Literacy in Recovery: Two years after Hurricane Katrina
August 15 - 29, 2007
Rachel Nicolosi, Manon Pavy, Karla Sikaffy, Linda Detiege, & Zarus E. P. Watson
From 15 August to 29 August 2007, a panel of guest
facilitators hosted a discussion on the Poverty, Race,
Women & Literacy Discussion List. The focus of their
discussion was the state of adult literacy in New Orleans
after Hurricane Katrina. The two-year anniversary of
this tragic event fell at the end of August, and, as we
know, there is still much that needs to be done to help
the residents of New Orleans.
The panel of guest facilitators consisted of Rachel
Nicolosi, a representative from the Literacy Alliance
of Greater New Orleans; Manon Pavy, a representative
from the YMCA Educational Services; Karla Sikaffy,
a representative from the Hispanic Apostolate ESL
Program; Linda Detiege, a spokesperson from the
now-defunct adult learner leadership group ALIVE
(Adult Learners Initiating Voices for Education); and
Dr. Zarus E. P. Watson, a representative from the UNO Research Center for Multiculturalism and Counseling at University of New Orleans.
Recommended reading in preparation for the discussion: The Greater New Orleans Community Data Center - the nonprofit that manages data related to the region including The Katrina Index. Beginning in December 2005, The Katrina Index began monitoring the social and economic recovery of the Gulf Coast region, especially the New Orleans area, from the storm's impact in August 2005. Relying on nearly 40 indicators, The Katrina Index has aimed to provide members of the media, key decision makers, nonprofit and private sector groups, and researchers with an independent, fact-based, one-stop resource to monitor and evaluate the progress of on-the-ground recovery. A two-year Special Edition will be released on August 8.
Thanks to Ryan Hall, a graduate student at Georgia State University, the following represents a compilation of the various topics discussed by listserv members while the panelists facilitated the discussion on the state of adult literacy in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Each topic contains one or more discussion threads arranged by questions and answers. All of the panelists' questions and comments are labeled with the name, while questions and comments from listserv members are labeled with first and last initials. Most of the postings were copied and pasted verbatim, with a few words edited here and there to facilitate reading. For complete postings, along with author information, go to the Poverty, Race, Women & Literacy Archives and look at postings between August 15 - 29, 2007.
Rachel Nicolosi is the Program Director for the Literacy Alliance of Greater New Orleans, a multi-stakeholder collaborative dedicated to increasing adult literacy through effective and innovative approaches and a committed community. The Alliance works in partnership with the
Lindy Boggs National Center for Community Literacy at Loyola University. It works with business, government, community groups and schools to advocate for literacy services, provide technical assistance and training in best practices, and support of the literacy provider network.
The Alliance office in the Loyola library did not flood after the hurricane, but was closed and home to the Oklahoma National Guard for two months. Organizationally 7 of 9 staff members lost their homes, operational funding has significantly decreased, and organizational structure and program activities have changed. Rachel was one of the two staff members who did not lose their home to flooding.
Manon Pavy is the Program Coordinator for YMCA Educational Services (YES!), the adult and family literacy branch of the YMCA of Greater New Orleans. The program has been in existence since 1977 and serves adult learners reading below the 9th grade level. Manon has been an adult literacy practitioner for over ten years and began her tour-of-duty as a YES! volunteer tutor in 1991. Manon has been an Adult Basic Education Instructor as well as a Volunteer Tutor Coordinator and Trainer. The YES! headquarters and main learning center were located in the neighborhood of Mid-City which received over 8 feet of floodwaters after the levees broke following Hurricane Katrina. YES! lost all of its teaching resources, including curriculum materials and computers.
In 2006, YES! formed a new partnership with the New Orleans Public Library, allowing it the use of their state-of-the-art learning center which had been closed due to citywide layoffs of Library staff after the storm. Manon has especially enjoyed her work teaching adult learners and feels that she is constantly learning and improving her skills.
Karla Sikaffy is Director of Adult Education for the Office of Catholic Schools-Archdiocese of New Orleans and Director of the ESL program for the Hispanic Apostolate Community Services-Archdiocese of New Orleans.
These programs have seen a large increase of non-native English students post-Katrina. Due to influx of migrant workers, the program went from approximately 140 students pre-Katrina to approximately 650 students post-Katrina. Many of the migrant workers are making up a large segment of the workforce as it relates to construction and the hospitality industry, and are facing language barriers that spill into receiving proper medical care. They work in alliance with Tulane University Center for Public Service and the Literacy Alliance of Greater New Orleans in order to provide five literacy/ESL sites in three parishes surrounding the Greater New Orleans area.
Linda Detiege is Spokesperson for ALIVE, Adult Learners Initiating Voices for Education. ALIVE was very active in serving adult learners to help them stay focused on their goals. Because of Hurricane Katrina, ALIVE members scattered around the state and are still trying to regroup. Linda's home was heavily damaged due to wind and rain during Hurricane Katrina, and her family is working to repair parts of her home while living in the rest. Linda says she is still struggling with words and still trying to learn information so she can help others; although, now that she is working, it is hard to keep learning.
Zarus E. P. Watson, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Counselor Education and Research Director, UNO Research Center for Multiculturalism and Counseling at University of New Orleans. His major research areas are social systems theory, systemic trauma and PTSD trauma symptomology in institutions and peripheralized individuals, families and groups. The University suffered moderate wind and rain damage from the storm but suffered far greater fiscal losses due to an initial 60% loss of student population and a parallel loss of funding from the state. Couple this with slow FEMA responses and the last two years have been painful.
DG: What do adult literacy programs look like in New Orleans after Katrina?
Rachel: In the 5 parishes that immediately surround and include the city, there were about 30 organizations that provided literacy, GED, and ESL services from state funded school systems to small nonprofits and everything in between. We now have 13 programs operating, about 10 other organizations are back but not offering adult education services, and a handful did not reopen at all. A few programs have merged resources to stay afloat, and there are at least three new programs.
Karla: Our program has been in existence for the past 13 years and provides ESL and Citizenship Classes. We went from approximately 140 pre-Katrina adult students to 640 students post-Katrina for the academic year of 2006-2007. With the team of a Program Coordinator, Site Coordinator, AmeriCorps Vistas and Directs, site facilitators, service learners, volunteers and community partnerships, we have been able to meet the increasing need for ESL classes in the Greater New Orleans area and its adjacent parishes.
Currently, we have five sites in three parishes and provide Pre-Beginner to Level Four classes AM and PM, one-on-one tutoring, reading program and social support with weekend activities for the families. This has allowed us to retain approximately 400 of the 640 students and increased their English communication skills. In order to do this, we have collaborated with Tulane University Center for Public Service. Students are pre and post tested and are provided with a goals assessment which is revisited at the end of the semester. Since most of our instructors are juniors and seniors in college, we follow their academic calendar.
We have approximately 50 service learners that are our instructors. These college students come from various departments, but mainly the Stone Center for Latin American Studies and are very committed in helping rebuild our city by teaching English to the influx of migrant workers. All of our instructors are screened and must attend a mandatory orientation and training which covers best practices and methodologies, cultural awareness and policies and procedures. The training is conducted twice a year at a 6-hour workshop. We provide all of the instructors with materials and resources as well as a hand held curriculum. Professional development is provided throughout the year for instructors and students are referred to various social service programs that can assist them.
Manon: Before Katrina ("pre-K"), the New Orleans Public Library had two adult education centers-one located in a library in the Lower 9th, an area that flooded extensively. The other is in downtown New Orleans, on the 3rd floor of the Main Library branch. This branch reopened soon after the hurricane, but its Learning Center was forced to close. This was because its instructional staff-city employees-were laid off due to budget cuts brought on by the hurricane.
A few months after Katrina, the director of the NOPL generously offered to partner with another literacy program by providing use of its then dormant Learning Center. YES! jumped at the chance to offer programming once again in Orleans Parish. In April 2006, YMCA Educational Services (YES!) moved into a fabulous space, a fully equipped center with a dozen computer stations. We have dubbed our new collaboration the YMCA Learning Center @ the NOPL. Since April 2006, we have served over 200 ABE students. It has been so incredible to have adult learners find us once again despite our mutual displacement... our new group is a blend of former YES! students, former NOPL Learning Center students, and new students.
NDN: What is the quality of local library services in NO and do they provide literacy?
Manon: I know the library system in New Orleans has been rebuilding at a steady pace. I would call it an incredible feat! My understanding is that eight locations are now open and six "temporary" branches-housed in modular buildings, schools, and storefronts-will be opening soon. The Lower Ninth Ward's Martin Luther King Jr. Branch, described as the "poster child" for flooded New Orleans libraries, is one of these. Check out the NOPL's website for more information: http://nutrias.org
By sharing resources, YES! and the NOPL have managed to keep literacy services afloat in New Orleans (pun intended!)
Rachel: Library repair is a factor that is counted as a sign of recovery, and I have copied below the status of the regional libraries from the recent New Orleans Index that we advertised as good pre- and post reading for this conversation. (Manon and the city of New Orleans are in Orleans Parish) Link is below:
Library repairs lag other educational building repairs-particularly in those parishes that experienced less damage. Two out of 12 libraries remain closed in St. Tammany. There are no libraries open in St. Bernard. Two out of three libraries are still closed in Plaquemines Parish. Five out of 16 libraries remain closed in Jefferson Parish. And four out of 13 libraries are still shuttered in Orleans Parish. Of the nine libraries in operation in Orleans Parish, two are operating out of FEMA trailers. (See Appendix A: Map Gallery for a display of open libraries in Orleans Parish and their status.) Overall, of the 46 libraries that existed in those five parishes prior to Katrina, 70 percent are now re-opened.
DG: Learners in adult literacy programs after Katrina-have they returned and what are their experiences?
Karla: Since we are an ESL program we did see some of our pre-Katrina students. However, our program has increased with the influx of migrant workers.
