Culture as a Pathway to Fortify the Social Fabric of Our Cities

Culture as a Pathway to Fortify the Social Fabric of Our Cities.

By Alejandra Guzman

Click aqui para español- >La cultura como un camino para fortalecer el tejido social de nuestras ciudades

There is a lot to say about culture and how it builds strong communities. Culture plays an important part in the rejuvenation of cities and the process of transforming the ordinary into extraordinary. Culture also creates a sense of belonging and pride within a community.

New Orleans is the example of a unique American city that has emerged from a cross-pollination of multiple cultures to create its own. The manifestations of the culture of New Orleans can be appreciated in buildings and public spaces, music and dance, social traditions and cuisine. Residents of this town feel proud to be part of such a unique city, and why shouldn’t we, if there is so much we can be proud of?

There is no other city that can claim to have given birth to jazz and get recognized as the bounce capital of the world. For centuries, New Orleans artists have captivated the nation and the world with different forms of art. Contemporary examples of cultural ambassadors include musician, band leader and TV personality Jon Batiste and visual artist and muralist Brandan Odums “BMike.” Batiste has performed with important artists such as Stevie Wonder and Prince. He also appears with his band, Stay Human, on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

New Orleans is lucky enough to have more than one talented member in the Batiste family. Paul Batiste, for example, founded the Batiste Brothers Band and is also a guitarist, producer and songwriter. Paul Batiste’s passion for continuing a music tradition in New Orleans by teaching music is admirable. His experience in education and entertainment business spans for 40 years. Recently, Batiste provided a testimony on what it meant for him to be an educator. He very eloquently explained that beyond music, he is “providing young people with a sense of belonging and pride through culture.”

BMike is also using art as a tool to create cultural identity and belonging. He has not only transformed blighted spaces in New Orleans through powerful art but has also dressed historic landmarks with culturally relevant murals. Furthermore, he has created “Studio Be,” a space which has gained significant attention with its huge murals depicting issues such as civil rights. It is common to visit the studio and find young students touring around and learning powerful stories through Odums’ art.

Fortifying our social fabric through culture is part of the activities that The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has recognized as a strategy for sustainable urban development and Batiste and Odums are doing just that in a very organic and honest way. UNESCO has created its Creative Cities Network (UCCN) to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified and valued creativity as a strategic part of their development.

By joining this network, cities commit to sharing best practices and developing partnerships with civil society as well as in the public and private sectors. The application for cities to be part of this network will open in 2019, and hopefully, we will see New Orleans become part of this group.

In the meantime, we should celebrate and support the members of our community who are already embracing culture as a pathway to fortify the social fabric of our city.

Until next time!

Alejandra Guzman

Writer/Escritora 

Economic Development/Desarrollo Economico

@aleguzman

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Publisher's Note

Mixing Traditions

It is no cliché. New Orleans has a wonderful mix of traditions that add to the charm of this amazing city. With the holidays in full-swing, we can enjoy holiday-centered, free events like simple walks around traditional neighborhoods to see the elaborate Christmas decorations, Caroling in Jackson Square, attending the gospel and jazz concerts at St. Louis Cathedral and St. Augustine Church, watching the technological light display during Luna Fête, and visiting the beautifully decorated hotel lobbies in town, among others.

 There is one tradition in Louisiana that is so unique and that I hope to experience this year: The Bonfires on the Levee. Just thinking about seeing the pyres, the fireworks display and its reflection on the river during a cold night and having a warm drink while learning about this tradition from our River Parishes' neighbors sounds like an amazing way to soak in some of the culture around us.

Though the original purpose of the bonfires is unconfirmed, fitting the storyline of Papa Noel following the lights on a pirogue being pulled down river by alligators to deliver presents is such a tale. It involves a mix of many elements that are unique to the culture that has shaped the city of New Orleans.

I just love being able to experience different traditions and learning about the ways diverse groups of people who have made New Orleans their home, celebrate the holidays

Happy Holidays!