University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Service Learning in New Orleans
Photos courtesy Cheryl Ajirotutu

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9th Ward Monument  undefined
Crawfish Boil  Ruined Kitchen  Roots Run Deep  Working  Interviewing a resident  Where the levee breeched

 “Third World” When UWM students visited the Lower 9th Ward last January, many homes were still in disrepair and abandoned. “It looked like a Third World country,” says one student.

 Second Line parade  Students joined in a “Second Line” parade“New Orleans is a place I always wanted to go to,” says student Anthony Johnson. “Even though it’s in worse condition than before, it still has the same charm I’d been expecting.” 

 Third World  Students toured the city with Craig Colton, Louisiana State University geography/ anthropology professor, researcher and author of “An Unnatural Metropolis.”

Mardi Gras prep   Students also helped out at the House of Dance and Feathers (lower right), a Mardi Gras shop and neighborhood museum in the Lower 9th Ward.

 A neighborhood monument  This “monument” in the Lower 9th Ward (with FEMA trailers in the background) announced: “Merry Christmas LRA and FEMA. What I want for Christmas is a house. Please release the elevation? money. It’s been 1 ½ years now. So we can put our lives back together.” The sign at left reads: “Katrina was big, but God is bigger.”

Abandoned housing   Abandoned, unrepaired houses are a continuing problem in the Lower 9th Ward. Students worked with a neighborhood association that is documenting who has returned and who hasn’t, and helping residents prove their ownership of property after records were washed away.

 Crawfish boil  A crawfish boil helped immerse students in the culture of New Orleans through their taste buds. Students also visited a jazz park and historically black Dillard University, and attended a performance of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

 A ruined kitchen  Despite the devastation, people want to return to New Orleans. “People would rather not live anywhere else,” says one student. “They want to be back in New Orleans.”

 Roots run deep
"> Students researching UWM students kept journals and did research and study on ethnic and racial identities and experiences as well as the cultural history of New Orleans.

 Lower 9th resident interview  A resident of the Lower 9th Ward shares his stories and recollections with UWM students. Compiling oral histories helps to document the threatened culture of post-Katrina New Orleans. “We preserve buildings; we need to preserve culture, too,” says one UWM student.

 Where the levee broke  The UWinteriM class and Ajirotutu (at far right) gathered for a photo at the point where the levee broke.