Editors’ Note: This Critical Work is part of a zine entitled “NOLA LOVE,” which is essentially a love letter to the City of New Orleans by its authors, Molly Brevväxling and Royal Brevväxling. It can be purchased at the Milwaukee Zine Fest, Saturday, November 3, 2012.
Hurricane Katrina submerged 80 percent of New Orleans and completely decimated the Lower Ninth Ward where NOLA’s poorest residents resided.
In December of 2011, I made my third visit to New Orleans, but my first to the Ninth Ward. We took a cab from the Quarter and had two different cab drivers: Kerry dropped us off in the Ninth and Sean picked us up a couple of hours later.
They were both from the neighborhood and yet they had very different perspectives on the rebuilding process, specifically, the rebuilding project called Make It Right founded by actor Brad Pitt, who owns a home in the Quarter with his wife, Angelina Jolie, and their children.
Make It Right promised to build 150 new, sustainable, low-income houses. So far, about 75 have been built.
Pitt’s houses shine like jewels on a broken crown. They are modern, brightly-colored, made from sustainable, recycled materials and designed by top architects in the country.
Kerry drove us by the area where the levees breached and through some of the Lower Ninth. At first, he was kind of quiet, but when we started asking him questions, he said, “You don’t wanna hear what I have to say.”
We insisted that we did, and he launched into his belief that the “Brad Pitt houses” were unfair. That some folks got ‘em and some folks didn’t and that it was making neighbors who used to have about the same amount of stuff to have much more than others.
In short, the fancy Brad Pitt houses were dividing people. People who might fare better if they stuck together. Poor people.
And yet, who can blame anyone who wants a nice house after theirs was washed away?
Sean, however, who is also black and from the neighborhood, defended Pitt when we asked him what he thought. He said Pitt didn’t have to spend a nickel and yet he rebuilt a portion of the Ninth. Sean said he would vote for Pitt if he ran for mayor. He said at least Pitt did something.