celebrates New Orleans
culture. Our pieces can be heard every Wednesday
at 4:45 p.m. on New Orleans' local NPR station
WWNO at 89.9 FM, streamed live at www.wwno.org,
and preserved on WWNO's online audio archive
at the same address week by week as each
piece is aired.
pieces are written by New Orleanians about
New Orleans, the city we love and the city
we are dedicated to healing. Narratives
range from our Mardi Gras Indians, second
lines, Vodou, corner stores, Creole culture,
to a tiny barber shop in the Lower Ninth
we are working to simultaneously broadcast
photo documentaries consisting of photography
slideshows set to these narratives in the
hope of reaching as wide of an audience
as possible during this crucial time of
urgent need for New Orleans. Finally, we
plan to publish expanded transcripts of
each narrative in a collection after the
project has reached its completion.
want to introduce the real New Orleans to
our nation: her charm, her secrets, her
mystery, and the stories of her people one
will only hear told on the stoops and in
the kitchens of her brightly colored Creole
cottages, camelbacks, and shotgun houses.
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