I really didn’t think that it would take me this long to digest my trip to New Orleans. I found it difficult to even tell people about it because I did not know where to start. This learning experience that ran beyond the doors of the classroom, exams and tests put my life and knowledge into perspective in a way that I never thought was imaginable. The culture that New Orleans holds is incredible. Coming from Toronto, I would say our culture is a mix of different practices from other geographical places such as celebrating festivals from other countries, going down the streets and hearing everything from Bollywood to Arabic to Reggae in a matter of 5 minutes. Toronto has diversity in its culture. New Orleans has such as distinct, bold and historic culture that is unique to its people. The beautiful sounds of classical jazz or the more modern takes, the endless food options that scream Cajun and their welcoming atmosphere and personalities are some of the memorable moments of NO.
My trip to NOLA was life changing. I understand the value of volunteers and have seen such strong community advocacy and development. The strength I have heard from people’s narratives reassure me that the people of NOLA are there to stay. My group was amazing and I know I have met friends that will last me a life time. I learned a lot about myself and have refocused my goals in life. The passion of being a community facilator, and advocate of Human rights were ignited by the Civil Rights Movement tour.
Volunteering was very rewarding. The heat was incredible and definitely took a toll on my body with the physical labour. We worked with community based organizations such the green initiatives, community rebuilding, community resources and rebuilding of houses. Let me say, if you need your house fixed up…I’m your woman! Even though I went to give to the people of New Orleans, what they taught me was so much more.
With an education in Social Work and Politics, the systemic and structural barrier the society faces was so apparent. I would challenge anyone that claims that racism does not exist. The dominance and boldness of racial segregation in the south was unbelievable to me. The detrimental effects of our capitalist system have made parts of Louisiana remind me of Guyana, a third world country. These issues of class and displacement go far beyond the “natural disasters” that has hit New Orleans. The lack of governmental support, efforts to rebuild and racism have been combined to leave minority groups and lower class areas to either live in poverty, run away from the places they called home and never return. I question this US “superpower” title after seeing the disregard they have shown these communities. In all honesty, North America is first to criticize and point fingers to other countries that aren’t “taking care of their citizens”. They create this binary opposite of “we” and “them”. The “others” primarily being the Middle East, and Southern America have been bullied by the North because of their lack of “compassion and human rights”. After seeing what I saw in Louisiana, hearing their stories and a critical analysis…I say that this superpower should take care of their own before they take a superior stance and become the expert of how to create a good society for other countries. It’s been seven years later….
I left a part of me in NOLA and God willing, I will return very soon.