Linda: The mission of ALIIVE is to help reshape, to help rebuild, and to help encourage adult learners to help reconstruct their lives so that they can advocate for themselves and help others find success within himself or herself. Hurricane Katrina changed all that. Adult learners find that it is hard to stay focused. State and local leaders have plans around rich and middle class, but what are they doing for the poor adults that want to come home?
DG: It must be very hard for adult learners in New Orleans to focus on learning. I am wondering, if you know, are most of the learners in your classes are living back in their houses? Can they find jobs? What type of skills do they want to learn in their classes?
Linda: It was very hard for me (Linda) to read and understand all the postings that I was reading, but I read every posting. I believe that ALIVE (Adult Learners Initiating Voices for Education) under the umbrella of Boggs/Alliance strategies for change has developed an outreach that will connect with valuable steps to long-term actions. Together let the truth be told that the directors and adult learners lives have been change because of Katrina. One of ALIVE member went to many adult centers that was networks for growth for the adult learners Pre-Katrina, but construction is taking place at many of these centers.
I am not in an adult learner center now, but struggle everyday to pronounce words on my job as a salesperson. Adult learners directors and workforce connections should believe in their programs to help a person gain skills so that they can reshape their lives and advocate for themselves and others. I did not see nor spoke any of the adult learners that was in class with me, but I did speak a adult learner who was on a waiting list Pre-Katrina. Then I ask her about Post-Katrina and she answer that the teachers do not care. She drop out and found a job. The adult learner was not happy so her husband talk to her about re-enrolling again in a GED program, she did. Last I ask her about Goals and her answer was she have none to move forward. I remember the subject mission and money. The question I have to ask did she become a number for a program grant.
In closing adult learners enroll in programs for many reasons. The data that the Alive collected show how family values challenge the system because the true is there in the voices adult learners, the voices of the community, the voices the researchers, but the most promise voice is the voices of the people who advocate for the whole mission. Remember Katrina open New Orleans eye to a lot of things that was not right.
Let build on a hard question that we should ask ourselves (WHAT IS MY PURPOSE?) and focus on Rebuilding a better New Orleans as one body that have many resources that work. Remember what can you bring to New Orleans table that cannot be move.
DG: What are the unique struggles that immigrants face after Katrina?
Karla: The number one struggle for immigrants is the language barriers they face. Without knowing the language they are unable to seek employment or retain employment. They are also unaware of their rights and unable to defend themselves from the constant abuse they endure on a daily basis. Accessing medical care has also been a challenge here. Many have been rejected medical care due to the language barriers. In addition, many are bringing their families and children and they face the challenge of being unable to communicate with their kids' teachers. There are many more challenges and, unless the changing demographics are taken into account in the rebuilding phase and ESL program funding is increased, we will only see the negative effects it will have on our workforce and economy.
DG: Literacy Volunteers in adult literacy programs after Katrina-do they exist-are they hard to find? I wonder if one of our panelists can talk about the extent of literacy volunteers in New Orleans. Has the need for volunteers, in all lines of work, taken away from the pool of typical volunteers as adult literacy tutors?
Karla: We have been very fortunate to collaborate with Tulane University Center for Public Service. It would be impossible for us to meet the needs of so many students without this collaboration. Therefore, we do not have this problem. However, our challenge is finding funding for a site facilitator that will monitor the site. We have had to get creative and have fundraisers, book sales, implement a donation for the classes, and ask the private sector for support.
LL: …In my personal value system, volunteer work is some of the most noble and important to the community and individual. Doing good makes one feel good and this can have an especially powerful affect on folks whose life situations aren't great. Some of the behavioral health programs in SF actually require clients to complete a certain [number] of volunteer hours before graduation. Even though most everyone needs a job and adult learners are already likely to be struggling to meet multiple needs with limited resources, there's a lot more to "work" than picking up a paycheck.
Manon: At YES! we recently held a volunteer tutor training, in early August, and had a very healthy turnout. I believe that the adult literacy field attracts a special type of volunteer, with a particular interest in this area, usually a passion for education, reading, and/or social justice... I don't think there will ever be a shortage of literacy volunteers. At every training I've conducted, there's always been folks who have wanted to be literacy volunteers for a long time, even years, and have just been waiting for the ideal opportunity.
That said, during the first year after the hurricane especially, we would get requests from diverse volunteer groups who wanted to volunteer at the YES! Learning Center -for 3 weeks usually-as part of their New Orleans volunteer "experience." This was met by a resounding if polite NO!... we didn't want our learners to be part of the NOLA "devastation tour."
AS: I realize that the response to this question may vary depending on the specific program or site. How have the content offerings or instructional approaches changed, if at all, post Katrina?
As a former literacy teacher, I realize that it is common to use non-contextualized resources and approaches in adult literacy programs. I also understand the practicality (given other variables) and the potential skill attainment and effectiveness with this usual approach. However, I value and promote the 'increased usage' and 'integration' of contextualized instruction given the vast and dire needs of our students.
Manon: The most striking change in the YES! adult literacy program has occurred because of the scarcity of GED programs in our area, post-Katrina. There are only a handful of GED programs now in operation in Orleans Parish. Most notably, the large adult education program run by the public school system (and which, I believe, received funding from the LA State Department of Education) has not reopened since the storm. This void has created pressure on smaller, independent programs, such as YES!, to address an increased demand (while seeking adequate funding to do so.)
Traditionally, the YES! mission has been to help adult learners gain basic reading and writing skills. Post-Katrina, YES! is maintaining its service policy of working with adults (17 years or older) with grade levels below 9th grade (based on TABE scores). Because of the constant demand for "GED," especially from youth, YES! has started identifying itself as a "pre-GED" program (as well as a "literacy" program to those few who don't mention the GED!) This pressure to remain meaningful in terms of "GED" has changed the YES! curriculum significantly. YES! instructors used to focus primarily on strengthening reading skills, with improvement in reading as a goal in itself, for life, for job. With a new "pre-GED" track (for those learners who state this as their goal), lesson planning is greatly driven by/correlated to TABE scores (weaknesses and strengths in given areas); lessons now usually include math, and there is an emphasis on developing test-taking strategies. The "pre-GED" students often seek frequent reassurance/explanation as to "why" this or that activity will help them get their GED, how long it will take, when will they be ready for the test...
Thus, post-Katrina, YES! is absorbing learners who probably would have attended mainstream GED programs. They would have been told that they were studying for their GED but placed in the lower-level/remedial classes. By using the term "pre-GED" on a regular basis, for the first time in its 30-year history, YES! is both adapting for survival but it is also being responsive and realistic. Are these changes good? I have mixed feelings. I believe retention will be increased because YES! is responding to the wishes of participants. I also believe it is a fundamental show of respect to value the goals of learners, despite misgivings about motivation.
On the other hand, I know that the coveted GED hinges upon decent, if not strong, reading skills. Among the 200 students I evaluated in the past two years, only a dozen were at a GED (i.e., high school) reading level (and were then referred to a GED program). This tells me that there is a LITERACY crisis in New Orleans and that the GED-seekers will not meet their goals until they can improve their reading. I think there is also a crisis in the marketing of the GED. Rather, there is only marketing and no content. This is something for another discussion. But the GED has come to be understood as a goal in itself and a goal that somehow does not involve reading! I hope that one day LITERACY will be understood as a positive word.
AS: With the opportunities for service/tourism related jobs, are there any collaborations among literacy programs and industry to train and support the participants' (entry level) attainment of employment? What about ongoing collaborations with mental health, social services and other community service providers as an extension of the literacy program offerings?
Manon: At YMCA Educational Services, many referrals come from social service agencies. The YES! home office/ Learning Center is housed at the New Orleans Public Library's Main Library branch in the downtown area. This library was a FEMA site for about a year after the hurricane. During this period we received many "walk-in" adult learners who sought immediate help filling out applications related to hurricane recovery assistance. As so many applications these days are required to be submitted via computer, this was especially daunting for adults who have trouble with basic reading and writing skills!
As an Adult Basic Education Instructor at the YMCA Learning Center in New Orleans, I have been struck by the steadfast desire of adult learners to regain the momentum they had before the storm in regard to their studies. This seems to be the case regardless of their level. Many were enrolled in the YES! program or another literacy or GED program before the hurricane. They may acknowledge that they lost their books in the flooding, when asked, but the students I have worked with don't dwell on the interruption or time lost. Where content is concerned, they seem happy to continue where they left off. To outsiders, this may not seem very dramatic, but it strikes me as a healthy response.
AS: Thanks for sharing your experience. It is indeed remarkable to hear of the students' drive to move on, as before, in their educational pursuits as their response.
I wonder, however, what opportunities have teachers seen and taken (through their own reflective practice) to expand on the services or approaches for their students, despite the students' usual expectations/acceptance of the literacy program offerings.
Zarus: I would like to address the timely queries from AS in the preceding post. Especially of interest is the notion of somehow integrating the functions of mental health and/or social services as integrated components of a literacy program's offering.
I have in fact structured a "career counseling" cognate into an adult literacy program, which was located in a local public school. Previously, the programs record of retention, much less attainment of a GED, was below 40% for females and less than half of that for males. It was noted that after a six-month period of operation, that progress rates had increased markedly and retention rates had gone up a third for females while increasing some 200% for males.
It would seem that the program participants (when interviewed) found that having a recognized occupational "goal" to work for (even if distant) made their present program work more meaningful. They also noted that the career counseling experience helped them to become consciously aware of personal barriers that might impede them and to begin actively problem-solving ways of mitigating or even eliminating such obstacles from their lives.
While I note that this pilot project, which lasted over two years, is only one such example of what might be accomplished and does not, in itself, form a consensus; we might consider that some sort of integrated model implied by AS may indeed be the way to go.
AS: Your career counseling pilot project results are remarkable.
Was there a trained counselor providing direct service to the students? A literacy staff member? Did you use a certain model to counsel varied leveled students? Was it a one-to-one interview process/survey as part of intake that allowed students to discuss their career goals? Were students supported in getting immediate employment as well?
