New Orleans / Detroit Deep Dialogue: Using Media in the Wake of Disaster

How does mailing books to prisoners connect to throwing dance parties in a bankrupt city? What does making a film about coastal land loss have in common with using hand signals to create focus in a 2nd grade classroom?

These are all ways people in New Orleans and Detroit are using media to respond to disasters, both macro and micro. These stories, and more, came out when we took our Deep Dialogues series (hosted by WTUL News & Views and Bridge The Gulf Project) on the road to Detroit for the Allied Media Conference.

First we asked six media-makers, three from New Orleans and three from Detroit: How are you using media in response to disasters?

Next, the audience – made up of artists, community organizers, teachers, librarians, journalists, filmmakers, dancers, and more – answered that same question in small groups. Then the whole group came together for a wide-ranging discussion. From facing the loss of a creole language in central Canada; to fighting unjust deportations through music in Philadelphia; to protesting school closings in Chicago, and beyond, the discussion touched on self-determination, language, displacement, power, reframing disaster, and connections across places and struggles.

The conversation aired on WTUL News & Views (91.5 FM) in New Orleans. A slightly edited transcript of the conversation is below, along with links to listen to the audio online.

Featured Speakers: How do you use media in response to disasters? [LISTEN]

Monique Verdin: Hi, my name is Monique Verdin. Born in New Orleans, I live 20 miles southeast, actually, in a place called St. Bernard Parish. I am a native daughter. My father's people are Houma, and the Houma nation is made up of orphan tribes of southeast Louisiana. Chitamacha, Choctaw, Houma, Biloxi. We're [mostly] muscogee speakers, but hundreds of years ago when colonists came in, we mixed with French. So present day our people speak, well, the elders speak French patios. My grandmother actually would not identify herself as being Houma, she would tell you she's French Indian.

I started doing Documentary work in 1998. I just graduated from high school, and that year I saw a program that was produced by Ed Bradley, so mainstream media, called Town Under Siege. And it was about my relatives who live in a place called Grand Bois, which is just south of a town called Houma, which is named after the native people. And in Grand Bois, less than half a mile from where many of my relatives live, they had put in these toxic waste pits – oil field waste. And of course it was full of benzene and all of these other chemicals I can't pronounce, and don't even know what they do to you. But there was an outbreak of many different cancers; women having to have hysterectomies; high levels of lead in children.

I remember watching this. My aunt called me and was like, "Monique, turn on the television." At the time I was living on the Gulf Coast in a place called Pensacola, Florida, it's three hours east of New Orleans, and I was just horrified. You know, I was like, this young woman, we live in the 21st century, and this is happening to my relatives. I was shocked. So when I came home to Louisiana at 18, I started taking photographs, with the intention to expose this environmental injustice…I didn't take pictures of the waste pits, but was led further and further down the bayou by my relatives and the old people sharing with me, you know, the water, and the tides, and how all of our oak trees were dying because of salt water intrusion. I don't know how many of you know this, but South Louisiana is losing land at the most rapid rate on the earth. The statistic is that we've lost 1900 square miles since 1932. Another way of framing that is to say, every hour we're losing an acre of land. Which is dramatic and very real. And every time we have a hurricane come in, it's even more so.

So, I picked up a camera, I start taking photographs, and I realize that my culture is very different from the rest of what I had been exposed to in Florida. My people were still living off of the water and land and very connected to the land. But in last 15 years of documenting this, it's changing so fast that we're no longer able to continue this traditional way of life. So, my documentation work ending up being about my family, about the fisheries. I created this film called My Louisiana Love. You can watch it online through The World Channel. And it tells this really intimate, personal story of this cycle of environmental injustice, starting with the land being taken away from my family in the 1920s, to the oil and gas pipelines coming in, the waste pits being put in the back yards of my family, and of course Katrina in 2005 and the BP drilling disaster kind of the book end, but not the end.

I think what I realized is, I thought that the oil pits were the most horrifying example of environmental injustice, and then over the years it's like, oh no, with BP, it's not in my family's backyard, it's in the nation's – in the Gulf of Mexico. So that's my work, and I also like to collaborate with others. Right now I'm working on a performance. It's part performance, part procession, part coming-together of community for dancing, music, food, sharing of stories, it's called Cry You One. It's being produced by Artspot Productions and Mondo Bizarro, and will premiere this coming fall. And it's a direct response to this loss of land. In South Louisiana, well New Orleans specifically, we have this tradition called Second lines. Which is the celebration of one's death, and their life, and there's a procession that happens and a mourning process, but also a celebration that's able to occur. And this collaboration of Cry You One is kind of a reflection of that, but instead of celebrating one's life and death, we're trying to find a way to mourn the loss of land but celebrate it as well.

