Jungleland?<br />
New Orleans Community Activist Rejects NY Times Depiction of 9th Ward
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to become green space.

Rebuilding our community may not be profitable, but it’s right. African-American lives in the Lower Ninth are just as valuable as those of whites in the French Quarter or Garden District.

Often overlooked is the role that structural racism played in destruction of our community. If the French Quarter had been in the same area as the Lower Ninth, the government wouldn’t have allowed anything as potentially destructive as a barge to remain untethered with a storm coming. Levees would have been built to withstand a Category 4 hurricane so major tourist attractions wouldn’t be jeopardized.

The French Quarter wasn’t saved because it sits nine feet higher than the back section of the Lower Ninth but because of racism and classism. Black residents of the Lower Ninth were deemed expendable long before Katrina.

With a new mayor in office, there is at least hope for the future. We’ve had more street repairs in the Lower Ninth, but that’s where it ends for now. I’ve heard promises and seen plans, but the community is naturally skeptical. We have become accustomed to broken promises. So we don’t hold our breath. We don’t get excited. We wait and see.

Jenga Mwendo is an urban-agriculture, community organizer in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans and founder of the Backyard Gardeners Network, whose mission is to sustain and strengthen the community. America’s Wire is an independent, nonprofit news service run by the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education and funded by a grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. The views expressed by the America’s Wire Writers Group authors are those of the writers and not the Maynard Institute or W .K. Kellogg Foundation. For more information, visit www.americaswire.org or contact Michael K. Frisby at mike@frisbyassociates.com.