I think what is key here is that, (1) Someone took time to take an interest and to show a sense of belief (hope) in the students' futures. (2) The students felt as if they had something to work towards. (3) The resources were either added or assigned to ensure this offering.
Zarus, you're right. Using the lens of progressivism and critical theory, I do believe, as educators, advocates and administrators, we have to find opportunities to go beyond 'business as usual' in our approach to literacy services. This means establishing vital collaborations AND reflecting on our own practice(s)and attitudes and taking individual and collective action as needed. I realize given the historical and structural context of the field of adult literacy and the lack of systemic support, change can be easier said than done. Yet, for all the stakeholders involved, particularly the students, it's worth the effort.
Zarus: In regards to the pilot project I described, the direct services (career counseling based) were provided by doctoral students (all of whom have terminal clinical masters degree's and were licensed professional counselors). The process was both "one-to-one" with clients, as well as with small groups (the one on one contacts are great when needing to get to sensitive information in a safe manner; the small group structure works well in tandem because it gets over to the clients that they are not alone and that others also go through similar challenges). One thing I would mention is that the counseling aspects were effective with students who were at varying levels of literacy readiness. There was also follow-up sessions as clients attained their goal(s) (i.e. GED, etc...) in pursued employment, post-secondary training and education and/or employment maintenance.
It is also important to note that the literacy educational staff and the counselors worked "hand-in-hand" because everyone knew why they were there and what the goal of the program was. And yes, the clients felt respected as people and not as a "lab rat" subject. I have a short research list that includes publishing exactly what the model looks like, along with the results. It is important to note, however, that we were not preparing the clients to be employee's of any particular business, but to rather produce functionally literate individuals who possess critical thinking skills and a positive outlook that can overcome setbacks. Again, thanks for asking and I hope I've addressed most of your questions.
AS: I had a similar pilot project I initiated which also used a Masters level counseling graduate student to provide services, to individuals and groups (including career counseling). We called it the Life Enrichment Program. It lasted for a semester, the duration of the student's practice/internship time. While the results were not as quantifiable as yours, they were promising.
Zarus: Your pilot experience just goes to show that, even though short, it may point the way. That's what applied research is all about; a testing base to what are best practices for a given population with a certain need(s).
CR: I would like to congratulations on your pilot project. I know it took a long time, but when you realize success with your project it is a wonderful. I have often worked with women of all races who feel dejected and have no focus and when they are shown what they have for future opportunities to enrich themselves, they become a beacon.
DR: What role, if any, does technology play in adult literacy? What role should it play in adult literacy, in community building, in connecting with residents who have not been able to return to New Orleans, in building an effective emergency communications system, in promoting technology skills? In other ways? (computers, mobile phones, other technology).
Rachel: I've been thinking about the technology issue in 2 parts - during the disaster and during the recovery. As you may know, for a few months there was no electricity, no land lines, no cell phones - the area code 504 ceased to exist. Interestingly, there were reports of people sitting outside a closed (everything was closed then) coffee shop with their laptops because the wireless server was working. The discussion boards on nola.com were sorted by neighborhood and bursting with up to the minute reports from people who were still in the city - requests for help, ways to sneak into the city (I took one of those), damage reports, sources of food, water etc. Very very live.
The loss of the cell phones was the worst - you could not find anybody. So, find out where your friends' parents live - I now know where all my friends and colleagues would evacuate to should we need to again.
During the disaster, the places where evacuees went helped learners use the technology needed to access the resources available. You had to apply online for FEMA assistance and I think for Red Cross assistance. There were online databases of missing people and missing pets. Literacy programs and other volunteer groups helped with this effort.
During the recovery (when did it turn from disaster to recovery? Um, I guess about January 2006 in my mind?) There are still a lot of information and resources to be had online - the Road Home program begins with an online application (PC but not Mac), Louisiana Rebuilds.info is the huge database connecting to all resources, you could contribute to the Unified New Orleans Plan online if you were still out of the city, election information was online, new organizations and new sources of information - all very exciting.
New Orleans has started a limited wireless city initiative - I haven't heard much about anybody who has used it. I'll have to go downtown and plug in one afternoon. I haven't seen much in the way of including it in adult literacy instruction, but I think now that things have stabilized a bit, it might be a good time try something new.
DG: Funding for adult literacy programs after Katrina-how much and from where?
Karla: Programs are maxed out and underfunded.
Rachel: Someone asked me if the nonprofits had picked up the slack in providing services, and the answer is a resounding NO. Foundation dollars and general public donations went and still go to emergency crisis issues like housing and direct assistance. With a few exceptions, it was the programs that were already part of the federal and state adult ed funding that were able to reopen. There has been only one source of new federal funds for literacy and that is the Literacy*AmeriCorps grant, the fabulous Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council as lead agency. It has been a struggle to keep everything together to meet the stringent requirements and the match, but it has been worth it. The full-time tutors have been an invaluable help to struggling programs with crowded classrooms and limited resources.
The bulk of the funding that comes close to us is in workforce development; proposals, which highlight low literacy rates in the need section and yet relegate funding for literacy services to an afterthought. (I'm sure I don't have to elaborate on that to y'all!) Our small network of advocates was able to change that to make literacy services a required component during the public comment period for the Louisiana Recovery Authority grants. As our organization had some early successes in building capacity for workplace literacy and workforce development prior to the storm, we were invited to be part of several consortia that applied and received grants in this area.
Karla: HACS is funded by an EL/Civic grant from the state department of education. Our grant is only for $20,000 and does not even cover the salaries for the only three paid staff members. In addition, we are always cut out of extra funding for professional development because we are not just a Literacy program (that also offers GED) nor are we a Family Literacy program. Despite that we have increased our numbers drastically, retained our students and have proven an increase in English proficiency level.
MD: What is the opportunity for the Louisiana Department of Education to increase the allocation in light of the increased ESOL population?
Karla: We have an EL/Civic grant which is the least funded literacy program in our state compared to Adult Literacy and Family Literacy. I cannot say whether funding will increase for the ESOL population, but can say that we went from 140 students pre-Katrina to 640 students post-Katrina and our funding never increased. In addition, when funding was re-distributed for professional development, we were excluded and were told because we fell under the EL/Civic grant and not Adult Literacy or Family Literacy. What this means is beyond my comprehension.
MD: Can state staff development or leadership dollars cover the cost of bringing in the one or two ESOL planning experts that are needed and cover the costs of implementation activities the experts develop with those on the ground?
Karla: I doubt the state will cover the cost to bring one or two ESOL planning experts to help out. We have asked the state to increase our funding for staff development and were told that we could only use 5% of our grant for administrative costs (a total of $1000). Our challenge is funding to hire site facilitators to oversee programs that are accommodating approximately 100 plus students per site along with volunteer instructors.
MD: Can funding for VESOL programs come from the local WIB funding -it is clearly an eligible activity for core services?
Karla: I am not sure if funding can come from WIB. From past experience, the grants we have applied for had many restrictions that did not allow the new demographics to access training dollars. In addition, it was to develop new programs and many that we are already providing. More federal dollars are needed in order to continue to meet the demand for ESL programs.
Zarus: The issue in N.O. concerning funding conditions is not a new one. There were funding shortfalls before the storm event. You are also correct in that the heart of the issue surrounds poverty (class); though, socio-race accompanies it as a set of interaction effects. Also, like you, I've drawn my own pictures regarding the situation, not just as it is now, but as it has been for the past several generations. The picture as I see it is that the system is set up to tolerate (if not require) a dependable source of low-wage semi to unskilled work force (and not just in N.O). I've seen a theme in variation in most urban cities in the U.S. In fact, the funding of public education through local governments instead of through a centralized federal conduit (like all of the rest of the industrialized world) is almost a guarantor of this sort of situation in the U.S. for the foreseeable future.
Rachel: …here are some quotes from the August 2007 New Orleans Index - these related to Zarus' comments about the economy and work. I tried to pick out just a few pertinent quotes. It's interesting to see what is counted and how they count it.
- No doubt, visitors to the city are critical to bolstering the sales tax revenue for the city. The portion of the sales tax that comes from hotels and motels, especially for the months between February and May of 2007, representing the major visitor draws of Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, have also rebounded to near pre-Katrina levels. Specifically, taxes from hotel and motel stays generated a total of $3.4 million in revenue for the city between February and May of 2007, representing 74.2 percent of the total revenues during that period in 2005.
- According to the most recent estimates, the New Orleans region lost more than 4,000 firms in the one year following the disaster; by fall of 2006, the city and the metro area region had reached 72 percent and 85 percent of its pre-Katrina employer base.
- As of fall 2006, Orleans Parish was home to 72 percent of its pre-Katrina employer level, St. Bernard less than half at 48 percent, and Jefferson has nearly recovered its firm numbers, retaining nearly 93 percent of pre-Katrina numbers.
- One bright spot: All parishes saw new business start-ups. New Orleans has had 1,014 employers move in or open new businesses; St. Tammany, 1,094; Jefferson, 1,644. Even St. Bernard Parish welcomed 70 new employers that moved in or began new businesses since Katrina.
- In the first year after the storm, the New Orleans metro area lost 118,500 jobs representing 20 percent of all pre-Katrina jobs. In the last 10 months, 17,000 jobs have been regained, such that the metro area now has 80 percent of its pre-Katrina job base. The vast majority of the jobs lost in the metro area over the last two years were in the services sector, which made up 87 percent of all jobs in the region.
- Within the services sector, the biggest absolute and percentage job losses remain in two subsectors: education and health services and leisure and hospitality. One year after Katrina, the region had lost 23,100 out of 79,400 jobs in the education and health services industries. By year two, 3,200 of those 23,100 lost jobs have been recovered, in part due to the reopening of the public schools. Similar trend lines can be seen in leisure and hospitality, which is critical to bolstering the tourism industry in the region. This industry, which employed 85,800 workers prior to Katrina, is supported by 75 percent of its prior employment capacity as of June 2007.