Joe Awesome: The question was about… media and disasters. We hear, ingrained in our mind large macro-disasters, like Deepwater Horizon or Bhopal, massive catastrophes that have happened on an environmental level. The story I have to tell about my community and in my own work inside schools, is the kind of micro-disasters that can happen inside a classrooms, inside a elementary school classroom, for example. Our media is a tool for me, as an elementary educator, is a tool that I use not as a product to bring in, project and say "this is a PSA on how not to bully, or how not to be distracted", but as a process. And the generating of it as a process, for us as a class full of young folks and very few adults, to get on the same on the same page and to really ground our education processes. One of the biggest distractions, and also tools, in elementary ed, is that you have to be able to roll with everything, and something will distract you at least once. In our particular classroom, we have an administration that uses the school-wide PA to ask for individual students. Every five minutes in my classroom my instruction will be halted by not a catastrophe, but certainly a disaster in terms of an educator's flow of a lesson plan. So the strategy that I used for our classroom was one of solidarity, displaying to my students that, hey I'm an adult, and I have the capacity to be distracted the exact same way that all of you do. We, as a classroom, asked ourselves at the beginning of our class year, why were we here in school? We were here in school, aside from having fun, because we're told to, and our parents put us on the bus, but it was collaboratively decided upon to learn. We were here to learn, to get through 2nd grade and to get to 3rd grade. For me as an educator, once we got on that same page, we were able to identify and ask, hold ourselves accountable for, what's stopping from getting there? And the media we make as a process was not just documenting our discussion around that, but identifying strategies that we could use, use the media to document that and return to as a reflective piece. You know, what does being distracted feel like? What does it look like? What does it sound like? What are our classroom values of self-control and curiosity and empathy, [and what do they] sound like when placed in direct opposition to these distracted bits?...

And that helps me, in our media making role, with those distractions. Our classroom-identified biggest problem with education was that we get distracted. If we can focus we can do anything but if we get distracted we can do literally nothing. We used our media-making tools to identify and record different types of distraction, and to come up with as a classroom different types of hand motions for each to identify when we're getting distracted, and to have empathy with our classmates who might be being distracted. And to help them know, you're distracted. That's fine, maybe something happened. You're seven. It's ok. We get distracted, But how my struggle is bound up in yours is that, if I can help you stop being distracted, I can tell you that this hand motion.. means you are fiddling with something in your hands, and this one means your listening to something else, and this one means your looking somewhere you shouldn't. So, our media that we made helps deal with those micro-disasters and turn them into a reflective process to reinforce the work we're doing in class.

Herman Jenkins: My company is Flysho Films/ImagiNation Sports. My name is Herman Jenkins. I also serve as vice chair of the City of Detroit's entertainment commission. So on three you can all say, "We didn't know we had one!"… In other cities, they are very, very popular, and very, very useful tools toward using the power of arts and entertainment, towards social justice ends, but also using arts and entertainment as tools for economic development. So that's really what inspires me in my work there to do this in a voluntary capacity. There's one member of the entertainment commission appointed by each council member and three from the Mayor's office, and we've been in existence for about a year and a half.

The thing that gets me inspired about this, I've experienced Detroit and it's disasters in many different ways. First as a resident, growing up in Detroit all my life… I watched my neighborhood change from being a mix of diversity in the early 70s going into the 80s, to being predominantly Black. I watched it go from well-manicured lawns, to homes that are now boarded up. And the popular narrative about Detroit being one that is apocalyptic. And we dealt with that for many, many years. And what was lost in that to me was the story of people who are in the middle of it, dealing with the day-to-day of that. My life didn't always feel apocalyptic. It felt very hopeful. I went to a private high school on the northwest side of Detroit, the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. A wealth of diversity, whether it was race, religion, where you were from, your socioeconomic background. It was just a true melting pot, and to me a reflection of what life was like.  And what life has been like for me as an adult. But this was my experience as a high schooler.

But as I matured, it really was important to be able to help other people utilize new media tools to tell their stories in first person voice. So, documentary filmmaking, getting involved with kids, and giving them the tools, arming them with the tools to be able to tell their stories, understand why they should want to tell their stories in first person voice. Is very, very important to us. So that's what we do, and I do, in a nutshell.

