Posted on

The Essence of Independence

During the first few days of July, thousands of people flooded the streets of New Orleans to attend and participate in the Essence Music Festival. Many spent time at the Convention Center, spent money at local stores, and enjoyed the culture of this beautiful city. On July 4th, people across the country commemorated what has been designated as Independence Day.

For some, the Fourth of July represents independence – moving from under the rule of British law. For others, especially Native Americans and Americans of African descent – present company included – the day signifies something that counters what resonates culturally and traditionally among many of non-European descent – interdependence.

The Essence Festival and July 4 have been commercialized to become economically profitable for the system in America that promotes dependence on, rather than interdependence with and among. Both were established to counter what some may define as subservient and power grabbing situations, disrespect for and towards native and indigenous people.

For many people, particularly families in New Orleans, the holiday and Essence Festival present opportunities to host parties and celebrations. However Essence Festival, originally designed to lift those who have historically been relegated to the back pages or smallest print of pages of history or only to the oral histories from elders, has become to many an unrecognizable entity presenting an imbalanced narrative centered on partying.

Vera Warren, an alumnus of McDonogh 35 (Public) High School, college graduate, and business owner of Community Book Center (CBC) counters that imbalanced narrative. Since 2012, Home Fest at CBC has provided space and the spirit of Ujamaa (cooperative economics), for community members to share and display economic capacity and responsibility. Thanks to Vera, Mamma Jennifer, Baba Dave (alum of New Orleans Public High School, Walter L. Cohen) and others, interdependence was fully alive and well during the first weekend in July!

See you next month baby!
Dr. Lisa – New Orleans Born, Raised, and Returned©

Dr. Lisa talks about the importance of interdependence and her
work with NOLA BRAR at 
Home Fest, a celebration of local
commerce hosted by Community Book Center in New Orleans
7th Ward during Essence Music Festival weekend.

Posted on

Got Light? Let’s Read!

Front Porch June 2016Since 1972, the third Sunday in June has been designated as Father’s Day. Grandfathers, fathers, uncles, brothers, sons, and other men are recognized for their love, laughter, and life lessons on that special day. This month’s front porch is dedicated to a son, brother, uncle, and father, who is New Orleans born, raised, and returned. Daron Franklin is NOLA BRAR (pronounced “bruh”).

The picture that accompanies this month’s post was taken during a memorable event that occurred two months after Father’s Day, 2012. Between August 21 and September 1, effects of Hurricane Isaac were felt in and around New Orleans. Flooding, high winds, and electrical outages were experienced by many families.

For some families, “reading, writing, and arithmetic” were the last things on their minds during electrical outings. For the Franklin family, the nightly ritual of bedtime stories was not altered by the lack of electricity. A love of teaching and learning, inquisitive children, and creative juices influenced this daddy’s decision to continue the ritual, to read with his children.

What kind of father reads to his children in the dark, guided only by a small toy-like flash light and miniature head lamp as sources of light? A father who values education instills and nurtures a love for teaching and learning “by whatever means necessary.”

This father, Daron Franklin formally educated in New Orleans’ public schools, specifically, the historically rich McDonogh 35 High School, and “home-schooled by the village” loves to learn and to teach. He is a master teacher and athletic coach. He is a master mathematician whose pedagogical and cultural proficiency have resulted in testimonies from former students, colleagues, and supervisors from classrooms along the river roads of southeast Louisiana to north Texas. Life lessons learned in and outside of many classrooms, prepared Daron to become the man, the husband, the master teacher, the father he has become.

Does he reflect the definition of a good father? The answer is a resounding yes! I must disclose my bias; Daron Franklin is my son, the father to my youngest grandchildren, the son in whom I am well pleased!

See you next month baby!
Dr. Lisa – New Orleans Born, Raised, and Returned©

Posted on

Truth or Consequences: Graduation or Not

Invitations to graduations and accompanying photographs have begun arriving in my mailboxes, postal and electronic. Notices of college acceptance letters, recognition ceremonies, and notification by graduates of career plans, makes me think about the future while feeling nostalgic.

I think back to May 1974 when I, along with more than 200 classmates graduated from McDonogh 35 High School, and hundreds of other peers graduated from one of 20 public high schools in New Orleans. Those memories conflict with current narratives about pre-Katrina schools. Success is often missing from conversations about those educated in schools prior to the hurricane.

Although time and the process of aging sometimes affect memory, people are usually able to recall the name of their high school along with the year of graduation. I invited Facebook friends to participate in a survey that would take some of them back 40 years and others less than five. They were asked to answer three questions.

  1. What is the highest level of school you have completed or highest degree you achieved?
  2. Which year did you graduate from school?
  3. Which high school did you attend?

Of more than 140 people who responded, 99% completed high school or attained a GED. More than 75% indicated some type of degree – associate through graduate. Approximately 18% attended college but did not receive a degree.

Twenty-five percent responded to “other” indicating that they did not attend any of the schools listed. This was not surprising; the quality of public education in New Orleans has been a point of concern for decades resulting in some families choosing to enroll their children in non-public schools. Another factor related to non-enrollment in public schools was the influence of Catholicism in New Orleans. Religious beliefs have influenced educational choice for many years and more often than not, Catholic schools were the choice for many families. Finally, a factor that I did not immediately consider is that some of the respondents may have graduated after Katrina from schools that are not listed because they are “new schools, [to] New Orleans.”