DG: What role does workforce development play?
Karla: Workforce development training dollars are not taking into account the new demographics, which represents a high percentage of the workforce in New Orleans.
TS: Following is a message from September 2005 that I believe still has relevance for adult literacy education in New Orleans post-Katrina.
First, I want to express gratitude and congratulations to John Comings for getting a Letter to the Editor published in the New York Times regarding the importance of basic skills education in the revival of New Orleans. This is a much needed form of advocacy for adult basic skills education. Thanks a lot John!
Second, I want to express my great relief in hearing from Lou Johnson. Hi Lou! I worried about you and other colleagues in the New Orleans area whom I met last year when I spoke in that great town. I was glad to hear that, as always, you are thinking ahead to what action can be taken to help the people of New Orleans with basic skills needs move forward.
At the present time, under the circumstances of recovering from a disaster, many adults in New Orleans will need to be retrained for well paying jobs and they will need to do this quickly. In this case, it is most advantageous to integrate basic skills education with vocational education or on-the-job training and education. Approaches in which adults are asked to first raise their basic skills to some predetermined level to qualify for vocational/job training should be avoided. They take too long, they add basic skills training as a front end to vocational/job training and they can be frustrating for adults who have immediate needs for work.
New Orleans needs a massive application of Functional Context Education (FCE) in which there is extensive partnerships among employers, unions, vocational/job trainers, and basic skills educators. Vocational and basic skills educators need to examine both their vocational and their basic skills programs to find out how both may be redesigned to integrate basic skills with vocational/job training so that both can be accomplished as quickly as possible while still maintaining education and industry standards for working in a given field.
An FCE Task Force, properly funded with education, labor, and FEMA funds should be established as soon as possible. Plans for and actions for staff development in the area of FCE program development should be accomplished immediately.
The National Institute for Literacy, Department of Education, and Department of Labor are planning and funding activities in workforce development and they should quickly be contacted to plan a massive basic skills and vocational/job training skills master plan for New Orleans and surrounding areas. The National Center for Adult Learning and Literacy might be considered for keeping track of what is done and evaluating the intergovernmental activities at federal, state, and local levels.
This is the time to move on Lou's forward looking action to revive the workforce of New Orleans.
My best wishes to you, Lou, and to all my other friends in adult literacy work in New Orleans. This can be done!
TS: Here is a second message from an earlier Katrina-related posting that I believe still has relevance for New Orleans post-Katrina.
There is clearly an urgent need for undereducated adults in the Gulf Coast and New Orleans area to receive solid basic skills education in the context of training for well paying jobs and areas of entrepreneurship. Of particular concern is the need for education and training of many poorly skilled women who are single and managing families on their own.
For several years I worked on and off with Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) on adult literacy projects that followed Functional Context Education principles and integrated basic skills education (reading, math) with job skills training for non traditional, well-paying jobs for women, and business skills training. The last project that I worked on with WOW was its Six strategies for Family Economic Self-Sufficiency project.
As part of the project, in 1999 I worked with a women's organization in San Francisco to illustrate how Functional Context Education principles could be followed in microenterprise training and development. This provides a good resource for adult basic skills and vocational/job skills education providers in the Gulf coast area, particularly New Orleans. Here is a little background about the Six Strategies project, FCE, and
Microenterprise Training and Development. Following are several paragraphs about the project that are taken from information available online at http://www.SixStrategies.org/sixstrategies/sixstrategies.cfm
Six Strategies for Family Economic Self-Sufficiency-Overview For many families, especially those moving from welfare to work, self-sufficiency cannot be achieved in a single step. It requires strategies that create ladders out of poverty-strategies that provide the assistance, guidance and time needed for families to become self-sufficient. Recognizing this, Wider Opportunities for Women promotes Six Strategies for Self-Sufficiency:
- The Self-Sufficiency Standard
- Targeting Higher-Wage Employment
- Nontraditional Employment for Women
- Functional Context Education
- Microenterprise Training and Development
- Individual Development Accounts
Why the Six Strategies?
- Because women currently earn 74¢ for every dollar men earn.
- Because 60% of all minimum wage workers are women.
- Because most welfare recipients leaving the rolls for work earn very low wages.
- Because nearly one in three American households possesses zero or
These realities demonstrate the critical need for strategies that will help families move out of poverty and into lasting economic security. The Six Strategies are tools for individuals, community-based organizations, and state- and local-level policymakers to use to truly help low-income families move out of poverty and achieve long-term economic stability and independence.
In today's policy environment-in which welfare and workforce legislation have devolved power to states and localities-new and effective strategies are urgently needed to aid low-income people:
Functional Context Education
- What it is and why it works
- State and federal legislation
- Resources pertaining to this strategy
What it is and why it works
Functional Context Education (FCE) is an instructional strategy that integrates the teaching of literacy skills and job content to move learners more successfully and quickly toward their educational and employment goals.
Programs that use the FCE model are more effective than traditional programs that teach basic skills and job skills in sequence because this innovative approach teaches literacy and basic skills in the context in which the learner will use them. Clients see clearly the role literacy skills play in moving them toward their goals. This strategy promotes better retention, encourages lifelong learning and supports the intergenerational transfer of knowledge.
- For adults who have already experienced school failure, enrollment in
programs that use traditional approaches to teaching often reproduce that
failure. Functional context education programs address this problem by
using content related to adult goals to teach basic skills.
- Basic education and technical training must be relevant to the skills and
education required by jobs if low-income persons are going to succeed in
becoming economically self-sufficient. In addition, most adults do not
have time to spend years in basic education programs learning skills that
may seem unrelated to their educational and economic goals.
- Given welfare time limits and restrictions on education and training, it is
more important than ever that individuals master basic and job-specific
skills as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Microenterprise Training and Development
- What it is and why it works
- State and federal legislation
- Resources pertaining to this strategy
What it is and Why it Works
Microenterprise development is an income-generating strategy that helps low-income people start or expand very small businesses. Generally, the business is owned and operated by one person or family, has fewer than five employees and can start up with a loan of less than $25,000. Microenterprise is an attractive option for low-income women who may have lacked opportunity but who are highly motivated and have skills in a particular craft or service.
Even in the current booming economy, pockets of unemployment and underemployment remain. The lack of quality employment options-especially or low-income, low-skilled women-makes microenterprise development a critical strategy for moving families out of poverty.
- Low-income women entrepreneurs, especially those living in rural or
inner-city communities isolated from the economic mainstream, often lack
the contacts and networks needed for business success.
- Peer networks (such as lending circles and program alumnae groups) help
women learn to earn from each other, build self-esteem and organize
around policy advocacy.
- Linkages between microentrepreneurs and more established women
business owners provide program participants with role models, facilitate
an ongoing transfer of skills, and expand networks.
I hope that adult literacy and vocational/job training educators in the Gulf Coast area can work together with business, industry and those desiring microenterprise or entrepreneurship education to develop effective programs that integrate basic skills and vocational skills education. As Russ Tershy, the former Director of the Center for Employment Training (CET) in San Jose, CA used to say, there is only one piece of paper more valuable than a GED in times of need- a good paycheck!
This is the time to eschew literacy programs that are too often too irrelevant to the critical life contexts of adults and to aim for strong, intensive, meaningful basic skills/vocational skills education that can get people on their economic feet quickly. Then that should be followed by additional upskilling and further education. But first folks need a way to make a good living!
DR: In New Orleans, and in Louisiana, exactly who are the Powers, and who could influence their decisions, and how?
In Massachusetts, where I live, the decision-makers on adult education--in no particular order -- include the following:
- The state legislature, both branches
- The Governor
- The Commissioner of Education, the Deputy Commissioner, and the state ABE Director
- The State Board of Education
- The Cabinet-level Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development
- Organized Labor, including teachers unions and the SEIU
- Business associations
- Businesses that contribute to political campaigns
The influencers of the powers include:
- The state Adult Education organization, MCAE, its Public Policy Committee, and its ally organizations
- Currently enrolled adult learners, graduates -- especially adult learner leaders -- and also people on waiting lists
- The state adult learner leadership organization, Mass AAL (which, working with ally organizations, this year held the largest adult literacy State House rally ever)
- Think tanks, especially the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (Mass INC) , NCSALL and the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.
Over two decades we have had some success in Massachusetts, and we also have much more to do. Some years we have done better than others, but overall, the trend is good. Some of our tools include:
- cultivating and working closely with legislative champions
- reaching every legislator every year through meetings; phone calls; invitations to visit programs; data on need and supply of services in their districts; postcards from students when they graduate thanking the legislators, and when they are on waiting lists, and in between;
- media campaigns -- mostly articles in newspapers but occasionally on TV, too
- coordinating with ally organizations on our campaigns
- getting and staying very well organized over a long period of time
- State house rallies
Other states use some of these tools, and other tools.
What do the Power Terrain and the Influence Terrain look like in Louisiana? What are the strategies and tools for educating the Powers that Be there?
Although I am introducing these questions in the context of post-Katrina Louisiana, I am also interested in responses from other states about how they do this civic/social activism work, and their analysis of how to reach and educate policy makers on adult literacy education, so I will post a similar set of questions on the AAACE-NLA list.
Rachel: …our board has initiated a Public Policy and Advocacy Planning initiative that is in its final months. We had started one prior to the hurricane with our state nonprofit association in a consortia approach with several other collaboratives (afterschool, homeless, substance abuse etc.) - however, it dissolved due to survival pressures. We are using the "Lobbying and Advocacy Handbook for Nonprofit Organizations" by Marcia Avner as a guide for planning, education and action. I have a lot of information that I could share with you, but I did want to make two points here.
