Rising Tide VI
This year’s Rising Tide blogger conference was held at Xavier University in New Orleans. If you would like to read the events of the day, you can look on Twitter, hashtag #rt6 or @risingtide. New this year was an adjacent room hosting a tech school featuring several sessions on how to get the most out of your blogging and social media experience. Another great addition this year, the conference was webcast! The space at Xavier is one of the best yet, with plenty room to spread out, a myriad of vendors, and cool environs to participate in the event. The opening address by Sr. Monica Loughlin was a very warm welcome by the conference hosts, and Sr. Monica gave the audience a history of St. Katharine Drexel, the founder of Xavier, noting that she lived her life going against convention in order to achieve her vision, and that she would have been proud that a grassroots blogger assembly was being held on the grounds of her dream made reality, Xavier.
The first speaker was Richard Campanella, who spoke eloquently on the historical geography of New Orleans, and those implications on the current state of New Orleans’ neighborhoods. He has spent countless hours as a researcher gleaning information from local archives to write many books on the city. He presented a thorough picture of the city and surrounding regions and established a foundation of the relevance of New Orleans as a truly unique part of the country. The next presentation, the panel on social media and social justice promoted using social media to mobilize grassroots opposition to unjust legislation in state and federal politics. Moderated by Dr. Kimberly Chandler of Xavier University, it was a dynamic panel with good information on how to participate in social justice. Jimmy Huck who writes The Huck Upchuck blog, and follows Latino and immigrant issues in and around New Orleans presented issues concerning Latinos in New Orleans and stated that this demographic is much more plugged in than many people think and are able to participate in social media activism. One panel member noted that social media can also be used against the activists, with the case in point concerning the recent London Riots: pictures of rioters were posted on a website with a number assigned and people were asked to notify the authorities if they knew the individual in the picture. Scary thought indeed…
The lunchtime panel spoke on the Macondo/BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill that began April 20, 2010 killing 11 people. The panel reviewed the spill timeline, and Bob Marshall discussed the fact that the Minerals Management Service was “in bed” with Louisiana politicians and the oil companies and how it is virtually impossible to change any oil company policy to benefit the citizens of Louisiana and the environment where we all live. Anne Rolfes reported that the oil industry has an exponential number of accidents that are not reported. Drake Toulouse of Disenfranchised Citizen commented on the post-oil spill financial claims distribution mess that Ken Fineberg inherited, and how his promises of distributing checks within 7 days went unfulfilled. The delays wound up wearing people down so they just gave up and took a check, but unfortunately are still living with the disaster effects on their health and finances. All agreed that the American Petroleum Institute controls congress, therefore citizens have little control over this mess and we are all screwed because of that. It was also reported that any remaining monies from the 20 billion BP put into the GCCF fund would be returned to the company, instead of distributing it to people suffering from the spill. Bob Marshall said that he recently watched again the 1948 Louisiana Story movie and how so long ago there was no value on the swamps and wetlands, but now that we realize the wetlands destruction equates a loss of a way of life in Louisiana, it might be too little too late to save the wetlands.
After a delicious lunch by J’Anitas, David Simon the second featured speaker explored the conceptual background of his series Treme’. He presented the fallacies of logic, speaking specifically about “standing” and ad hominem arguments, the second in which a person uses an argument against the other person as opposed to the subject being argued between them. He noted that politicians frequently use the ad hominem fallacy of logic, such as in health care debates and other political discourse. He also posited that “standing” is the lamest way politicians diminish political discourse, using as an example the controversy over the demolition of a row of houses on S. Derbigny street that were featured in the poster of the first season of Treme’. Simon also noted that because he is not a New Orleans local, he got Treme’ right because he bluntly inserted himself into New Orleans situations that perhaps a local would not have ventured, caring nothing about “standing” for or against anyone or anything. Simon also cautioned the audience about the biotech development proposal slated for construction alongside the new LSU medical center, and how Johns Hopkins in Baltimore promised the same. Unfortunately a decade later, the empty dirt filled lots which were to be filled with new businesses and research buildings are still that, empty…
After Simon, a delightful and lively panel discussion on New Orleans Food was moderated by Jeffrey of the Library Chronicles. The panel talked about the miraculous post-Katrina recovery of the restaurant industry and the ensuing burst of food creativity as described by Todd Price. Rene Louapre who writes Blackened Out pointed out how there have been no New Orleans chefs participating on Bravo’s Top Chef series, and the reason probably is that New Orleans chefs in their 30’s have abundant opportunity to open restaurants in the city than anywhere else because of the storm and the abandoned food establishments just waiting to be put back into commerce. Chef Adolfo Garcia recalled how many chefs worked together after Katrina to help each other and mobilize restaurant re-openings because there were so many people in town that needed places to eat: first responders, contractors, insurance people and others who had money to spend and nowhere to dine. A lively discussion ensued about assigning the nomenclature of Creole to the current cuisine being served in town and the question arose: is New Orleans losing its food identity? Alex del Castillo talked about mobile food vendors, “taco trucks”, setting roots into brick and mortar restaurants that contribute to the eclectic mix of New Orleans creole cuisine. Chris deBarr of Green Goddess Restaurant had the most optimistic take on it all: in merging the varied cuisines of the different cultures of New Orleans (Italian, French, Caribbean, African, Vietnamese, etc.) the true identity of Creole cuisine is discovered by marrying local cuisines and cultures into great food.
Next was the presentation of the Ashley Morris Award, and this year’s recipient was Dedra Johnson of the G_Bitch spot blog. An extremely well deserved recipient, she tirelessly writes about the state of the New Orleans public school system. And finally, the exuberant Brass Band panel, hosted by Big Red Cotton discussing the history of and return after Katrina of New Orleans brass bands, closing out another wonderful Rising Tide conference. The TBC Brass band trumpeted another successful year and heralds the continuation and success of an inspiring event. Thanks to all the Rising Tide VI organizers, vendors and participants for making this year another memorable conference!