Actually Out of the House (and not for work!), or, A Few Hours with Rising Tide

Friday night, Paul and I went to a bar, drank beer, and socialized. We were pretty sure that it was the signal of the Apocalypse; Paul clutched his chest and hyperventilated when I seemed disappointed that Buffa’s was out of Abita’s Summer Wheat. But yes: we ventured out Friday night to meet some of the city’s bloggers.

In post-K NOLA, blogging has taken on a bit of a life of its own, becoming a source of “real” news, saying what other civic minded (but paycheck bound) citizens cannot, reporting on local recovery meetings, throwing out leads to local media outlets for potential stories, serving as a place for political organizing, and even showing up en masse to gut homes. You can even call it a “community”… with its own cliques, heroes, and established social order. Whatever you call it, you can’t call it aside; it is loud enough to warrant a degree of respect and in the least, some interest. Without question, I missed much of the meat of the weekend (particularly the advocacy and activist forums) but would have been happy just to pay registration to show financial support and make an attempt to see the folks behind the curtain, so to speak. So the fact that I got in a little Saturday morning action is an achievement.

I wasn’t expecting a particularly diverse crowd, since the internet itself it still a pretty white bread sort of place. (Note to self: re-connect with Guerrilla Girls for updates.) But it rekindled in me something I’ve been chewing on for awhile: where is the voice of the newly arrived Latino in post-Katrina New Orleans?

I’ve mentioned blogging to folks in “the community” (code for: newly arrived Latino community), which is a term that, in itself, irritates me; as if reinforcing this idea of difference within the city. That we exist in these separate (but unequal) spaces that are homogeneous within themselves and decidedly apart from whatever mainstream “community” is running the show. Granted, the folks I work with are often clandestine by choice (hence, one of my interests as a social scientist, health advocate, and concerned human) yet, I do believe that there is place for their voices to be heard here — in NOLA politics and recovery, online and other.

A hundred times I’ve started to write about an experience… a person… a combination of the two to get some information out there. But I don’t publish it, I struggle with voice, and I come up with nothing. Writing about what I have seen or experienced comes too close to writing about the lives of others in ways that give me pause. Rather than write myself, maybe it makes more sense to help reduce the socioeconomic barriers and socio political isolation that quiet these voices from being heard in our city. Or maybe I underestimate myself (something Paul says I do more and more the further I get up the academic food chain) or maybe I haven’t explored the right places to find what I think is missing.

Or, maybe once my “formal” research begins in earnest, I’ll have more official things to say. As for now, these are just thoughts in my head.