Sunday, March 23, 2014

Day One: March 23rd - Off the Beaten Path Tour

After an early morning grocery run, the group enjoyed a delicious breakfast! Half the group attended morning service at First Street United Methodist Church. They were greeted with hugs and everyone was humbled by their welcoming attitude. Another part of the group conducted a food desert exercise. A food desert is an urban area with low access to good quality food at decent prices. The three of them made a simple grocery list and explored Central City. A few blocks from United Saints, they found William's Supermarket. They carry primarily boxed processed foods and liquor. The group was surprised to find that a block of cheese costs $8 and the little produce available was poor quality. We also experienced the effects of the food desert when we were searching for a grocery store. The first one we pulled up to was run-down and closed.

We feasted upon turkey, ham, cheese, and hummus sandwiches for lunch. This prepared us for our five and a half hour tour of the city. Our tour guide was New Orleans resident, Sakura Kone'. He runs the Off the Beaten Path tours which take participants into different neighborhoods that most tourists never see. We saw Tremé, Central City, Mid-City, and the Lower Ninth Ward. We heard about and witnessed the systematic oppression of people of color in New Orleans. After nearly nine years, many parts of the city are still in need of help. Kone' showed us what he called, "the good, the bad, and the ugly."

After a spaghetti dinner, our group reflected on the experience. The juxtaposition of newly built or renovated homes and homes that are unlivable shocked everyone. We were inspired by the many institutions that Kone' introduced us to. We were able to meet with Ward "Mack" McLendon who runs the Lower Ninth Ward Village. This is a community center serving the needs of the people in the area. He spoke to us about what led him to return to New Orleans after Katrina. The tour got us all excited about beginning service in the morning!

This a mural on the Lower Ninth Ward Village headquarters. It was painted by United Saints Volunteers.

Greeting from New Orleans,
Mia and Chelsea :) 

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