As a New Orleans anarchist, I'm involved in helping organize the 4th annual North American Anarchist Studies Network conference.
Some of my best friends are academics, and I love learning from them, but I don't generally find the scholarly facets of anarchism compelling. Many of the subjects of the conference's workshops and presentations strike me as abstruse. I do like to make myself useful, though, so I'm happy to e.g. help set up chairs or write a capsule history of the neighborhood where the conference will be taking place.
I am fiercely defensive of where I live; my specific corner of the Upper Ninth Ward is being roiled by powerful & moneyed outside forces hostile to the community as it's been-- "New Urbanists" want to make my working-class neighborhood into a playground for young white affluence from elsewhere. If a conference like NAASN were to be held in MY neighborhood, I would at the very least want the attendees to be aware of what larger dynamics they were stepping into.
Since this conference is taking place in Central City, I researched & wrote up a li'l history of the O.C. Haley corridor.
The research was endlessly interesting, and of course that same street a few miles away was where in July 1900 a brave and heroic man named Robert Charles, accosted by racist New Orleans police (plus ça change), took a stand... but more at length about that some other time.
Among the things I learned about O.C. Haley Blvd was its importance to the early New Orleans Orthodox Jewish community. I love New Orleans' long and complex Jewish history-- f'rinstance didja know we hosted the first U.S. Jewish congregation outside the original thirteen colonies? Or that we had a Jewish mayor from 1904-1920? Or that one of the first female doctor in Louisiana (and one of the first in the South) was Dr. Elizabeth Cohen, a Jewish woman who began her practice in 1857?
...Bonus fact: Cohen came from Pennsylvania, but Dr. Ella N. Prescott, who ~50 years later became the first black female doctor to practice in Louisiana, was born here.
New Orleans has long been a home for outsiders and searchers, as well as in certain limited ways a shelter from popular prejudice, so it's not surprising that history's most famous tribe of exiled wanderers have been integral to it for centuries, notwithstanding the sniffy (and inaccurate) dismissal from the Gale Catalog's Encyclopedia Judaica-- "Originally, because of its unhealthy climate and poor economy, New Orleans received little of the Eastern European Jewish immigration to America..."Share