• Center for Community Change

Community Voices: Collaboration Builds Community, Moves Issues

A creative collaboration between a housing justice organization and two arts organizations produced an event, Uninhabitable, held October 20, 2016 in New Orleans.  At the event, people told their stories of poor living conditions, challenging the norm about who’s to blame for poor housing conditions.   The event was sponsored by The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC), Bring Your Own Stories and Radical Arts & Healing Collective – Colectivo de Radicales Artes y Curación.

GNOFHAC posted on their Facebook page about the event: We laughed so we wouldn’t cry about the conditions so many renters live with in this great city. Lesson learned: We have to stop asking why people don’t leave bad rentals, because often they can’t. We have to start asking why landlords aren’t doing what they should be doing. Stay in touch so those trapped in bad deals with slumlords know they don’t have to stand alone.

Co-producing similar event is part of what Bring Your Own has been doing since it was founded in 2012. In 2016, they co-produced events on worker justice, jobs and healthcare.  Bring Your Own is a live storytelling pop-up series that takes intimate spaces within the New Orleans community. Each month, seven storytellers have seven minutes to respond to a theme. Stories are told live, unscripted, and true to the teller. Storytellers volunteer prior to the event and are judged by three audience members to determine a winner, whose story is guaranteed for radio production.  Winners subsequently choose the next month’s theme. Bring Your Own is a production of Laine Kaplan-Levenson.

GNOFHAC is a nonprofit civil rights organization established in 1995 to eradicate housing discrimination. GNOFHAC’s work throughout Louisiana includes education, investigation and enforcement activities. GNOFHAC is dedicated to fighting housing discrimination because it is an illegal and divisive force that perpetuates poverty, segregation, ignorance, fear and hatred.

According to their website the Radical Arts and Healing Collective (RAHC) “officially” started in January 2016. At co-founding core member Ann-Meredith’s Upper 9th Ward home, they broke bread and drank spicy hot chocolate to begin dreaming, scheming and visioning an intersectional, intergenerational, multiracial arts and healing centered community space rooted in New Orleans, intended to serve the greater Gulf South and beyond to promote transformative and healing justice as well as self-determination through art as a tool to interrupt and transform deep roots of injustice.

By working together, these three organizations were able to use the art of storytelling, a little competition in a creative space making the message and learning about the housing conditions in New Orleans more impactful.

Note:  GNOFHAC is part of a coalition, Healthy Homes Coalition, that has pushed for action on these issues.  They have successfully gotten an ordinance introduced by the New Orleans city council.  The Healthy Homes Ordinance is in process of being voted on at the writing of this piece.

For more information please contact Monika Gerhart-Hambrick, Director of Policy and Communications at GNOFHAC mgerhart@gnofairhousing.org