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August 27, 2010

Exclusive – Branford Marsalis: New Orleans remains in crisis

Posted: 03:37 PM ET

Editor's Note: Be sure to watch Harry Connick Jr. on LKL tonight from Musicians Village in New Orleans.  Also, check out the Marsallis Family's new album, "Music Redeems."  It benefits the Ellis Marsallis Center for Music.

By Branford Marsalis

Five years after Hurricane Katrina struck and decimated my hometown, I am certainly buoyed by the rebuilding successes of a city reinforced with an invincible spirit, and proud of the strides we have made through our partnership with New Orleans Habitat and through the contributions of individuals from around the world. I am fiercely disappointed, though, by the inconsistency of the attention paid to this disaster between these anniversaries and the lack of a sustained, long-term approach to the rebuilding our city.

New Orleans remains in crisis.

Even as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival continues to present that unique musical experience that is so quintessential; even as scientists and engineers have stopped the spillage and contained further devastation of the oil; even as citizens, friends and neighbors have rallied together to build and rebuild, we still suffer and there is still much to be done. Ours is not the world of merely a year or two, but that of decades if we are to restore her to her former glory, we must embrace a long-term commitment.

It is my hope that on this, the fifth anniversary of the storm – as I’ve hoped each anniversary of the storm – as the media once again draws our attention to the city’s successes and its failures, that we might as a nation renew our dedication to and support of the revitalization of the birthplace of jazz with a continued commitment to the rebuilding of its physical and cultural infrastructure.

When we sat down with the folks of New Orleans Habitat to talk about our vision for this Village, Harry and I spoke of creating a community like the New Orleans of my youth – a place where mothers take turns watching each other’s kids play in the street, where neighbors know one another, spend time together, and where the front stoop is merely the continuation of one’s living room – a social hub. We wanted to encourage the continuation of the rich, cultural traditions of New Orleans and provide the responsibility of home ownership to the city’s musicians’, many of whom had never been homeowners before.

Currently under construction is the future heart of the Musicians’ Village, a community and music education center named for my father, the great musician and educator, Ellis Marsalis. The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music will include performance spaces, music lessons, a recording studio, computer access, and music library. Its focus will be to allow the exchange of musical knowledge among musicians and from generation to generation.

Last June, my entire family came together to honor my dad in performance at the Kennedy Center.  We were lucky enough to capture that rare moment on disc and have just released the recording entitled Music Redeems.  The proceeds from the sale of the recording directly benefit the programming of the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music which is expected to be completed in the spring of 2011.

Though located in the heart of Musicians’ Village, the Ellis Marsalis Center will open its doors to the surrounding communities and the general public and in doing so we hope that the entire Upper Ninth Ward, and perhaps the city of New Orleans, will be uplifted.

Filed under: LKL Web Exclusive


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Joe G. (Illinois)   August 27th, 2010 3:51 pm ET

It’s almost as if like people of great unyielding spirits wanted to rebuild city of Babylon, Saddam and Gomorra.

Remarkable people, remarkable spirit and character indeed..
Even the rumbles of the city echo the glory of astounding might and valor.


Eastla Smith   August 27th, 2010 6:21 pm ET

Nothing else to be said...well said.


george   August 27th, 2010 9:43 pm ET

mayor nagin made sooo much money it's sick, millions of dollars in cash that is gone. GONE?? check the paper trail ,enough money was sent to help. gambling was at a all time high. i have faimly that has been displaced and they can't understand the greed and poor leadership that was witnessed. let nagen put his FAT checkbook up!


Marilyn Thomson   August 27th, 2010 10:14 pm ET

The American Spirit will get N.O. , every city in the USA, and every American through these difficult (weather, war, terriorism and damage) challenges! we must remain united!


Amyre DeDeaux   August 28th, 2010 1:34 am ET

I couldn't agree more with Brandford Marsalis. I visited New Orleans in 2006 and again in 2010. Although progress has been made, it is woefully slow and inconsistent. In my brother's neighborhood near where Jazz Fest is held every third or fourth house is still boarded up .
Several hospitals are vacant and falling apart. Improvements are mostly on an individual basis. Film crews show the French Quarter and their pictures imply that the rest of the city is in such good shape.
I feel sad and angry at our government every time I think of Katrina.
Amyre DeDeaux, NOLA native


Lisa Fernandez-Richard   August 30th, 2010 1:11 am ET

We New Orleanians appreciate all the efforts of Branford Marsalis and Family, Harry Connick, Brad Pitt, Wendell Pierce, Sandra Bullock, Lenny Kravitz and all the wonderful volunteers around this country and abroad who have pitched in to help.

The actual state of the matter is that most of the people who lived in these areas migrated across the river, myself included who was an upper ninth ward resident and several returning new orleanians. This was one of the areas that suffered minimal damage and had stores, shopping malls, a hospital etc.

I also had a vision of your family building the musical multi-purpose building just not in that location . The progressive musicians are from the Treme and seventh ward areas which my father John A. Fernandez, Cldye Karr was from the (Treme – Area) Trombone Shorty(Troy Andrews) his brother,- Daviid ,Kermit Ruffins(All from the Treme) ,Irvin Mayfield (Gentilly/Seventh ward) Wendell Brunious, Micheal Ward(Seventh Ward) and all the uptown Musicians (Neville's, Donald Harrison, George Porter) which I only hope will utilize this facility that is in unfamiliar territory. The schools that are producing the local musicians are Craig Elementary, St. Augustine H.S., NOCCA , McDonough 35, Warren Easton, Mc Main, Carver, J.S. Clark, John McDonough and all girl H.S. Xavier Prep and St. Mary's but they are all on the East Bank side of the river.

When my daughters and I went to the lower nine area after the storm around 2007 you could still feel the sense of devastation that brought a very emotional baring.

In August 2010 I returned to see the progress which had come a long way but there is a long way to go, I still did not see the musician village which no signs are posted as to which direction. My fellow citizens has resiliences in the lower ninth ward because it is hard for me to go to the upper nine that has one grocery store, no hospital, no library and the full use of our old park and not get discouraged. I know it was stated that it would take about 10 to 15 years to recover in my old area.

Much Success but it is always good to include the folks who live and work and see the trends of our changing footprint that some folks tried to erase or discourage.


LacrosseMom(the real one)   August 30th, 2010 8:43 pm ET

Dear New Orleans residents,

I am saddened that 5 years later things are still not back to normal. My heart goes out to you.

Mr. Marsalis, you are one of our very favorite artists! Bless you!

In NOvember vote NO for the Party of No!


Lu   August 30th, 2010 9:02 pm ET

How many times do newscasters have to revisit the same old question. The President has answered it. Many times. And now move on. If there's nothing to talk about, then get a celebrity to plug something, a book, anything, opening a mall. But get off the old questions just so you can stir the pot of trouble for the President and side with the tea party who is instigating this farce to just to cater to the uninformed and the illiterate and lose even more viewers.


Jessie from Auckland, NZ   August 31st, 2010 3:06 am ET

Yes, Hurricane Katrina was such a devastating blow to New Orleans and we will never ever forget those terrible images that we saw on the news.

Sorry to hear of the ongoing suffering and slow recovery and hope that the future will get a lot brighter for them. With the building of this new community and music education center, it will certainly help to uplift their spirits.

May New Orleans never lose its rich, cultural, musical roots and their beautiful spirit. Prayers go out to you. God bless!

Thank you to all those who are helping in the rebuilding in which ever way. Bless you all!


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