I gave a presentation at the Popular Culture Association National Conference in New Orleans this week nearly 10 years after hurricane Katrina killed more than 1,800 people and caused billions of dollars of damage.
I have not been here since 2007, and there is a remarkable physical difference between then and now. I’m sure if I looked hard enough or consulted with locals, I would still find signs of damage but within my “conference bubble” all seems well.
When I’m here in New Orleans, I always think of the song “Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans” made famous by Louis Armstrong, a New Orleans native. Here’s a version of some of the lyrics:
“Miss them moss covered vines, the tall sugar pines
Where mockin’ birds used to sing
And I’d like to see that lazy Mississippi
Hurryin’ into spring
“Oh the moonlight on the bayou
A creole tune that fills the air
I dream about Magnolias in bloom
And I’m wishin’ I was there”
New Orleans is a unique American center for many reasons, including its geographical location, its southern and French history and, of course, its connection to the sordid history of slavery in this country. New Orleans is really the definition of diversity.
I often think of places like New Orleans or New York or even Austin when I hear about the so-called Oklahoma City renaissance. Sure, Oklahoma City has improved its game over the last decade or two, but local leaders, in particular, need to put it in some perspective.
I’m not whining here for the sake of whining, but there’s too much cheerleading and false pride in Oklahoma City that only serves corporate interests. Overall, Oklahoma City remains uptight as well with its antiquated liquor laws, and its knee-jerk initial rejection of anything new. (I’m thinking here of the initial response to the food-truck movement or how long it took to legalize tattooing.) It has a terrible, conservative newspaper that distorts political issues for its out-of-state billionaire owner. It lacks diversity or at least the celebration of diversity found in many other metropolitan cities.
Oklahoma City has potential, and it’s still a young city. But it has a ways to go. There’s nothing wrong with that. I know people might get defensive over this issue, but as I write this in my hotel room I’m glancing out the window looking at barges and tugboats making their way down the Mississippi River. Folks, it’s not the same as looking at the Bricktown Canal from the Chelino’s balcony.
My point is the city leaders, instead of looking how to increase the profits of corporations with taxpayer money, should think in larger terms. They need a lightened-up attitude and seek as much distance as possible from the state’s conservative political morass.