Monday, December 31, 2007

Wondrous and Fantastical Lives, known as burdens to some

Junot Díaz, thank you for giving voice to your life and to your project. A project I think we all are engaged with in many ways at TNS.

Luís directed me to this amazing interview with Díaz conducted by a Cornell professor. Visiting his Alma Mater in February 2007, Díaz had been receiving consistent acclaim for his book of short stories, Drown, and anticipation for his now released work, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

I was wary of the interviewer from the beginning after hearing his tone and initial questions.
Díaz had so much to tell that the questions were diverted and spun into a larger story.
Then, the interviewer presented the box.

Asking about his politics (of being different) and wondering aloud if he carries a burden (of a non-white story), the interviewer falls into every trap of how one treats a "race" author. Instead of growing frustrated, Díaz responds beautifully about the true burden of the "willfully unseeing." It'd be a mistake to summarize what you need to hear for yourself. If I have time after the Holidays, I will try and transcribe the interview. For me, it's exactly what I needed to energize and jettison my creative dreaming into the new year. Off to the bookstore I go. Have a safe and fun New Year's, everyone.

An Interview You Won't Soon Forget

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Update on NOLA housing demolition

You know what they say, direct action gets the goods. Let's make sure it pulls through in New Orleans. Ongoing protests against HUD's planned demolition of public housing escalated today to a lock-down on the buildings set to be demolished. From this morning's press release:

NEW ORLEANS – A small group of local housing activists chained themselves to bulldozers early this morning that were slated to resume demolition of the B.W. Cooper housing complex. The Cooper houses are one of four public housing complexes that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development plans to raze, eliminating more than 4,500 apartment units in a hurricane-damaged city desperately short of housing.

The community activists chained themselves to the bulldozers on the morning of a day when the New Orleans City Council is scheduled to make a final vote on whether to approve the demolitions. “We are refusing to leave unless the City Council stops this illegal, unjust, and immoral plan to destroy vital housing,” said Jamie "Bork" Laughner of MayDay NOLA, an advocate for the human right to housing. Along with MayDay NOLA, C3 Hands Off Iberville and Friends and Residents of B.W. Cooper make up a coalition calling for civil resistance to HUD's plans.

“People here are prepared to resist what amounts to an assault on their communities,” said Laughner.

The planned destruction of New Orleans public housing, part of a wider plan to dissolve poorer communities and gentrify the city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, has sparked unprecedented resistance in New Orleans as well as protests across the country. In today's New York Times, architecture critics Nicolas Ouroussoff calls the demolitions “one of the greatest crimes in American urban planning.”

The lock-down stopped demolition work for today at least. More updates as they come are at NOLA Indymedia.

EDIT: Please take a minute to write to New Orleans' City Council here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Public housing demolition in New Orleans has JUST STARTED

As if enough wasn't destroyed in New Orleans during the hurricane, and enough people didn't lose the little bits they had, HUD is right now starting demolition on up to 4,000 units of public housing. I can't give a better account of what's happening since I'm not there, so I want to pass you along to someone who can.
Via The Redstar Perspective, chock full of links and very important information:

We’re in our final days of trying to keep public housing standing in New Orleans, and it’s fairly self-indulgent of me to use such a pronoun, given my marginal ties to New Orleans these days (not to mention my general exam blogging of the last 2 weeks). Nonetheless, if we don’t have some perception of solidarity in the midst of this tragedy, then blogging about public housing for the last 18 months, among other more important activities, has scarcely done its job. Consider this post an aggregate of information and resources for those who aren’t sure where to look.

Let’s begin with this video of activist and civil rights lawyer Bill Quigley’s arrest at a City Council meeting for protesting the demolition of public housing. In the last month, my feminist and progressive blogosphere has been spreading the word about the impending demolition of approx. 4,000 units of public housing in New Orleans, scheduled for this Saturday, and the resistance of tireless residents and activists in the face of a corrupt, ideological, myopic and ruthless HUD. I have little to add at this late juncture, except to add to the collective grief, anger and, for myself anyway, sense of despair that this is really happening.

The People’s Hurricane Relief Fund,, Louisiana Weekly, and even the NY Daily News have more depressing and outrageous detail than you could ever hope to read (check out for updates, info and resources). National Journal has a series on HUD corruption under Bush and Sec. Alfonso Jackson. Several weeks ago Congressional Quarterly ran a great article on the role of LA Sen. Vitter (R) in blocking affordable housing development in the city and region.

Please please, continue reading.