A People's Gallery in the Heart of New Orleans
Canal Street is the heart of New Orleans. Disinvestment in the city, its public spaces and its people has created holes in this heart. As we archive the stories of the people, places, movements, events that shape our culture, we present these unheard and obscured histories where they belong, as central to the narrative of our collective history.
Three teams of volunteers fanned out to install Public Proposals and featured posters on some of the storefronts left vacant by disinvestment in the upper Canal Street corridor. Installations were located adjacent to the bus transfer hub at the intersection of Canal and Rampart. Hundreds of New Orleanians pass by every day on the way to work, school and shopping, and the Paper Monuments team collected proposals for new monuments from a few of them.
"Mardi Gras Indians are an important part of New Orleans culture," said Bryson and Tyson, two high-school students on their way by bus to an Eighth Ward barbershop. The two stopped by to read Public Proposals posted on the wall of a vacant theater on the corner of Elk Place and Canal Street, and worked together to create a beautiful drawing of a masking Indian.
Lauren, born and raised in the Desire Projects, was inspired by Public Proposals and the poster honoring the Black Panther organizers who worked in the neighborhood when she was growing up. She remembers the Panthers' presence in the neighborhood and the community's support for the organization's work. "Many people don't know about that story," she said.
The stories we tell say a lot about where we've come from as a people, and where we're going. The removal of four Jim Crow-era monuments, for which Black activists including the Take Em Down NOLA coalition and community leaders like Councilmember Dorothy Mae Taylor have fought for generations, has begun to open a world of possibilities for how changes to our systems of public memory can be a part of broader and much-needed movements for justice and equity in our city.
Movements for justice and equity, led by brave women, men, and children, immigrants and refugees, teachers and students, have always been at the center of our city's history. Now, their stories can be found in the center of our city, too.
Many thanks to all those who contributed their time, energy and effort to the People's Gallery.