NEW ORLEANS — Today, Mayor Landrieu announced a series of events that will take place throughout 2016 as part of the Welcome Table New Orleans, a multi-year citywide initiative focused on race, reconciliation and community building. This year, eight citizen-led circles will reveal their various reconciliation projects to the community through workshops, business models, public art installations and more.
“We can no longer continue to kick the can down the road when it comes to tough issues like race in New Orleans and America,” said Mayor Landrieu. “Race is a topic that you can’t go over, or under or around – you have to go through it. With the Welcome Table New Orleans, we brought together diverse groups of residents from across the city to meet, share experiences and work collectively to improve neighborhoods and communities through constructive dialogue on race and healing. I believe that our city’s diversity is a strength, not a weakness and that the people of New Orleans are ready to look closely at the ways in which race and reconciliation can have a positive impact. I am truly inspired by what is being done by the people of New Orleans, taking the first step to building a future that looks much different than parts of our troubled past.”
The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation and the Urban League of Greater New Orleans have partnered with the Mayor’s Office on this initiative. After a process of focus groups, test retreats and meetings, the City of New Orleans received a $1.2 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to implement a multi-year process to support a citywide racial reconciliation initiative. The Winter Institute, which uses its own funding to do its work, provides training and technical support. The Urban League of Greater New Orleans serves as the initiative’s fiscal agent.
There are eight Welcome Table New Orleans Circles:
Mother’s Circle - Tragedy to Transformation to Triumph
The Welcome Table New Orleans Mother’s Circle began 15 months ago, and participants are pioneering a path for change, not only for mothers in New Orleans, but also those in cities across the nation to reconcile and end the culture of violence on the streets of America. Born from the love, compassion, hopes, tears and dreams of mothers who have lost children to violence, the effort seeks to be a vehicle, a “mothership connection,” that helps to transform the community from violence, despair, fear, suffering, rage, hatred, injustice, racism, oppression and tragedy to a community where love and healing triumph. Mothers who have lost sons and daughters to violence, mothers whose sons have taken lives and all those who support mothers are called to connect through action, commitment and purpose.
Tragedy to Transformation to Triumph recently began with an outreach event for all mothers who lost sons and daughters to gun violence. The event, “Cake and Conversation,” took place on Saturday, Feb. 27 during which mothers discussed what they can do to make their families safer and their neighborhoods stronger. In May, mothers and the rest of the community will be invited to a Mother’s March and second line jazz funeral to remember the lives of those lost to violence. The mothers symbolically will bury the social ills that feed violence and hatred. The march represents the steps that can be taken when mothers come together for a common purpose.
In early summer, the Mother’s Circle will launch a community education and workshop series for mothers who have lost children to gun violence and mothers whose children have taken lives. The mothers who participate will develop and enhance skills to strengthen the foundation of their personal households, work with and support their neighbors, and develop a plan for peace within the blocks in which they live. Using this approach, the Mother’s Circle hopes to spark a renewed commitment to residents working together on behalf of children and families.
Finally, the Mother’s Circle will host a community gala honoring the mothers who have participated in the community education workshop series and those who work for peace in their communities daily.
Algiers Circle - Visions & Voices of Algiers: Reflections on Our Shared Racial and Multi-Ethnic History
The Algiers Circle project has been designed to guide high school aged youth to explore the racial and multi-ethnic fabric of Algiers history through interviews and conversations with elder residents and historians. The goals of this project are to enhance the public understanding of various racial and multi-ethnic communities in Algiers, to facilitate relationships among youth from varying ethnic backgrounds, to contribute to the larger dialogue around racial equity and reconciliation that is occurring at the citywide, state, national, and international levels, as well as to encourage youth to invest in their community by learning and preserving the historical narratives that often go untold. Artist and activist “B-mike” Odums will train a multiracial group of 24 students to use their analytical abilities and creative talents to conduct and archive the interviews; to interpret the information acquired; and, to depict their newfound knowledge via a public art installation.
Central City Circle - History Matters
The Central City Circle project is designed to recognize individuals who have worked to engage the community through public participation. The project will also involve high school students in learning about their communities and racial reconciliation. Working in partnership with education experts, a curriculum and lesson plans are being developed and will be offered to public and private schools. Students will be invited to present and have artwork judged including essays, visual arts, spoken word pieces and writings based on the curriculum.
St. Roch Circle
The St. Roch Circle seeks to engage New Orleanians in dialogue that acknowledges the historic roots of racism and oppression, examines the current impact of racism on our City, and builds pathways forward toward racial reconciliation. Throughout a year-long pilot project, the circle will focus its collective efforts on the St. Roch community and identify historically significant places throughout St. Roch to host intimate conversations and Story Circles that provide residents opportunities to share and learn from one another. Through these dialogues, the hope is to build a better understanding of the issues and concerns that are most pertinent in the lives of St. Roch residents. The project will utilize social media as a tool to raise awareness of the project and to spark conversations about racial reconciliation across the city, and invite people to join the dialogue.
Business/ Civic Leaders Circle
The Business/ Civic Leaders Circle believes that it has a responsibility to take full advantage of its social networks, access to capital and the personal reputations of its members as community leaders to imagine and execute a large-scale, high-impact project that has the potential to re-shape the social and economic landscape of New Orleans. The BCL’s project will challenge and reshape New Orleanians' ideas about race and ethnicity, but it will also create economic opportunity where it is needed most using one of New Orleans' most prominent and beloved institutions: Mardi Gras. The BCL will present their project on March 14 as part of the New Orleans Entrepreneur Week.
There are circles meeting now in Carrolton, Mid-City and New Orleans East. Like those listed above, they will design and announce reconciliation projects in June 2016.
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About Welcome Table New Orleans
Launched in April 2014, the Welcome Table New Orleans is Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s citywide initiative that focuses on race, reconciliation and community building. Funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Welcome Table New Orleans brings people of different racial groups and background together to build relationships that will lead to improvements throughout the city. Learn more about the Welcome Table New Orleans by visiting www.welcometableneworleans.org.
About the William Winter Institute
The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation works in communities and classrooms, in Mississippi and beyond, to support a movement of racial equity and wholeness as a pathway to ending and transcending all division and discrimination based on difference. Learn more about the William Winter Institute by visiting www.winterinstitute.org.