New Orleans, Louisiana - On August 12, New Orleans students and their supporters demonstrated during a 120-degree heat index against the potential U.S. intervention in the West African country of Niger. They gathered on the University of New Orleans campus with the group Students United UNO and chanted under a Nigerien flag and a banner reading “US: Hands off Africa.” Demonstrators passed information handouts to students as they returned to campus on move-in day. The demonstration comes days after Nigerien leaders refused to meet with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and pro-West military forces taking positions around Nigerien borders.
New Orleans, Louisiana - On Friday, March 31, hundreds marched from Washington Square Park to Jackson Square to celebrate Trans Day of Visibility. The marchers also gathered in response to nine anti-LGBTQ bills being considered by the Louisiana legislature. These bills reflect a growing crisis of targeted attacks against LGBTQ youth. The Deadname bill, HB 81, would mandate that public school teachers misgender trans students and use their birth names. Students could appeal for their real names and pronouns to be used with a parental note, but staff would still be allowed to ignore that appeal based on “religious and moral” reasons.
Jonshell Johnson-Whitten’s path to farming started when she was a teen living in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. The area is known as a “food desert,” a low-income neighborhood with limited food access. But when Johnson-Whitten connected with a network of backyard gardeners, she discovered the potential for not just healthy food options, but also for community empowerment. “Being able to put [neighborhood] growers next to the folks who want to grow was the biggest part of inspiring people,” she says. That was just the beginning. Now, Johnson-Whitten takes seriously her role as a Black community farmer.
New Orleans, Louisiana - Geoff Coats still remembers how he felt when, in May 2020, all 1,350 bicycles in New Orleans’s popular bike-share program vanished. “It was horrible,” says Coats, who managed the service, called Blue Bikes, for its owner, Uber. “For a lot of people, it was a little bit of PTSD from Hurricane Katrina, when the national chains could have reopened weeks after the storm but stayed away. It felt like, once again, when we’re down, we get kicked.” Blue Bikes, which New Orleans launched in 2017 to reduce emissions and offer reliable transportation to low-income residents, was flourishing before COVID shut down the city.
New Orleans, LA - Around 250 community members gathered at New Orleans City Hall, March 25, to forcefully voice their opposition to a string of legislation introduced by Louisiana Republicans in recent weeks. This includes bills that would restrict trans minors’ access to healthcare, their ability to participate in school sports, and could criminalize LGBTQ+ students and educators for being “out” in Louisiana schools. The demonstration was attended mostly by students from three New Orleans high schools who have taken the initiative in organizing bold actions both on and off their campuses. Earlier in the day students at Benjamin Franklin High School held a walkout where hundreds of their classmates marched to the front of the school chanting “We say gay!”
Dealing with tons of trash isn't out of the ordinary for the City of New Orleans. By the end of Carnival season, city clean-up crews and paid volunteers collect about 900 tons of garbage on average each year. Onlookers have called the efforts "mesmerizing" to watch. More than a century of Mardi Gras celebrations have refined the city's approach to bulk garbage collection down to a science. A "parade" of sanitation workers, tractors, trucks, and street sweepers mobilize to collect the trash and clean the city after Fat Tuesday.
On Oct. 7, the New Orleans City Council ratified a $15-an-hour minimum wage for city workers, effective in January. This will be $3.81 more than the paltry $11.19 minimum currently in place. Because of sky-rocketing inflation, $15 dollars doesn’t go as far as it did even a few months ago. Nevertheless, the raise is a major victory for the working-class movement here, and will be welcomed by city workers struggling to make ends meet. As reported in Struggle-La Lucha back in July, the council was forced to move forward when the firefighters’ union and allies marched into the chambers on July 1, right in the middle of a session. When put on the spot, the council members voted unanimously that they would find the money for a raise. Now it’s official.
