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Intermingled amongst brand new hotels and entertainment swag are the ghosts of New Orleans. Abandoned buildings with boarded up windows are on every side street off Canal. Hidden only by the busy flickering of neon lights and bars begging for your undeserved business. One needs only to turn to any of the buildings behind the flashy palm trees to see Katrina leftovers.
Hidden also, though beating through the heart of this city is its intense poverty and racism. It is swept under the bridges and sheltered in back alleys. It is beaten away from the sight of tourists and entertainers by batons and vacational apathy.
While thousands await the return to their native city, hundreds lining its streets in shelters and tents, the busy Bourbon street continue to party. Quite a bit of thought and design went into the sweeping away of the life and reality of this city. Benches in the entertainment district- the French Quarter- are curved downward to make them impossible to sleep on. Similarly benches at major tourist squares are dividied by bars to prevent lying down. Lights are granted only there where the tourist industry wants foreign attention. The resistance to the gentrification, systemic discrimination, and outright ethnic cleansing is conveniently relocated.
Subsidized and affordable housing has been sustaining an intense attack by the city, the state, the government, and private enterprise. Demolitions have forced hundreds onto the streets and eviction notices are handed out like pamphlets. Once enough people are evicted, the housing is torn down to build hotels, condominium apartments, and bars.
Opening up before us is New Orleans as we finish our last leg of the trip in Louisiana. Stories of ghosts fill our entry as they fill our first day in this town. Coming here for the People's Summit, opposing this year's Security and Prosperity Partnership, we're beginning to learn the true tales of surviving Katrina from the lives of those America has forgotten.
We've spent 41 hours on the road from Ottawa, but after playing through the Greyhound shuffle, switching routes four times, and spending two nights on varying buses, the hardest part of the trip was entering New Orleans from Mobile, Louisiana. The energy in the Ottawa contingent was rising, even with the absolute loss of the sense of time after so much travel. We've come here for the People's Summit, opposing the Security and Prosperity Partnership meeting of Canada, the U.S., and Mexico's heads of state with over 30 CEOs of the continents most powerful corporations. Our energy quickly died down once John, one of the passengers returning to his native New Orleans shared stories of what opened up before us.
Entering through the East Quarter, the poorest and most impacted part of the city, we see empty mega buildings of former Wal-Marts and strip malls. Today what was once the projects of the city is quickly becoming suburban townhomes as the city attempts to gentrify its population.
"All this was trailers," John tells us. "Now they've moved all these people away. They sent them up around the world."
We drive through collapsed roofs, and abandoned neighborhoods.
Talking about reconstruction, he tells us "they give us $25,000 to rebuild our homes, but it cost you $60,000 to do it."
"The projects' all boarded up, ain't no one coming home. They took it from you... it makes you wanna cry."
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This edition of Radio Tadamon! brings you to the streets, from the ongoing demonstrations throughout Canada calling for a boycott of Indigo/Chapters bookstores due to their support for Israel, to the major demonstrations in Montabello, Quebec surrounding the North American trilateral summit in August 2007.
The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.