On Tuesday it will be one year since Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Spike Lee’s HBO documentary “When the Levees Broke” and Tulane historian Douglas Brinkley’s book, The Great Deluge have recently appeared. Both are extraordinary, and if you vote or pay taxes in the United States, you owe it to yourself to watch and read what collectively we allowed to happen.
If you are stirred to learn more, one of your next ports of call should be the website of Maitri Venkat-Ramani, New Orleans resident and citizen journalist extraordinaire. If you have a lot of work today, you may want to delay checking out her site as you are likely to spend hours rummaging the archives and following links to the testimonials, fact compilations, photo sets, commentaries and other resources that she and her fellow New Orleans citizen-journalists have developed for the past 359 days.
A few days ago, in a reflective mood, the sister wrote this:
A displaced resident of New Orleans and a loud civic voice, I had no stomach for superficial news and what Christiane Amanpour describes well as Â“happy-camper war-and-disaster-zone travelogue.Â” I was confused and frustrated from not knowing what was going on with the city, so I pacified myself by stepping in as a reporter and turning VatulBlog into a bullhorn in the NOLA PA system network. This was my catharsis and each time I received an encouraging comment, letter or phone call from an anonymous Ã©migrÃ©, it reminded me that I was not alone, others were suffering a lot more and I had to keep writing.
My blog was a single candle. Soon, I found other candles like WetBankGuide, GulfSails and Gentilly Girl and the shining beacon that is Think New Orleans, which shares a lot of my own standards on knowledge work, information, content, archival and sharing. The fire caught from there. Writing about New Orleans over and above their jobs, not as their jobs – the woes, the recovery, the administrative blunders from the federal government on down and our own exploration of identity and the nature of self in a city hit by an unnatural disaster – all of the NOLA blogs linked to from my site share that conscience and that personal touch. A greater free, searchable, linked repository of news, data, research and a somewhat coherent set of thoughts on the re-discovery of ourselves.
She went on to offer this very sweet shout-out:
It was also through this blog that I found Sepia Mutiny, the vibrant and thoughtful salve to that within me which is Indian, Kuwaiti, American and everything in between.
Maitri, the honor is ours, and we are thrilled that you will be sharing for the next month, at this of all times, your perspectives with Sepia Mutiny readers.
Ladies and gentlemen, all the way from New Orleans, Louisiana, put your hands together and make some noise for one strong sister, Maitri Venkat-Ramani.