How do we turn the tide of crime and violence in New Orleans? How do we break the generational grips of poverty, crime and joblessness that cloak many of our communities?
While I understand the vision and philosophy of the NOLA for Life Campaign, my work and dialogue with many of our communities’ most challenged residents have indicated to me that they could care less about the city’s “visions,” but are more concerned with just making it another day. Some of these individuals see daily life in New Orleans metaphorically as a prison sentence(NOLA Doing Life) from which there is no escape.
If we are serious about a “new”New Orleans or a new Louisiana that includes its disadvantaged populations and incorporates its new influx of citizens, we must find effective ways to merge both the realities and dreams of both populations.
To that end, I would like to suggest some possible solutions.
Along with midnight basketball opportunities, there must be an emphasis on midnight educational opportunities.
The time is now for New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana to establish 24-hour education and adult learning centers that anyone can access at home if they have a computer and Internet access or in-person at a designated, 24-hour learning site.
Family literacy, adult literacy, ABE and GED preparation, soft skills training, as well as parenting and 24-hour child care assistance would be the key components of any 24-hour education and adult learning center.
Such a site or sites could be sponsored and funded by a small portion of the millions of dollars that are earmarked each year for education, crime and social support programs.
Innovative grant applications to a number of philanthropic funders and resource pools on a national and local level could also fund this type of venture. Additional funding could also come from the business community.
Finally, I would recommend an emotional and personal counseling entity that would screen and service center participants, as well as review the progress goals of all center participants.
While some may look at these suggestions as pie in the sky or unrealistic, I challenge you to open a newspaper or turn on your local news channel and tell me if what we are doing now is working. Why not try something different?
We can’t afford to waste any more lives or time in this city. Let’s be part of the solution that makes New Orleans and Louisiana models the rest of the country will want to follow.
consultant and educator