The worldwide Augustana College experience

Urban geography in New Orleans

Veggi Farmers Cooperative

The final stop on our 10 day trip to the Gulf Coast was New Orleans. Almost 11 years ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the city and displaced tens of thousands of residents, most notably in the Lower Ninth Ward and New Orleans East. Following The Storm, as locals call it, planners proposed converting both areas to green space and moving residents to other parts of the city. In New Orleans East, Vietnamese residents who initially came to the city as refugees in the 1970s, successfully opposed the plan and the creation of a landfill in their neighborhood, as documented in the film A Village Called Versailles. In the years since Katrina and the BP oil spill, which negatively impacted the livelihoods of local fishers, Vietnamese residents have worked to develop an urban farm on vacant land in New Orleans. Early on Tuesday morning, students visited the VEGGI Farmers Cooperative in the Versailles neighborhood to learn about different growing techniques and organizing strategies in and around the garden. Gardeners grow and sell produce to restaurants in the central city, and are collaborating with youth food justice groups in the region to increase involvement by younger residents. Students also learned about the challenges that residents face as a result of the marginalization of New Orleans East within the city, particularly following Katrina. While many Vietnamese residents returned to the city, a significant portion of New Orleans East’s population has not.

In and around the French Quarter, the historic center of New Orleans located on the natural levee, the story is quite different, although the geography is similarly dynamic. As the city recovered, young urban professionals and other newcomers moved into formerly affordable neighborhoods in search of hip neighborhoods, as described by Richard Campanella, but often displaced residents and created conflicts around gentrification. Students explored Campanella’s “the geography of cool” on Bourbon Street (uncool), Frenchmen Street (cool) and Treme, one of the earliest African American neighborhoods in the country and the birthplace of jazz, as well as a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood in a changing New Orleans.

Treme

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