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A New Orleans Revival

(Photo: Folwell Dunbar)

(Photo: Folwell Dunbar)

The Rebirth of the Crescent City

A decade ago everybody knew where y’at?

Sitting on a stoop wearing a Panama hat,

Eating po-boys and muffulettas with yamamma'n'em,

Or cooling off with a snowball beneath a live oak limb.

 

But the city was sinking and the population was going down,

Potholes were growing as businesses left town.

Our schools were failing; nothing was being learned;

And politicians just fiddled as the Big Queasy burned.

 

Then in 2005 the winds of changes did shift;

A terrible storm from the gulf set everything adrift.

Faulty levees from the Corps held nothing back;

The “accidental city” was under a brutal attack.

 

There was wind, water, looting and fire,

Holes in the Superdome and desperation on Desire.

From Lakeview and Old Metairie to the Lower Nine and St. Bernard

Life in the Big Easy had suddenly become hard.

 

While the faint of heart quickly moved to higher ground,

Die-hard New Orleanians defiantly chose to stick around.

They gutted their houses and removed tons of debris

They rallied beneath the banner of the fleur-de-lis.

 

While critics argued that to rebuild was just silly,

Urban pioneers resettled Lakeview and Gentilly.

From the Sliver by the River all the way out to the East

“Refugees” trickled back and the population increased.

 

But locals weren’t alone in their desire to rebuild;

There was a void in town that had to be filled

With hipsters and KIPPsters and Americorps volunteers

Benevolent carpetbaggers, teachers and engineers.

 

They all came down river to Make It Right;

To reNew New Orleans, they were prepared to fight.

For the Whole Gritty City had to be protected,

Together its greatness would soon be resurrected.

 

It all had to start with much better education,

To end decades and decades of parental frustration.

New Schools for New Orleans were desperately needed

Without them progress would be forever impeded.

 

So charter schools sprang up all over town.

In pursuit of academic excellence, they refused to back down.

Firstline, Choice, ISL and ReNew

Gave no excuses; their mission was true.

 

Recovery would also require creative entrepreneurs:

Artists, architects and restaurateurs.

Who could take an economy that had become obsolescent

Rebuild and reimagine a more Beautiful Crescent.

 

With incubation from the Idea Village and Propeller

Prospects for new businesses became downright stellar!

We’ve now got Hollywood South and Silicon Bayou

Boutiques on Freret and galleries on Saint Claude Avenue!

 

Like Brooklyn, New Orleans has become quite hip;

Millennials certainly find it well worth the trip.

Wearing vintage clothes and sporting facial hair,

The newcomers cause even Vic and Nat’ly to stare.

 

But just like Haitians, Vietnamese and Irish

Adding to the proverbial gumbo makes the city flourish.

Our culture is fluid like the soil beneath our feet;

There’s an opportunity to grow with every person we meet.

 

There’s obviously still much work to be done;

Battles have been waged, but the war is not won.

We need to fight crime and the coast must be restored;

There’s racism and poverty that can never be ignored!

 

But the city is coming back; it can’t be denied,

Its people stand united before a Rising Tide.

Like Venice, New Orleans is an international treasure;

Its value to the world is well beyond measure.

 

NOLA has survived for nearly 300 years

Countless storms and innumerable tears.

Yet it continues to thrive; its future looks bright

Giving reason to exclaim, “Yeah you right!”

Folwell Dunbar is a New Orleans educator, artist and survivor of many things, from roaches to German U-boats and heartbreak. He is putting together a collection of these short stories and survival tales called He Falls Well (his name is pronounced “fall well”). NolaVie is honored to preview some of those stories here. Email him [email protected].