One, although public policy has been on our agenda and our wish list and our to do list - it never got done except for reactionary activities until now. And it is not happening now because of the disaster. I still don't have time or funding to do this. It is getting done because I am also in a masters program, and I am documenting this process as part of my research project. So, it has to get done. Otherwise, it would still be on the back burner even though we know its importance. Our capacity for public policy work as a field needs to be addressed and readdressed if we're going to make a difference.
Secondly, as you've shown below - it's all about the state. We're a regional collaborative with tenuous ties to the state professional association that currently does not do public policy. We are limited in our successes with a regional approach, but oh, the thought of expansion right now…
EA: How has adult education been connected to struggles for social justice?
Zarus: As a social systems researcher, I tend to look at the interconnectedness of elements both in present time as well as through the prism of time. This rings true to me as I consider the issue of adult literacy and social justice in NO. It has been asserted in years past that the primary industry in NO is overwhelmingly tourism. The jobs often associated with tourism are rather low wage service positions in hotels, motels, restaurants and even sales. In fact, historically, it would not be surprising for an individual to work one and a half to two jobs just to try to make ends meet. This, of course led many youngsters to their own devices while parents were away working. This led to slips in educational attainment, especially for African Americans, that became noticeable in the mid 1980's. Those ill educated youngsters are now parents and even grandparents. Many have raised subsequent generations with the same outlook on the importance of education (which is usually, it's not that important in order to go to work).
To make a long story short, we now have an enduring culture of poverty within NO that has a different value set of, not just what is important and desirable but also how one gets there. With the continual decades-long erosion of the public school system, adult literacy was one of the only remedial elements that could be employed as a net by which a person could retool or acquire new skills in order for them to prosper and not just survive.
In the post Katrina NO, as in the pre Katrina NO, I truly wonder if the dearth of funding from governmental agencies and industry or even the past development of impotent and disorganized literacy elements within the public schools themselves were not accidental but rather, a protectionist strategy. We all know that an ill educated populace is often a hopeless one within a system that is resistant. As such, they accept (unhappily) their low wages (thinking that this is the norm and/or simply cannot be changed). Their children who witness and model this day-to-day existence will, for the most part, follow suit (exceptions aside, we've seen the historical evidence of this). Meanwhile, the tourist related industry (especially those headed by out-of-town corporations) protect their bottom line with low wage costs that often rival those found in third world countries.
I'm finding myself getting angry as I write this so I'll wrap this up with a query possibly for the rest of the readers. That is, if we assume that NO is a fairly dysfunctional city with a historically dysfunctional state, located within a socially troubled region comprising a nation whose behaviors are often adolescent, at best, what are the possible ways in which we can begin to turn the opinion in the body public in regards to the following: that low levels of literacy within a large percentage of the adult population will only geometrically magnify itself through families and that, in the long run, will led to ever greater negative symptomology (i.e. Crime, violence (domestic and other), etc...) that will also negatively impact the quality of life of all; from the captains of industry with the short term bottom line orientation to those who live in distant gated communities? Our time in NO is running very short.
Zarus: In response to the question concerning the connection between adult literacy and social justice: one of the most significant ways has been surrounding the writing workshops that have been reflective of the participant's personal and group connected experiences within the social context of N.O. Such activities, especially when publicized in workshops, seminars or even book form, helps to give a revealing voice to issues of social justice as well as to extend these significant issues to a audience who may be at a distance.
BM: Which community's needs were invisible during Katrina and the role of literacy programs in reaching out to these folks.
Zarus: …of course the burgeoning Latino population most easily comes to mind (especially the construction and day-labor workers). However, it is important to note that this new population element is only an addition to the other ignored groups from pre-Katrina N.O. (i.e. economically poor, struggling working-class, African-American, etc,…) who are still not receiving adequate attention from local, state or federal governmental sources. When it comes to literacy programs reaching this population, efforts are underway but again, it comes down to attaining sufficient and predictable multi-year funding (which is still fairly rare).
AS: Since the literacy services and funding support post Katrina are scarce and deficient, how does that compare to the services pre Katrina, particularly, given the severely high percentage of blacks (that were) on poverty level in New Orleans?
VC: I don't necessarily think it is solely a black issue, but more so a poverty issue and poverty does not see color it just sees victims. Whereas I do agree that most of the victims may have been black there are other races that have been adversely affected because they were below the poverty line. It seems to me from the specials I have seen that the educational system in New Orleans was not that great in your poverty stricken communities, so the lack of help they are receiving post Katrina in my opinion doesn't seem different. That doesn't mean you can not and should not demand better education post Katrina but maybe thought needs to be given to other forms of informal learning as well. My mom always says "if you teach a man to fish he will eat for life". I believe that if you give people the framework for learning they will draw their own picture. What exactly that framework looks like is anyone's guess. It will all depend on the wants and needs of the people of New Orleans.
AS: Indeed, I agree, that many people, particularly most who were/are poverty stricken were most harshly affected by Katrina. I also agree there seems to be no significant evidence overall that things have gotten better post Katrina including the educational system, but New Orleans is not alone in that regard, particularly for marginalized groups.
This comment in no way devalues the efforts and accomplishments given by our devoted literacy leaders in New Orleans pre/post Katrina.
VC, you're right 'poverty doesn't see color' BUT poverty and race seem to disproportionately 'accompany' each other. It is interesting and somewhat uncomfortable to talk about race even for adult (literacy) educators, including myself.
It is my observation that race is not really an issue of many discussions within the field of adult literacy. However, I have to say, I just recently joined this discussion list.
It is my belief, increasingly, that critical race theory CRT) and the counter stories that result, can not only explain the pre/post educational and socio-economic plight of those most affected in New Orleans but for marginalized groups in general.
VC: I agree with your statement " 'poverty doesn't see color' BUT poverty and race seem to disproportionately 'accompany' each other. It is interesting and somewhat uncomfortable to talk about race even for adult (literacy) educators, including myself. " It is hard to talk about race and education but in order for change to occur you have to address the tough issues. Things don't change because we hate to talk about race and education and the socio-economic plight of marginalized groups. I think if you keep bringing up this issue people will listen and change will occur. I think critical race theory is a great idea. If you can get to the root of the problem you can now find a solution. Keep up the good work I think you are really onto something good and can do great things in the field of race studies. I believe it takes one person to make a difference and right now it looks like you can be that difference as it pertains to critical race theory.
DR: What has been the most effective or useful help from the outside? What would be helpful from outsiders in the future?
Rachel: In the shock and paralyzing grief of the early days and months, it was the generosity and concern from my colleagues in the literacy coalition community that helped me get away from the constant news coverage to thinking and talking again about literacy. Pam Creighton in Baton Rouge let me hang out in their offices, found us our own office to use in her building, and took me with her to talk to evacuees staying in shelters. I was hoping some of the Baton Rouge literacy folks would be on this discussion - they really got the brunt of the immediate aftermath and were the ones working with evacuees on their FEMA and Red Cross paperwork and everything else.
Literacy USA and Margaret Doughty were also working with the emerging Baton Rouge coalition and helped with some planning and national advocacy efforts, drafting a special Literacy*AmeriCorps grant that was eventually approved and funded. Literacy USA also helped me to attend their annual meeting where I gave a presentation, but I really don't know what I talked about. Peter Waite came down and met with ProLiteracy affiliates to see how they could help. They collected and distributed some funds to the area programs and helped some of us attend their conference in Tucson. I tried to speak at the regional meeting when I realized that the people in the room represented the states that had taken in the largest numbers of our residents - Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama.
Elyse Rudolph and Lisa Van Brackle from the Literacy Assistance Center in NYC talked with us a lot and came down and shared their recovery experiences with our literacy providers, board members and everyone else I dragged them around to in our rented minivan. They also collected donations and worked on some proposals. Carl Guerreire, John Comings, and Alan Quigley came down separately to help with our strategic planning process last summer. They were so generous with their time and advice; we hated to let them leave.
DG: Based on the panelists' comments, it appears to me that the country is ignoring/neglecting the plight of post Katrina New Orleans residents, and of particular interest to this list, the adult literacy needs of New Orleans. Do our panelists have any ideas/wishes/fantasies, of what they wish the national adult literacy community could do for adult learners and service providers in New Orleans?
Rachel: What I would have liked and would still like; what would be the most helpful now and in the future are experienced literacy professionals to temporarily work down here with their own resources. I've been picturing it in my head something like the United Way Loaned Executive program. Our entire staff was gone for 2 months, the majority gone for 4 months. When people returned it was with a zest for the work, but within the reality of drained mental and physical resources needed for their own home rebuilding and family recovery.
As you saw from Karla's email, the demand for ESL classes grew exponentially, and we did not have a large ESL system already in place as other cities have. It would have been wondrous if an ESL expert could have come down here for a year to help locate resources, set up a network of programs, train local nonprofits, work with the schools and employers, start something from scratch.
As a 'non-floodee' I personally had the time and energy to attend a plethora of planning meetings, events, conferences, and summits that were put on by all levels of government, urban planners, architects, community and neighborhood groups, etc. Most times I was the only literacy advocate there. I also worked with the FEMA safety staff, the Election Commission, the Road Home Program and the La. Family Recovery Corps case managers about the needs of low level readers - but it wasn't enough. We needed many voices at all levels of the recovery and planning effort to talk about plain language issues, technology issues, accessibility issues, all the topics that we usually advocate for - but in a concentrated, intensive blanket method for at least a year and a half. Two or three experienced literacy advocates (at least one stationed at the state capitol) could have helped to be proactive at all the rebuilding and recovery tables.
So... Loaned Literacy Leaders, sponsored by one of our fabulous national organizations? A Literacy System Disaster Recovery Guide put together by some smart person on this list? A continuation of the all-important relationships within the networks of literacy professionals, including Literacy USA? And good neighbors, like we had in Baton Rouge and Houston.
MD: The people and organizations working in New Orleans have not only had the challenges that existed prior to Katrina and the rebuilding post Katrina but they had also had to deal with what was described to me as the 'wonderful opportunities for renewal'; the chance to build a school district from scratch with all the knowledge of what works best; the chance to create a new adult literacy system with the benefits of best practices and targeted resources and the interest and support of a caring nation!
