Introducing Anne Zbitnew Tuesday, Jan 31 2012 

My name is Anne Zbitnew and as a Disability Studies major at Ryerson, I am learning that the person is not disabled.  Socially constructed barriers (inaccessible architecture, injustice, prejudice and exclusion) disable and affect not only people with impairments but also all people who are marginalized, discriminated against and ignored because of race, class, sexual orientation, gender and status.  I am also a photographer, visual storyteller and educator.

I have been to New Orleans 8 times.  My first, and most memorable visit was in April 1993 for the Jazz Festival.  My partner, Dave (the most compassionate person I know) and I ate and drank in the culture, music and romance of New Orleans and on April 27th, very impulsively, went to city hall and got married! We celebrate our anniversary in New Orleans as often as we can and our daughter, Hannah, 15, is a seasoned Jazz Fest participant.  We usually stay in the French Quarter but have visited the 9th Ward and Algiers.  I have captured many images of New Orleans, listened to great music, imbibed and consumed food and drinks, reserved rooms, studied the culture, contemplated social justice issues, experienced Jazz Fest, been charmed by architecture and cemetery tours, reacted to news of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the BP Oil spill and required assistance by locals.  All these words have something to do with the word “take”. I have learned and taken so much from New Orleans and now it is time for me to give back, not just with my tourist dollars or with my skills as a storyteller but by working with a group, committed to rebuilding, reworking, reconstructing and helping because we are all in this together.

I am looking forward to working with all of you and experiencing New Orleans from another perspective.  That’s me in the image, on the left with my little family.

– Anne Zbitnew

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The Meaning of Stuff Thursday, Jan 19 2012 

I’ve been thinking a lot about stuff ever since I heard about the impact of Katrina. I remember when Evan Smith first started coming to my Homelessness in Canadian Society classes at Ryerson university and showed pictures of the curbs in front of houses filled with someone’s entire life. The “garbage years equivalency” right now is about 36…as in, in the 6+ years since the storm New Orleans has generated about 36 years of garbage. When everything in your home right down to the studs needs to be stripped, it’s hard not to create mounds of garbage.
Photo of garbage outside a man's house post-Katrina

Garbage outside home after gutting - Photo by Lia Lehrer

I’m reading a novel about Katrina called City of Refuge by Tom Piazza. While fictional, so far it seems to portray a very honest glimpse into two families evacuation stories. This passage struck me though, in the context of stuff:

Image

 

“The hurricane was headed directly for New Orleans, and at the last minute, now, even people who had never before evacuated finally packed bags, threw blankets and bottled water in their car, or their neighbors’ car, or their brother’s, along with one or two toys for the kids, their medicines, their pets, all grabbed in an escalating urgency, along with last-minute things that struck them—either heirlooms (Oh, get the wedding album…take the wedding album…) or odd choices that crossed their field of vision at some final moment and were suddenly irradiated with meaning—that old lamp that had sat for decades on their mother’s nightstand, or a favorite picture from the wall—and started out of town, faintly dazed with a sense that this might in fact represent the end of everything they had ever worked for, or taken for granted, heading toward some undefined future.” (City of Refuge, page 95)

But I suppose what really has me thinking about stuff these days is the fire in the home of some people I know here. Bonnie, her husband George and her sister Connie had a fire on Saturday, January 14th. Much of the kitchen/bathroom on the ground floor and parts of the upstairs were destroyed. If you would like to help there is a paypal address to send donations: firefund@cox.net or you can log into the Facebook Page Bonnie & George New Orleans at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bonnie-George-New-Orleans/358310210862674?ref=ts

Image of burnt kitchen

Kitchen countertop

Hole in roof post fire

Hole in roof that firefighters made to get into second floor

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