Desiree Evans: Hi, my name is Desiree, I live in New Orleans, I like to say I'm a daughter of Louisiana… I grew up in a really rural town, in southwest Louisiana in the bayous, a lot of sugar cane. Picture it. It's there.
amc deep dialogues
My people, they're creole, descendant from native, Choctaw, we have African and the French Cajun settlers in that area. My mother and my grandmother, and their ancestors grew up speaking French. So it was a very culturally rich environment. And a lot of my exposure to the history of Louisiana and to the history of my area came from stories. Oral histories. And so that's kind of how my relationship to the South particularly, but also to storytelling was really fomented, developed and nurtured as a child. Sitting outside on the porch listening to stories, of the history of the area, and my cousins and my relatives. That's the environment that I came out of. My work has been a lot about, how do I communicate those stories, of the folks that I came from?

And so, I went to journalism school, was on this track of, I'm going to do this professionally. I'm going to tell these stories and bring them into the mainstream narratives that I was hearing in so many other places. And a lot of what I do now in New Orleans is really about, that same similar core of, how do I bring voices that are so often left out and kept out of the narratives of these countries, how do I bring that into the spaces that I see. Having gone through the mainstream track of journalism school, where I never saw anyone who looked like me. I was one of only maybe only a few people who came from the South, who came from environments that were poor or under-serviced, and trying to tell stories of people that I came from.

Very often it was folks coming in from the outside, telling those people's stories. And that's a dynamic that is really fraught and perilous and really, really dangerous. So a lot of the work that I'm trying to do today is, how do you really give people the resources, access, training, materials to tell their own stories and not have to rely on the mass media. New Orleans is one of the first cities, last year, to cut down the daily paper. So we still have a daily paper, but it only runs for three days out of week. And so there was this huge uproar, and I would go to these meetings, but again I'd be in this space where the rooms are like 99% white, mostly men. And so, a lot of the people who were talking about, "this is the destruction of the media! This is the destruction of actually telling people's stories". And I'm like, "You're still not telling the story of the people I'm coming from."… Then there would be the other question of people coming to rooms, like, "This is opening up opportunity! People can blog!"… And I'm like, still, who have these resources to do this and do the technology you're talking about? People who have traditionally been left out are still being left out. So that's how I frame a lot of the work I do today.

I work with two organizations in the city right now, primarily. Women With A Vision, we do a lot of work around women of color health care issues in the city. And another one is called the Women's Health and Justice Initiative, that's a feminist of color organization, affiliate of the INCITE! national organization, does a lot of looking at issues of criminalization from a women of color feminist perspective. How do we bring those women of color, women's voices, people of color's voices, marginalized groups voices to the forefront of the discussions about our own lives. So that's how I frame a lot of the writing, digital storytelling, a lot of the media making work that I do right now, in terms of bringing voice, bringing alternative perspectives, and making sure those are elevated so that those people who are most impacted are telling their own stories.

Adriel Thornton: My name is Adriel Thornton, and I just want to dance! So I'm from Detroit, and I am an event producer here. And I guess the disaster that Detroit is dealing with can best be described as a slow-moving, decades long, socioeconomic tsunami that has really devastated the city and the culture of the city in a lot of different ways. I'm from Detroit. I spent from third grade 'til I graduated high school living between here and Virginia. I was educated primarily, at least in grade school, in Virginia. Then come back up here and spend my summers, and after I graduated I came here, went to Wayne State, and graduated with a PR degree. So I have an interesting, I think a different take on what's happening of Detroit, because it's sort of having a native/outsider view of it.

Growing up, I heard about some of the issues that people growing up in Detroit were dealing with from a youth perspective. But then when I came back for the summer, I was going back to the big city. So I was trained to look at Detroit, for all the thing that it did have, that the small town in Virginia were I was growing up didn't have. So I've always come from this perspective of positivity and seeing that, if there was an empty building, to me, that was the perfect place to throw a party. So I actually started doing that, in the 90s.

I got involved in the underground electronic music scene and began to throw parties. Back then it was sort of a different feel about it, and it was really about building community. One of the things that was attractive about it was, this was one place where, in this area you could have someone from the suburbs and then someone from the city dancing side by side. And those are major issues in this area about where exactly do you live. What side of 8 mile do you live? Are you Black, are you white. If you're Black, did you make it out?