Where are the resources to help the people with limited literacy skills, the resources to reopen the sites and support the coordination of services? Louisiana was awarded several very substantial grants, primarily from the DOL, for skills development for those with a ninth grade reading level or above. There was 'high level' discussion about trying to change the way the grants were written to accommodate the skill development needs of job seekers with limited literacy skills. There were meetings in DC, there were requests for help. This is not necessarily about whole system change it is just changing a word, a sentence in a federal grant to open up the resources to the people needing them and it couldn't be done! Of course, it really could have been done but our time, energy, persistence, and coordination of national organizations were not there to make it happen. No wonder we, both personally and organizationally, have failed the people in New Orleans.
The Literacy Alliance and their local programs know what it is that the people need and want. They listen to the voice of the community. They have developed creative and successful workforce and skill development projects. Can't we all work together to make changes in the way funding could be used to align the funds to the needs of the people, help access those resources, financial and human, that Rachel described very clearly and help scale up the resources to meet the needs. There is not a lack of funding. There is a lack of listening and aligning funding to meet needs. I know many of us would be prepared to help again in a coordinated advocacy effort.
DG: Thank you for sending your post! You reminded me how a few months after Katrina, there was almost excitement in the air, that there was now an opportunity to actually create a brand new adult literacy system from scratch, using all of the best practices and research knowledge that we have gained throughout all the years. In fact, I remember sitting in a meeting in DC, being asked along with other colleagues for suggestions on what we would suggest to a city who was starting from scratch in terms of rebuilding its adult literacy system.
In my opinion, the nation has failed the people in New Orleans, and we at the grass roots level owe something to our brothers and sisters in the field of adult literacy. I am glad to read that you believe that many would be prepared to help in a coordinated advocacy effort. Do you have any concrete ideas? Are there any advocates on this list who may have ideas on what we can or should do? Do our panelists want to jump in and help guide this discussion from your perspective?
MD: It is hard to come up with specifics for an advocacy effort when the people on the ground know the situation the best. But here's a go! In all probability New Orleans is not receiving the same level of WIA Title 2 funding as it was before Katrina. Perhaps the folks in New Orleans can tell us about the allocation. What is the opportunity for the Louisiana Department of Education to increase the allocation in light of the increased ESOL population? Can state staff development or leadership dollars cover the cost of bringing in the one or two ESOL planning experts that are needed and cover the costs of implementation activities the experts develop with those on the ground? Can funding for VESOL programs come from the local WIB funding - it is clearly an eligible activity for core services? Other workforce development funding flows through the state technical colleges and those funds have been tied to a screening process that denies services to those with limited skills to cream for better results. Building the pipeline of skilled workers requires personalized support to people needing help not denying education and training through some pre-imposed 'eligibility test'. Please, let me know if I'm wrong here because I know some very good work is taking place.
Local private funders have always been important to New Orleans literacy efforts especially with linking economic development and literacy. They have supported family literacy and workplace literacy. Some of these projects have had excellent results. What are the opportunities for bringing them to scale? What is the plan to bring the Casey Foundation and other national funders back to New Orleans?
The new coalition and the providers in Baton Rouge are revisiting the ways that funding comes to the area. What are the other funding streams that may have been reduced because the 'client base was diminished'? What are the regional activities like creative marketing, neighborhood outreach and fund development that could be approached regionally?
Could the panelists let us know the wording around adult literacy action steps from the planning committees that have been structuring the plans for the new New Orleans? What are the goals that have been identified and the resources suggested to accomplish the goals. Then perhaps we could pick a couple to work on together to provide some additional support to the important local efforts?
Rachel: MD - always down to the concrete hard specifics of the literacy system - I like it! It's so important to be able to support and expand the pilot projects that always get favor and funding but no long-term implementation once they've met their goals. Anyway, this is a long conversation (soon!) but here are a few comments related to yours below.
- WIA Title 2 funding was hard to follow as there were extensions for unspent funds for the hurricane years, a waiver of the minimum state match for one year, and money was returned to the state by one of the school systems that did not reopen adult education classes. We've been protesting that last one. Don't know about this year - the programs haven't received their official notices yet, however two programs have been told that their funding will be cut because they didn't meet their NRS numbers. Both of these are operating in severely flooded areas with brand new administration and instructors and with a late start in the year. It's frustrating.
- I'll let Karla talk about her discussions with DOE and WIB for English language funding. Her program is listed as EL/Civics - a whopping $20,000 from DOE there and no way to access extra funds that came through for the Title 2 programs. One big problem is data - the people here are very new and the data collection is happening but spotty. Our Even Start program was invited to apply for the recent Toyota Family Literacy program to work with new immigrants and was told lack of data was a main reason for not being accepted.
- Workforce development in growing in fits and spurts and we're right in the middle of it. Some good things happening on the ground level in working with people who are interested in a job, but don't have the basic skills or the knowledge about and access to the family sustaining jobs. I can go on at length about this work as it is the majority of my work these days as well as the rest of our staff. It is still a struggle at the public policy level - my literacy voice feels so small against all the institutions - but I'm yelling just the same.
- The private funders like most everything else have mostly put their resources in disaster relief services (versus recovery). The exceptions that I know of in our arena are the few connecting to the workforce development issue.
I know it may be hard for many of you to think that there still needs to be disaster relief, but just as a concrete example - I still have 3 co-workers who are not living in their homes yet. It takes a really really long time to recover. Close your eyes and imagine your house, then imagine your block, then your neighborhood, then your city. If everything was destroyed, imagine how long it takes to rebuild just the buildings - electricity, qualified contractors, water, furniture (cabinets!), garbage, fences, city permits… and everyone is trying to do it at the same time.
DG: As alluded to in other posts, right after Katrina hit, there apparently were all kinds of planning commission and task forces around literacy in New Orleans. Can someone share with us what were their recommendations-and what happened to them? I am thinking that if somehow we could support local recommendations with some advocacy action we could involve the major national organizations charged with this kind of work. How might this align with the advocacy agendas of National Coalition for Literacy, The National Council of Directors of Adult Education, La Raza, ProLiteracy, NCFL, COABE, CLASP, etc. The possibilities for working together could be enormous!
DG: Rachel, one of our panelists, recently described the outpouring of support from the adult literacy community in the early days and months immediately following Katrina. She continues to describe what kind of help is currently needed. I wonder if anyone on this list has any ideas of what we, at the grass roots level, can do to help our fellow learners, teachers, administrators, and advocates in New Orleans.
Some examples of needs:
- experienced literacy professionals to temporarily work in New Orleans with their own resources.
- an ESL expert to go to New Orleans for a year to help locate resources, set up a network of programs, train local nonprofits, work with the schools and employers, start something from scratch.
- Two or three literacy advocates at all levels of the recovery and planning effort to talk for at least a year and a half about plain language issues, technology issues, accessibility issues, etc.
- Someone to put together a Literacy System Disaster Recovery Guide
Does anyone on this list have any suggestions of how we as a community can try to respond to these needs?
JI: Found this in a press release at the NIFL site (http://lincs.ed.gov/news/07-02-07.html) about a July visit to NO by Sandra Baxter, NIFL's director.
While in New Orleans Dr. Baxter will also be visiting local literacy providers with the Loyola University Lindy Boggs National Center for Community Literacy to assess the state of literacy in New Orleans post-Katrina. In New Orleans prior to Katrina, 40 percent of the adults were reading below the 6th grade level, and another 30 percent below the 8th grade level. Less than 10 percent of those individuals categorized as in need of literacy services were actually enrolled in a literacy program.
Literacy is an important tool post-Katrina for building a stronger New Orleans. Along with other comments, this leads me to consider the role of NIFL in all of this work…
My own view here is that when I'd read this, I'd immediately wanted to go - and wonder how folks in NO would see this sort of outside assistance? Is this a (temporary) collaboration that could be useful - to have an outsider, maybe with fresh eyes/different perspectives be there to help folks who live there sort out what needs doing, provide some technical assistance and/or professional development for a limited period of time as part of a great capacity building effort?
DG asked for grass roots support and advocacy.
I am wondering what role NIFL and Proliteracy can play. Can't they provide the above fairly easily? As our national literacy groups, shouldn't they take on this role? What are they currently doing for New Orleans?
And I wonder - first of all, what, if anything Dr. Baxter might have to report from her July visit. What roles NIFL and/or Proliteracy should or can play as allies? What roles could OVAE play - or should it not be involved as a government funder?
At the end of the day, I believe that people affected by Katrina and Rita need to be in charge of making decisions - but that those of us who have had the good fortune of escaping those disasters need to be poised to assist as we can, and that those broader coordinating entities (like NIFL) would do well to find ways to support these efforts.
Rachel: …we do have a lot of outsiders in our town right now - some have been welcomed, some have not. The volunteers doing work here are heroes to us and always will be - the people of this country have done for us what the government could not or would not. A collection of all the journal articles and research papers that have been generated during the first year or so ran to 50 pages just for the names and authors! Has the research come back to help the city? There have been some attempts to see that it does, but it's hard to say.
Anyone who came here to work, to do the "community literacy", would be very welcomed. Coalitions like the Literacy Alliance have worked for years to build the relationships with literacy programs, employers and community organizations - anyone coming with us would be a hero. Things are simpler in that way now.
DR: I am considering ways in which I might help, too, particularly as a literacy advocate for plain language, technology and accessibility issues, but possibly in other ways.
As I think about this, while I could volunteer my time, take care of my air transportation (thanks to Frequent Flyer miles) and could stay up to three months, and possibly then do some follow-up visits, I would need (modest) housing. Rachel, could the Coalition -- or some agency or institution -- provide housing (maybe the toughest thing of all) ?
If so, it would be great to have a "scope of work" for each of these positions, what you would like the person to accomplish in what period of time, with whom they would be working, and when (if that is important.) I have been thinking about possibly this winter or next spring.
