Thursday, April 7, 2011

It is joy that brings New Orleanians together

Editorial Page
By The Rev. William Barnwell

About 1 p.m. on a recent Friday, I was standing on the corner of Jackson and Simon Bolivar, in the heart of the all-too-violent Central City. Unmistakenly white, with my clergy collar on, I was waiting for a friend, when a disheveled middle-aged woman approached waving a piece of paper. A very bright spirited boy, in the sixth grade or so, was at her side, with his index finger shooting something at the top of a nearby oak.

"Oh me," I thought, "she's going to give me a petition to sign or somehow ask for money." But then she smiled and handed me the paper.

The paper was the boy's report card from a nearby school. He had made all A's in all seven subjects.

"The principal was so pleased," the woman said, "he called me to come get my son so he could have the rest of the day off."

"That's wonderful," I said. "I think maybe his mama had something to do with all those A's." I touched her shoulder slightly.

"God's mighty good," she said as she walked away.

So now I have yet another New Orleans story to tell. Yes, I say, we are one of the most violent cities in the country. That's the sad truth. And we are still a city dominated by cultural and institutional racism.

But we have a common culture that, one of these days, is going to help us move forward to be the great city we can become. We love the same Creole and soul food, the same jazz, the Saints when they were winning - and even when they are losing. Most of us love Mardi Gras and what the novelist Walker Percy called our "Louisiana-green" public parks. And everyone knows someone else's cousin.

Just the other day, I was standing on the corner of Jackson and Simon Bolivar, right in the heart of the Central City, when this disheveled woman with her bright-spirited son came up to me and gave me a piece of paper saying, "Here, read this..."

Only in New Orleans.

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