This survey, though brief, was designed to draw attention to data missing from conversations about educational quality prior to Katrina. If the narrative that educational entrepreneurs continue to present to the world is completely true, then the survey results might be questionable. It could mean any of the following situations:

  • Graduates between 1975 and 2015 who did not pursue and/or complete post-secondary education but are business owners and entrepreneurs did not learn in high school any skills applicable to their professions;
  • Respondents did not successfully matriculate through undergraduate and graduate institutions;
  • Data were manipulated to misrepresent educational status attained beyond high school;
  • Rates of graduation in New Orleans between 1975 and 2015 were not part of a national trend during that time span; or
  • 100% of respondents provided information that is untrue.

A young boy in the movie Australia spoke words that support the importance of telling our own truth. This young boy stated, “That’s how you keep them people belong you always, you tell [the] stories.” Luhrmann, B. (Director, 2008). How does your story compare to those who have dismissed facts, negated life stories and continue rewriting history? Let’s write and tell our own stories.

See you next month baby!

Dr. Lisa – New Orleans Born, Raised, and Returned©

Posted on

Bricks and Mortar | Hearts and Souls

A recent “front porch experience” with one of my daughters, evoked memories of my schooldays. I began to reminisce about how my daddy would stand in our driveway as I waited to meet my schoolmates for our short walk to school. He would speak to children who passed by on their way to Edward H. Phillips Elementary and Junior High Schools. Not only would he say good morning to them, he would also encourage them to do well in school.

Poppa Herb as some of his grandchildren and neighborhood children called him, would make big signs, post them near the street, as well as hold them while children walked by on their way to school. The signs would say things like, “Read!” Other signs would say, “Be cool, stay in school.”

Though I didn’t realize it then, Herbert Lawrence Green, Sr. was an example of someone notable, a distinguished person. Based on that definition, my daddy was a monument. My daddy’s heart and soul, the living matter that made school more than just bricks and mortar was evident in the daily gestures of encouragement and recognition. He was a part of children’s educational experience.

Now, neighborhood schools are not a part of New Orleans’ educational landscape. Pre-dawn bus rides from distant parts of the city and sleepy children diminish opportunities for heart and soul types of interactions among children and those who would be their neighborhood heart and soul monuments.

Brick and mortar monuments of people whose lives influenced history and places exist as reminders of their contributions to communities. I believe that some of the educational and social successes of children who passed 3922 Buchanan Street on their way to school can be attributed in small part to Mr. Green’s monumental influence.

Who in your community has had monumental influence on your life? Who was the heart and soul of your daily “on the way to school experiences?” Say their names! Write them and make it plain!

See you next month, baby!
Dr. Lisa

Posted on

What Happens to History When Place Matters?

Dr. Lisa's Front Porch MarchWhat becomes of a house left in disrepair for almost 10 years? Is a house still a home when it is uninhabitable? What happens to history when structural and residential changes occur? Those questions came to mind as I realized that the 29 days of February 2016, were almost gone and March was near. Unlike the short month of February, histories expand years. Memories extend beyond specific places and time.

Recalling my childhood home at 3922 Buchanan Street reminded me that histories and place matters. The home left in disrepair by Hurricane Katrina, no longer inhabitable, now torn down, is indelibly imprinted in my memory. Three bedrooms, one bathroom, kitchen, living room, den, back porch, garage, and double sized back yards were spaces where deposits of love, lessons (sometimes unpleasant but often needed), and living were regularly made by my parents, Herbert Lawrence and Queen Victoria Christmas Green. Those spaces were where history was made, where plans for future histories were discussed, and where remnants of past histories were remembered.

Memories and experiences that are part of our histories do not remain confined in the buildings or houses in which they were formed. Residents leave those houses, become members of larger communities, and from their “inside home” experiences interact and sometimes influence others. People benefit and learn from, agree and disagree about history. Communities change and sometimes stay the same.

I dare not forget “the faith that the past has taught [me].” I will forever stand, true to my birth home, true to the memories of my ancestors and remember that because they were, I am, and others will be!

What happens to history when place matters?

See you next month, baby!
Dr. Lisa

Posted on

Welcome to Dr. Lisa’s Front Porch!

“[A front porch] provided a way to socialize with the public and keep watch on what was going in the community, a place to meet with uninvited visitors who you wouldn’t necessarily want to take into the house, but wouldn’t want to feel unwelcome either. In this way, the cultural meaning of the front porch became a hybrid of West African and European ideas about how outsiders should be treated in and around the family home” (Cook, Dolan, Donlon, 2009).

In New Orleans, a house with a front porch provides an extension into the outside space. The front porch provides a place to connect with residents who live in the same house and as well with others in houses nearby. For some, front porches are the place to “let go” of work, school, or other things potentially hazardous to sanctity of inside. Safe haven is another term to describe porches. Continue reading Welcome to Dr. Lisa’s Front Porch!