Rachel: DR - a big fat happy YES response from the crew here on this Friday afternoon.
I plan to respond to everyone's posts over the weekend. Our AmeriCorps Coordinator resigned as we are about to start a new program year - so I've been doing her job and recruiting for her job along with everything else. I'm sure everyone on the list knows the multi-hat pain!
Have to run to the next meeting, but just wanted to send a quick Yahoo back to David for his uplifting generosity. Talk to y'all on Monday.
LC: DR-Dear friend I write to not only second Rachel's "big fat happy YES!" but to further state that although I am now working "up-river" from New Orleans, I shall work with Rachel, Patrice and the rest of the N.O. Literacy Alliance members to locate accommodations for your stay.
Presently, it is campaign time for the local politicos and their attention is focused on little else. So, they are not much help and then add to that the ineffective leadership provided from the Washington to Louisiana.... It is not a pretty picture.
On behalf of those we members of the N.O. Literacy Alliance seeks to serve: THANK YOU!
DG: So far, we have collected a few possible ideas for a united adult literacy effort in Katrina hit areas. I am listing them below, and wonder if I am forgetting any, or if anyone has more ideas to add:
- A website or document that can be linked, describing the adult literacy situation and needs, that can be shared with our various contacts.
- Encouraging a learner, teacher or administrator to submit a story to the upcoming issue of The Change Agent (www.nelrc/changeagent) Deadline is Sept 4th and students receive 50 dollars for their published work. The Change Agent is especially looking for photos, drawings and/or writings that show how people have encouraged each other in recent times.
- Creating a coordinated literacy effort with The Literacy Alliance and their local programs who know what it is that the people need and want.
- Supporting local recommendations with some advocacy action and involving the major national organizations charged with this kind of work, such as: the advocacy agendas of National Coalition for Literacy, The National Council of Directors of Adult Education, La Raza, ProLiteracy, NCFL, COABE, and CLASP.
- The National Institute for Literacy, Department of Education, and Department of Labor are planning and funding activities in workforce development and they should quickly be contacted to plan a massive basic skills and vocational/job training skills master plan for New Orleans and surrounding areas. The National Center for Adult Learning and Literacy might be considered for keeping track of what is done and evaluating the intergovernmental activities at federal, state, and local levels.
- Having a presence at adult literacy conferences through presentations on adult literacy post Katrina.
- Having adult literacy experts volunteer their time to help with planning and coordinating efforts.
MD: Ask the local experts about the possibility of a regional approach to literacy advocacy and fund development to strengthen the voice/message both at the state and national level.
JI: One step that might work (in the interim?) would be to use the ALE wiki page devoted to Katrina. A website or document that can be linked, describing the adult literacy situation and needs, that can be shared with our various contacts.
While a some point, a more "permanent" site may be useful, the good think about the wiki is that everyone can add information to it -without waiting for a web master/mistress to upload new content. There may also be other existing sites linked to the current wiki page that also contain similar opportunities for posting?
PL: I have read most of the postings on this discussion. But unfortunately I was away and so could not respond much earlier. Rachel it was great to hear about the work that you and others continued to do after Katrina. I hope that the action steps listed by you and others can be carried out in some way. I think that a website and possible blog would be great so that people outside New Orleans could learn about ways to help, etc. One thought that I had was to figure out a way to tap into the thousands of college students and other young people who spent time in New Orleans gutting houses and volunteering for almost 2 years. I travelled with some of these young people three times to New Orleans. I know that some of them returned to volunteer last summer (2006). But I am not sure if any University of Massachusetts college students (100) who I worked with in spring semester seminars and during their volunteer time in New Orleans in March 2007 found ways to return. I know that most organizations (e.g., Common Ground, ACORN, etc.) now need long term volunteers, but there still might be a way to tap into colleges to help with a literacy campaign concerning "plain English" etc. I am a retired teacher who worked in both adult literacy and public high schools. I would like to be able to help in some way but do not think I could do anything for a whole year. Perhaps we can think of other ways for educators/organizers to help. The bureaucracies of government have in many ways failed people. So my feeling is that literacy efforts should be linked with community-based organizations working to build a social movement for justice.
I know that this on-line discussion is about to end so I will just say that I learned many things from reading the posts and commend people for their continuing important work during such difficult times in Louisiana post-Katrina.
Daphne and everyone - our heartfelt thanks go to you for sponsoring this discussion and for everyone's interest, concern and good ideas. We'll stay in touch as things progress. I'll leave you with a few excerpts from the front page of our newspaper on the anniversary. A little chicken soup for the recovering soul.
The Times Picayune - Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Thousands of New Orleans families have been buoyed by the kindness of strangers, whether in the first desperate days of exile, or even now in the slow slog of rebuilding.
T H A N K Y O U.
"While I was riding to Fort Wayne, Ind. after the storm, the elderly bus driver asked which passengers were from the Gulf Coast. Later, he pressed a folded $5 bill into my hand, saying he hoped I would get something to eat with it. I was overwhelmed, and at a rest stop later bought the best burger in the world."
Rekaya Gibson, now in Las Vegas
"Because I evacuated Lakeview in sandals, the people of Destin Church of Christ gave me food and clothes, including a pair of Sperry Topsiders they said came from 'Tom.' They told me that a few Sundays earlier, hearing an appeal in church for clothes for evacuees, he had taken the shoes off his feet then and there, leaving for home in his socks. I still have them, and would love to return them with thanks if I ever find him."
Mike Gamble, now in Orlando
"After the storm, three firefighters from Springfield, Mo., located me, a stranger, because I am the aunt of one of their childhood friends. In several trips they evaluated my property and returned with a truck of donated material. Dave Cook, Matt Engle and Ron Blandenship worked 12-hour days on their vacation to repair my property. These firefighters put out yet another fire, the burning desire of a New Orleanian to return home."
Jan Bethea, New Orleans
Rachel, Linda, Karla, Zarus, and Manon,
On behalf of the Poverty, Race, Women, and Literacy Discussion List, I would like to thank all of you for enlightening us, sharing with us, and providing insight on the needs and conditions that exist in the post Katrina adult literacy world in which you work and live. Today was the second anniversary of Katrina and, as a result of this discussion, I felt closer and more in touch with the residents impacted by the hurricane. My hope is that at least some of the action steps mentioned during this 2-week period will actually happen. I hope that the major national literacy organizations will remember the adult literacy needs of your areas and will proceed quickly and efficiently to provide the help that is needed and deserved.
Poverty, Race, Women, and Literacy Moderator.
Thanks for your heartwarming stories; our immigrant students will be greatly moved by them. We, too, here in Oklahoma City went through a tragedy 12 years ago in which strangers from all over the US reached out with help and sympathy. Please keep us apprised.
Rachel, Zarus, and others on the panel,
I also want to thank you, as I missed the discussion period but found this discussion to be very provocative in terms of thinking about the connections between education and action. It will certainly inform the workshop I'm planning for the COABE social justice strand. I'm attaching the tentative line-up of that strand, in case the list can post attachments, and welcome you all to use the conference as one venue for continuing the discussion. If attachments don't work here, then I can send it to you if you contact me off-list.
I am enlightened and grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Katrina discussion. Thank you to the panelists for sharing your experiences in New Orleans. I am humbled and touched by the stories of sacrifice and support for the Katrina victims including those in the literacy community.
I too have strong opinions and convictions but am receptive to reframing them when needed, and I also appreciate the different voices represented in the dialogue to aid in bringing balance to the discussions and learning.
I feel more resolved yet anticipative about the possibilities.
Throughout the discussion, several members of the listserv suggested various websites, books, articles, and forms related to teaching numeracy skills. Below is a list of those resources.
- This link will take you to an interactive graphic that shows what flooded when and from where.
- Teaching the Levees: A Curriculum of Civic Engagement to Accompany the HBO Documentary Film Event, Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts
Get a free curriculum kit at http://www.teachingthelevees.org or call 1.800.575.6566
- Another resource that would benefit greatly from collective wisdom and input is this page, on the Adult ed wiki, devoted to links between Katrina, learning and change
- Voices from the Gulf
- I am a great fan of Democracy Now radio (independent media in a time of war)-and TV if you have access to satellite-and they do podcasting. Anyway, they are currently broadcasting from New Orleans and doing reporting and updating related to the 2nd anniversary of Katrina disaster. They offer a transcript of the show and some video footage. The August 30 show included a segment on the education system (k-12), in addition to segments on racism and the theft of the Red Cross.
Have a look: http://www.democracynow.org
- I am not a great fan of Democracy Now. But I am a great fan of National Review, and I've been following their dialogue. Have a look.
Regarding the makeup of the International Tribunal, I don't know of any literacy leaders among its members. But according to the New Orleans City Business web page, the panel of judges includes "international law scholar Ward Churchill."
Read it here at:
- You can go to http://www.gnocdc.org and see all type of data information regarding New Orleans.
- The photography of Chris Jordan at http://www.chrisjordan.com. Click on the selection of pictures called "In Katrina's Wake" and scroll down through.
- The Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley.
- Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America by John Barry - great history of the Army Corps of Engineers, the origination of the levee system and a theory about what happened in New Orleans then to make it like it is today. (It's thick, but a very interesting read.)
- Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization edited by Arnold R. Hirsch and Joseph Logsdon. Part I of the book is an interesting account of how New Orleans was colonized differently by the French coming down from Canada, the strong free black community and how these two groups blended to shape a unique culture.
- Jed Horne's book, Breach of Faith. I found it more objective than the Brinkley book. Better yet, read both.
- Another useful resource for examining race and racism in the context of ESOL education (and, by extension, in adult ed and other fields generally) is Color, Race, And English Language Teaching: Shades of Meaning edited by Andy Curtis and Mary Romney.
The contributors reflect on the ways that race has subtly and overtly impacted their work as language educators. Andy Curtis also provides a useful working definition of critical race theory in his introduction.