So, the party scenario was really a way to address that, and for me throwing the events really became a way of actualizing Martin Luther King's dream of this level of equality, where it didn't matter how you were dressed at night, what gender you were, what your identity was, who you might be sleeping with later on, or any of that stuff, this was about connecting via the music. Fast forward that to today. I still do a lot of events, and event production, event support. I started an online platform. One of my other interests is queer issues, so I started an online platform called Wink Detroit. And we are event producers, we produce queer events, we support Motor City Pride, do a club night, but the bigger part of the web site is actually presenting people's stories, and giving them a platform. Like going and interviewing someone who say may be a person who is queer that started an urban farm…

Like everyone here pretty much has said, you can't really depend on mainstream media to present that story. And if they do, it's with their own agenda, you know, "Isn't it nice! See, we're diverse! We've got some gay people who are doing something!" and it comes off really being not the best representation of those people and what they're doing, in a fair, balanced way. So that's what I'm seeking to do with Wink, is actually give a voice to those people, and have it be more on their terms about what they want to put out about themselves, about the work that they're doing, as opposed to having one of the major dailies come in for a human interest story. So that's what I do.

Liz Lew:  Hi, my name is Liz, I'm from New Orleans. I am a transplant, I moved there when I was 17. I work with Louisiana Books to Prisoners and a group called NOLA to Angola. Louisiana Books to Prisoners is pretty much what it sounds like. We send books to prisoners. I got into that work because I'm a librarian. I'm a big believer in equal access to information. Obviously what we do doesn't get anywhere near equal access to information for folks inside, but you know, it's a statement, hopefully it's a useful service. The other thing I do is NOLA to Angola, which is a 170 mile bike ride, slash fundraiser. There's a Church in town called Second Zion Baptist Church, and they have an offshoot group called Cornerstone Builders who provide free bus service for folks in Louisiana who have loved ones inside, who are incarcerated. And the bus rides are free, they are charter buses that have bathrooms, have comfortable seats, they're not school buses, and people take them for free to five different facilities in Southern Louisiana.

I guess the media component of NOLA to Angola, is we go 170 miles from New Orleans to the top of the L part of Louisiana. Along the way we have speakers speak about various environmental disasters that have happened, economic factors such as sugar cane industry or petroleum industry, or the plastics industry that sort of dot the river, along the way to Angola, which is where the Louisiana State Penitentiary is. So riders sort of get this information background as they ride toward Angola. And also part of the point of this fundraiser is to illustrate the incredible distance that people have to travel to visit loved ones inside. It's kind of a weird project because a lot of people who we're asking for donations from, who we're asking to fund this bus project, are not people who have been affected by the disaster that is mass incarceration in Louisiana. We are the most incarcerated administrative bodies, areas, populations in the world. And so getting people who are not necessarily affected by that directly to fund us, to understand what the problem is, to understand that disaster, is another main part of what we seek to do.

Discussion [LISTEN]

Gahiji Barrow: One thing that I'm interested in is the ways in which people framed the concept of disaster, if that spoke to them. I like how Joe here talked about micro disasters...

Remy: I really appreciated the question around talking about the media in response to disasters, and specifically reframing disasters, and I was just connecting to Monique and [Gahiji] and thinking about a cultural disaster. In central Canada, where I'm from… there's this one creole between French and Cree, or French and indigenous language, and there's probably only like 300 people left who speak it. And some of those people are my relatives. And working on a long term documentary with elders, really with grandpas and grandmas, and how hard it is even to name it as a loss and a disaster, because they're like holding it in their hearts, and its like a gift from the Creator. And just having them name it… It's just so… hard to put that in a context and then turnaround to the non-initiated on such a topic, who all they can see is loss and all they want to talk about is death. It's just really harsh. And anyways, just the dynamic of our micro cultures in the world in our bio diversity and how much pressure they are under, everywhere. [The documentary] in French is called "Aperture de la langue", and it means, there's like a double meaning of like, it starts with language, and losing language.