In the aftermath of disasters, those most in need are also who the state often leaves behind. Into this vacuum, communities come together for mutual aid. While charity rarely challenges the root causes behind disasters, and often divides recipients into worthy and unworthy, mutual aid comes from a principle of solidarity. As Dean Spade has written, “First, we need to organize to help people survive the devastating conditions unfolding every day. Second, we need to mobilize hundreds of millions of people for resistance so we can tackle the underlying causes of these crises.” In New Orleans, the entire city was without electricity for nearly a week (and tens of thousands still have not had their power turned back on).
Gavrielle Gemma, union and political organizer since the 1970s and now working with the New Orleans-based Workers Voice Socialist Movement, called Workers World to report on the situation there, post-Hurricane Ida. Gemma is now living in a modest single-family home in the Florida neighborhood of New Orleans, part of the Upper Ninth Ward. “It’s bad,” she said. “Only poor folk stayed once the mayor and governor advised that people evacuate. That means the people left had no choice, no place to go, no money to pay for hotels or motels — assuming they could find a room. If they had made the evacuation mandatory, then the government would be responsible for the welfare of the people who left. But they’re doing nothing."
It started in Malik Rahim’s kitchen, as the waters from the broken levees continued to flow through New Orleans’ lower 9th Ward. A small group of activists from the city and Austin, Texas, including former Black Panthers, began scratching down notes and trying to figure out exactly what they could do to provide support to the neighborhoods obliterated by Hurricane Katrina. This was in 2005, just days after the storm had battered the city and demolished the levees, overwhelming the surrounding blocks with a toxic water sludge.
Sanitation workers in New Orleans have been out on strike for over a month now. On May 5, a group of sanitation workers, also known as “hoppers” (because they hop on and off the trucks to empty trash cans), walked off the job after frustrations around low pay and lack of safety equipment boiled over. They have held firm to their demands and to their brothers on the strike lines for over a month now. "All we’re trying to do is to get what we’re asking for, and then get back to work. We just want fair treatment," Jonathan Edward, who’s been a hopper for over a decade, said. They are not alone—workers around the country have taken bold action in response to the COVID-19 crisis, winning hazard pay, personal protective equipment, and even unions—all in the face of an unprecedented economic crisis.
“We are digging in for a long fight,” says New Orleans striking sanitation worker Jonathan Edwards late on Thursday night about being fired in early May by People Ready, a contractor of New Orleans’ Metro Services. Nearly a month ago, People Ready fired Edwards and 13 other coworkers who went on strike. Forced to work in one of the world’s worst hotbeds of COVID, garbage pickers like Edwards, employed through the temp firm People Ready and contracted by Metro Services, were only paid $10.25 an hour without benefits. On May 6th, workers went on strike demanding $15 an hour, hazard pay, protective equipment, and health insurance. However, the workers were fired two days later on May 8th. Instead of re-hiring them, Metro Services replaced them with prison labor.
Thursday night, New Orleans public schools as we knew them ended. With a 5-2 vote by the Orleans Parish School Board, the last remaining public high school in New Orleans became its latest charter school. In a room filled to capacity, replete with security, protesters, placards, chants, and shouts of dissatisfaction, McDonogh 35 Senior High School’s future was turned over to charter school group InspireNOLA. Many were outraged, some were left in tears, but it changed nothing. With the 5-2 decision, New Orleans became the first city in the United States to turn its entire school system over to an all-charter system.
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Medical students from across the country gathered in New Orleans, Saturday, walking the streets chanting, advocating for a single-payer system. It's the seventh annual march for the group-- Students for a National Health Program. A sea of white flowed towards City Hall, demanding healthcare for everyone. "We're here under the idea people deserve equal access to healthcare. People are going bankrupt, people are dying because they don't have access to the basic medical care needs they have," said medical student Kale Flory from Missouri. More than 100 medical students from across the country marched in New Orleans, vying for a single payer healthcare system. "It would mean for everybody who lives in the United States, they would have comprehensive healthcare for all of their basic needs," Chicago medical student Cyrus Alavi said.