C. Newspaper Articles
From the Foundation Center's Philanthropy News Digest:
Post-Katrina Education Problems Linger (8/31/07)
Two years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, thousands of displaced students and millions of dollars in un-funded school reconstruction projects still plague the region, a new report from the Atlanta-based Southern Education Foundation http://www.sefatl.org/ finds.
Described as the first comprehensive, independent assessment of education along the Gulf Coast since the storm, the report, Education After Katrina (35 pages, PDF), found that only 2 percent of the government's hurricane-related funding went toward education recovery. And while the hurricane caused $6.2 billion in damages related to educational needs, only $1.2 billion in federal funding has been committed to restoring physical structures and property.
According to the report, displaced Gulf Coast students re-enrolled in schools in forty-nine states, but a lack of adequate federal funding meant that schools with the greatest number of displaced students had insufficient classrooms, staff, and supplies to support them. In addition, nearly one out of six students in Louisiana's public colleges and universities dropped out for the 2005-06 school year, while more than 26,000 students from Louisiana public colleges and almost 9,000 Mississippi college students remained out of school in 2006-07.
Based on an analysis of government data, school records, and private surveys, the report urges the federal government to adopt a "new response" to restoring public education in the region. Many members of Congress agree with that assessment. "I have seen firsthand that the post-hurricane response to rebuilding the public education infrastructure in the Gulf Coast has been inadequate and improvements must be made," wrote House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), who toured the region in August as part of a government delegation, in an e-mail to the Associated Press.
Others, however, urged caution. "[To resolve the situation] means doing a full assessment of what the childcare centers, preschools, and K-12 schools need to restore themselves," said Steve Suitts, the foundation's program director and author of the report. "That's a lot different from throwing a few million dollars into a bill as it's going through the hopper."
Byrd, Sheila. "Post-Katrina Education Problems Linger."
Associated Press 8/29/07.
From the Foundation Center's Philanthropy News Digest:
Mississippi Slowly Recovering Two Years After Hurricane Katrina (8/29/07)
Two years have passed since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, and despite the billions of dollars that have poured into the region, Mississippi is still struggling to recover, the Associated Press reports.
A recent survey by the Mississippi Sun Herald of nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and corporate giving programs indicates that at least $1.5 billion in private money -- probably more -- was sent to help Mississippians affected by the storm. The number is a conservative estimate because the American Red Cross, which among charities raised far and away the most for post-Katrina needs and relief, is unable to say how much went to Mississippi. By comparison, the federal government has spent an estimated $4.3 billion to assist Mississippians. "You'll never find all the money that's come in here," said Rodger Wilder of the nonprofit Gulf Coast Community Foundation. "It's come in from every possible source. It's been absolutely incredible."
Still, full recovery for the region is probably eight to ten years away, say many observers. And despite the billions of dollars that have already been spent, countless residents of the coast have been so discouraged by their dealings with the Federal Emergency Management Agency that they no longer trust any government agency. One of them, East Biloxi resident James Kornman slept on his porch for seventeen days after the storm passed and eventually contracted a staph infection from sewage-contaminated flood waters. Evacuated by FEMA, Kornman is still living in a FEMA trailer beside a home that volunteers have partially rebuilt and is so frustrated, depressed, and stressed that he breaks into tears as he tells his story. Stories like Kornman's are common on the coast, and many Mississippians say that only the kindness of volunteers kept them going. Approximately 1.1 million volunteers, many working for faith-based groups, began arriving in the state soon after the storm had passed.
At the same time, the state has become a laboratory of sorts for local, state, and federal officials and emergency-management specialists, who have learned that recovery from a major disaster is a process. And through that process, flawed as it has been, the region is forging stronger support systems for residents and communities. "We really have seen that the nonprofit community before the storm was underinvested in terms of the philanthropic dollars going to Mississippi," said Annie Ducmanis, manager of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors' Gulf Coast Fund. "Yet, there were all these incredible people doing all this work. They were just not on the radar screen for national philanthropic groups."
"Charity, Volunteers Slowly Reviving Mississippi Coast."
Associated Press 8/27/07.
Rachel: In case you were wondering what we're doing today. Here are a few of the public activities happening in the New Orleans area. I don't know about the other panelists, but I will be forgoing the public events for my own private commemoration ritual, which includes cooking a meal in honor of where we lived for 2 months and calling everyone who helped us in the immediate aftermath.
MEMORIAL FLAG EXHIBIT -- Today-Friday, Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home and Cemeteries will display 1,400 white flags with the hand-printed names of hurricane victims on the grounds of Metairie Cemetery, 5100 Pontchartrain Blvd.
BIKEKATRINA -- Today-Wednesday, from Tallahassee, Fla., to New Orleans. A 500-mile fundraising bike ride retracing the path of Hurricane Katrina sponsored by Blanket New Orleans, a nonprofit organization of college students who volunteer at least 300 hours to assist displaced and homeless citizens of New Orleans. Visit www.blanketneworleans.com.
BRING OUR PEOPLE HOME FESTIVAL -- Today, noon-5 p.m., at 2089 Caton St. A program of prayers, stories and inspiration with the Rev. Al Sharpton, BET's Cousin Jeff, local and national speakers, free food, and hip-hop from Nuthin But Fire label artists. Sponsored by the New Orleans Survivor Council and Residents of Public Housing.
GULF COAST COLLABORATIVE TOWN HALL MEETINGS -- Today, 1 p.m., at Lawless Memorial Chapel, Dillard University. Part of a series of town hall meetings to discuss recovery and renewal efforts in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. Participating groups include the Center of Healthy Communities, Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation, Louisiana Justice Institute, Mississippi NAACP, Mississippi Economic Policy Center and other local groups throughout the three-state region.
"KATRINA ARTISTICALLY REVISITED" -- Today, 11:30 p.m., at the Landmark Canal Place Theatre. The one-hour event features music, film and art exhibits. Produced by Patty Lee and Armand St. Martin.
CLERGY AND CIVIL RIGHTS LEADERS UNITY PRAYER BREAKFAST -- Wednesday, 7-9:38 a.m., at Loews Hotel, 300 Poydras St. Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, and Melanie Campbell, CEO of the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation, host the event.
HURRICANE KATRINA MEMORIAL GROUNDBREAKING CEREMONY -- Wednesday, 8:30 a.m., at the Charity Hospital Cemetery, 5056 Canal St. Guests will include Mayor Ray Nagin, Gen. Russel Honore, U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, state Rep. Juan LaFonta, the Rev. Stephen John Thurston, president of the National Baptist Convention of America, and musician Irvin Mayfield Jr.
THE HISTORIC BLACK COMMUNITY -- THE LOWER 9TH WARD COMMEMORATIVE -- Wednesday, at 1826 Tennessee St. Schedule: 9 a.m., a prayer vigil for Shanai Green and Joyce Green; 10 a.m., a memorial and vigil at the levee wall near North Roman and Jourdan Avenue; 10:30 a.m., a second-line procession from the Lower 9th Ward to Congo Square; 1 p.m., a rally at Congo Square in Louis Armstrong Park.
CEREMONIAL BELL-RINGING AND WREATH-LAYING -- Wednesday, 9:38 a.m., at the Charity Hospital Cemetery, 5056 Canal St. Elected officials and dignitaries will ring bells for two minutes to signify the series of levee breaches that occurred throughout the city. Simultaneously, City Council members will lay wreaths at locations throughout the city.
HURRICANE RELIEF MARCH -- Wednesday, 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m., beginning at the Industrial Canal, Jourdan and North Galvez streets. The People's Hurricane Relief Fund will march through the Lower 9th Ward to Congo Square.
"A CELEBRATION OF THANKS" -- Wednesday, 10 a.m.-noon, at Washington Artillery Park, on the river side of Jackson Square, to express appreciation to people around the world who have contributed to recovery efforts and to express needs that still exist. Sponsored by the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. KATRINA
CHEESEBURGERS FUNDRAISER -- Wednesday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., at Restaurant Stanley, 1021 Decatur St. Chef Scott Boswell will prepared charcoal-grilled burgers as he did in the days after Katrina, with proceeds benefiting Global Green USA.
"A DAY OF PRESENCE: WE MATTER, WE CARE, WE ACT" -- Wednesday, 2-5:30 p.m., at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, outside Hall D. A group of business, civic and entertainment organizations hold a rally to increase national awareness of the slow recovery in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Guests include Susan Taylor, Angie Stone, Lyn Whitfield, Judge Mablean Ephram, Michael Eric Dyson and Iyania Vanzant.
ORAL HISTORY DAY -- Wednesday, 2 p.m., in the Boyd Cruise Room of the Historic New Orleans Collection's William Research Center, 410 Chartres St. Includes presentation of the online archives at www.doyouknowwhatitmeans.org and efforts to collect stories from those assisted by the New Orleans Fire Department during and immediately after Katrina. Visit www.hnoc.org.
KATRINA TIME CAPSULE CEREMONY -- Wednesday, 4 p.m., at Nunez Community College, 3710 Paris Road, Chalmette.
HUMAN RIGHTS TRIBUNAL -- Wednesday, 5-7 p.m., at the Pan American Life Building, 601 Poydras St. The People's Hurricane Relief Fund will hold a tribunal where people will tell their stories of survival.
"WASHING AWAY" AND WOODLANDS STUDY -- Wednesday, 7-9:30 p.m., at Belle Chasse Auditorium, 8398 Louisiana 23, Belle Chasse. Kerry St. Pe, director of the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, will introduce the documentary film "Washing Away -- Losing Louisiana." The Tulane City Center will discuss preserving coastal forests.
KATRINA ANNIVERSARY PRAYER RALLY -- Wednesday, 7 p.m., at First Baptist Church, 5290 Canal Blvd. Featuring Will Graham, George Shinn and Lisa Pierre. Sponsored by the Greater New Orleans Pastors Coalition, the Pastors Resource Council and the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans.
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