Jocelyn Ninneman: … I was born and raised in Detroit, but I grew up in New Orleans for eight years. Grew up watching people spin my city a specific way, and then went to New Orleans, and knew what I knew, with the people that I knew, and then saw something very different on the television and on the internet. I'm like, that is not the New Orleans that I know, at all, just like I knew that the Detroit that I knew was not the Detroit I saw on television. Now more than ever with disaster capitalism happening, reframing the disaster it seems is very directly related to the ways these cities are branded. "No Blank Slates" is actually the theme of the entire Detroit by NOLA track [at the Allied Media Conference] this year, because one of the most popular ways that Detroit and New Orleans and many other places similarly affected are being branded to bring people from outside in, it's purposeful gentrification. It's, "this is a blank slate. Detroit is a blank canvas, come and do whatever you want, you're accountable to nobody. There's nobody here." New Orleans was treated the exact same way…

Desiree Evans: [I'm] thinking of how we tell stories and how that itself becomes a mechanism for understanding how power is shared. Thinking of story as power itself. New Orleans and all of South Louisiana, in so many ways, it is a region that's been haunted by stories. Stories of survival, resilience, struggle. It's a landscape that was all plantations. New Orleans itself, the lines and streets of the city are based on old plantation lines.

Understanding how that history is still embedded in every single thing that happens in this city, and how the narrative of "blank slates" is a colonial narrative. "Oh, you can start your own business, you can do whatever you want," as if there is no city here. As if the stories of the people who live there have been erased and vanished.  So a lot of the work that we do, a lot of us here from New Orleans, and from the region, are doing, is about elevating the stories that have existed here for decades and  generations. And giving… a history that is no longer race-invisibalized. So just kinda story as power, story as a way of reclaiming and giving voice to a history that is no longer seen as such.

Derwin Wilright, Jr: My name is Derwin and I'm from New Orleans - and if you would share that would be great, just as we talk about disasters and reframing disaster, we both had really cool responses… So, if you could share [turning to person he spoke to during small group discussion].

Name unknown - Yeah,  one organization that I'm working with is the Mt. Elliott Makerspace in Detroit… Mt. Elliot Makerspace is in Detroit, it's part of a growing movement and interest in makerspaces, which are kind of open community workshops where kids and adults experiment, tinker, learn in a collaborative, non-hierarchical environment. I think one of the powerful things that's happening with this place in Detroit is that, It's very neighborhood based, it is very local based, it's very community based. It's kind of a small geographic area of people that are involved. And it's building community and it's allowing people to create things, and offering a space for people to create things that doesn't necessarily exist, or used to exist and has been disassembled. And also offering a place to learn that's not institutional and that's not highly structured. I guess I'll just leave it at that.

Derwin: I guess the way to tie it up is that we're talking about like cultural disasters, for example, and so if we have a culture of - not self reliance – but thinking that, "we've got to call Geek Squad, we've got to call this tech person." Because the place that he's talking about does bicycles, like you can build a bike or you can learn wood work, or things like that where you traditionally wouldn't really see in such an inter-generational space that's all about people coming together.

On a very different note, the work that I do in New Orleans is definitely in response to that too… I work with BreakOUT! and we organize queer and trans youth, predominantly queer and trans youth of color, so Black, transgender women and Black cis men, gay boys like myself. And so we organize young people who have experiences with policing in New Orleans, because as Desiree and Liz and a bunch of people have mentioned, that really is a big part of our narrative, because living in the South, and the way that policing has really been executed from the days of slavery to now. It looks very similar, where you have Queer and trans youth walking down the street and needing like, a hall pass, essentially. It's gotten to the point to where folks who work in the French Quarter, especially Black males and some folks who are in our membership (so queer-identified folks), the restaurants they work in the French Quarter will have to give these hall passes, almost like, "this person clocked out of work from this restaurant at this time." And so that's crazy. And then officers will ask folks for IDs, "Where are you going? You look like a minor," or use whatever reason they can to stop someone.

And so, what we did, because we know that this whole interaction is a big thing in people's lives, getting stopped by officers day in and day out. We created these community IDs. A traditional ID that the legal system recognizes is very stagnant, and doesn't really honor a person's experiences… For example… if I were transgender I might identify myself as being not what this legal document says. So my ID might say one thing, but personally I might not have gotten that legally changed, I might not have a new ID that reflects this new identity, this new name. So what we did is created these IDs that say "my preferred name… my preferred gender"… So when the officers stop us, yes, you give what the legal system recognizes, so I'm going to give you a driver's license, I'm also going to give you this fabulous, glittery. nice ID that we have, that says, "I'm this person, and this is my name, please use female pronouns for me," or please use whatever my preferred gender pronoun Is as you interact with me. Because we know that this is going to happen, let's make this situation something thats a little less irritating for me, so that you can leave me alone…

