Friday, January 12, 2007

How to Help the New Orleans Community

People have been emailing me, asking where to donate money to New Orleans. Having been a public school teacher for a decade, both in NYC and here in New Orleans, I have formed strong opinions about the benefits of creative expression in building confidence and providing an outlet for inner city youth.


Here are my first-thought suggestions, below. I will provide a permenant link to this page in my links column on this blog. I will also add to these when I can. Feel free to post comments with more suggestions of community-based organizations that may not otherwise be in the press. I know that I hve not even begun to include effective neighborhood community centers here, or sports or music based programs.

I have worked with YA/YA on an art project that included almost 100 portraits of incarcerated loved ones painted by elementary students at The Craig School in Treme. The work was a backdrop for a press conference held by Critical Resistance South. These Ya/Ya folks are good people.

Ashé is a group that takes in folks, mostly from the Central City area (my neighborhood) of Nola in order to help them find creative outlets for expression, no matter the age.

Café Reconcile rocks. They take in kids and teach them how to cook and then put them to work in a real café with EXCELLENT down home food here in Central City.

KIDsmARt is an organization that provides an arts school for afterschool. They take in kids from troubled backgrounds or creative kids in general, providing support and confidence building for the students. I have sent a creative, but troubled student down there (randomly, without following their usual protocol for admitting students) and they welcomed her with open arms. Her confidence has improved drastically and her talents are developing rapidly.

NOCCA is the school for super creative kids where Helen has popped in and out, helping kids learn that you do not have to be a technical genius to make excellent films. She was about to start helping out in film studies more consistently as a staff member before she left us. The school employs local artiststs to work with students, which I feel is a great, inspirational example for them. The need for this school here, in a city where creativity abounds, goes without saying. It is a wonderful place.

The Neighborhood Story Project started with the idea of sending public highschool students into their own neighborhoods to interview the community and put together books of writing, filled with interviews, about the distinct character of each. The importance of talking to neighbors and learning their histories and personalities is an invaluable lesson to youth of today, who are often isolated from these types of connections.

The New Orleans Kid Camera Project is a brilliant way for kids to process the visual trauma of living in New Orleans. The project began after Katrina, but the visual trauma started for these kids long before the storm, and I hope that this program continues to provide this forum for expression for children of our communities.

KID smART is a nonprofit 501 c.3 organization, created to teach positive life skills to children through the performing and visual arts. KID smART programs involve intensive, quality instruction by professional artists who have experience working with under-resourced children. Instruction is challenging and dynamic, allowing children to think in new ways, explore new mediums and investigate themselves and the world in which they live.

Café Reconcile

In 1996, under the leadership of the late Rev. Harry Tompson, S.J., a group of concerned people of faith gathered together to began a course of prayer, study, research, observation and dialogue regarding the witnessed challenges facing out-of-school youth in New Orleans. The newspapers, police reports, television news, research and personal experiences all pointed to a multitude of young lives spiraling into destructive and violent behaviors.

In an effort to stem that tide, to effect a glimmer of hope in the near-downtown community of Central City, this group of concerned and motivated people began the planning and research necessary to establish a safe and supportive place where at-risk youth could have the option of receiving the life, work and educational skills necessary to turn their lives on a productive path toward thriving and complete citizens of this city.

The New Orleans Kid Camera Project was created to address the psychological and emotional impacts of Hurricane Katrina on children returning home to New Orleans. Through the use of photography, creative writing and mixed media, children from flooded neighborhoods explore their environment and express themselves, their stories and feelings with their friends. This project provides a venue for growth and recovery. By teaching the children tangible skills and exposing them to new means of expression, we hope to empower them to impact their lives and environment.

YA/YA (Young Aspirations/Young Artists), Inc. is a non-profit arts and social service organization whose mission is to provide educational experiences and opportunities that empower artistically talented inner-city youth to be professionally self-sufficient through creative self-expression.

Since it's founding in 1988, the YA/YA studio-gallery has provided young artists who have limited access to educational resources and career opportunities the chance to apprentice with professional artists, create public artworks, design merchandise, serve as cultural ambassadors, work as project managers, and mentor others in the arts.

YA/YA has received extensive media exposure with features in Fortune, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Elle Décor, and ArtNews, as well as MTV's House of Style, Sesame Street, and NBC's Today show.

In 2002, YA/YA was a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show as a recipient of the Angel Network "Use Your Life Award."

Ashé is a gathering place for emerging and established artists to present, create and collaborate in giving life to their art. For those who felt compelled to choose more mainstream existence at earlier points in their lives, Ashé is a reclaiming harbor that welcomes them with open arms. Ashé is a magnetic force that first attracts and then activates the artistic, creative and entrepreneurial possibilities available in our community.

We work to involve the entire community, from children to elders, in our planning and creative efforts. We celebrate the life and cultural traditions of the community, and then we immortalize them in our art. Storytelling, poetry, music, dance, photography, and visual art all are a part of the work we do to revive the possibility and vision of a true " Renaissance on the Boulevard." Our name ASHÉ - a Yoruban word that translates closely to AMEN - So let it be done - The ability to make things happen, bears testimony to our commitment and intention to accomplish our goals.

The New Orleans Center for Creative Arts|Riverfront is a world-class educational institution that has been changing the lives of young people since 1973. Every year, this pre-professional arts training center provides intensive instruction in dance, media arts, music (classical, jazz, vocal), theatre arts (drama, musical theatre, theatre design), visual arts, and creative writing, to students from public, private, and parochial schools across Louisiana through schoolday, after-school, weekend, and summer sessions.


TravelingMermaid said...

This is wonderful, Nik!! I'll link to this post when I have the brain cells to write a proper one.

NolaNik said...

I am so glad you will!

Anonymous said...

This is a great list...I'm familiar with most of these organizations, but I'd never heard of YA-YA before. This is great to know!

I've recently started volunteering with Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Southeast Louisiana, and I've also been hosting a fundraiser for them on my blog (the first of many fundraisers, hopefully). I've already got plans for charities for the the first half of 2007 or so, but I'd love to spotlight some of these groups later on...I know they're all doing great work.