Name unknown: Naming, what we're allowed to call ourselves, what we call the land that we live on, that seems to be really big. Similarly as folks were saying the renaming of Detroit and New Orleans and other places in order to gentrify, it's just really gross in some places. Like working in a neighborhood where there's open drug use and other things in this neighborhood that's extremely poor in terms of the people that live there, and you have condo developments with literally million, $2 million condos, and they're branding it as "living on the edge." Those were literally the ads. One of the things that has been tangible that we're doing in BC, in Canada, is being really conscious of what we are naming things. One of the things that we've always done in Vancouver, and that's resonated through social movements, is honoring the traditional territory that we're on. So every event will open up with a mention of the indigenous land, honoring that, they're unceded in BC so it's a– to the point where even the Mayor has done it a few times now. So, not saying… that the Mayor is someone who wants to decolonize, but he said it. But I think it's a big thing about how we do keep those names. Because it has made a shift. I really think it has made a shift in terms of people's consciousness and the way we name stuff.

Ann Meredith: My name is Ann Meredith, I'm from New Orleans, I'm currently living in Chicago. I guess its been both deeply exciting and also disorienting traveling back and forth between our two intersected communities. Back home in New Orleans, doing arts-based, music-based trauma healing and abolitionist work, and then coming up to Chicago and seeing almost like deja vu kind of thing in slow-mo. In our conversation we were talking about that whole reframing of unnatural disasters, people talk about man-made disaster or disaster capitalism, and like… intentionally constructing crises...

Coming up from New Orleans with 99% of the schools charters, public housing tearing down, and then coming into Chicago where just a few weeks ago, 50 schools being shut down, earlier this week 850 teachers and social workers [were laid off]. We were just at – some of the families, mamas, kids – occupying one of the schools. Just the day before yesterday. And… right off the tip the cops jumped in and were going up to the mama and saying, first of all, we're going to arrest you and your partner, and we're going to take your kids with DCFS, separate your kids from each other, they're not going to see each other again, you're not going to see them again. And that's like 5, 10 minutes into the occupation. That's right off the tip. There's media around, this is very much public, on display.

And so seeing these connections and intersections, and being very much rooted in place and stories, and our telling that counter-narrative piece, but also seeing those connections between our two communities. Not by any means to try and equalize and make everything the same, but also how we have to connect and build with one another to fight…

Charting through history… I was trying to remember the man's name - one of the school people coming in -  he had roots in Chicago, and then he was in Philly, and then New Orleans, and then Chile. [Paul Vallas, former superintendent of Recover School District in Louisiana].

Yeah, charting the individual people but also the structures, and on the same time always the histories of resistance. So, like second lines… that being rooted in centuries-old struggles of resistance, not just the Mardi Gras flash and bang and tourists coming down. So having to keep those, our interconnected struggles, those stories… that critical place to build and share strategies and healing…

Joe Awesome: Yeah, that last piece… There's a term I became familiar with last year that really struck with me - us not a national network… but as a trans-local network - of people and places. Not trying to say "oh, this is our story nationwide", but saying, "this happens here." "oh, that sounds a lot like what happens here," "oh, that sounds a lot like what happens here." Even just following the people around - you mentioned school closing, we have the same 50 or 60 schools been closed in the past four or five years here in Detroit. Part of my role as a Research Justice track coordinator, is just getting on and doing a little tippity tap of the keyboard and seeing if I can find out – oh look, wouldn't you know!  This guy who is our first Emergency Manager happened to have lost the Kansas City school district's accreditation. Oh wouldn't you know, he came from this whole set of Broad Foundation-funded things where it says, "hey we've got a program for aspiring superintendent of school boards, who is the ideal candidate for that? Ex-military! Ex-police! Ex-oppressive-as-hell….If this is you, come apply! You could be the ideal candidate for the new superintendent of school boards!" Following that, and remembering that history… That's a very small history-telling piece of very immediate, past history - following that trans locally through the impacts not necessarily on the nation itself, but the nation is this web of… trans-local [cities and rural areas.]

This transcript has been edited slightly for length and clarity. Some of the comments in the discussion have been omitted, for the same reason.

Ada McMahon is a Media Fellow at Bridge The Gulf (, a community journalism project for Gulf Coast communities working towards justice and sustainability. She previously worked as a blogger and online organizer at Green For All, a national non-profit that fights pollution and poverty through "an inclusive green economy". She is from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and lives in New Orleans, Louisiana.