Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Photo Essay: Party Like It's 1960s South Africa!

This article is a photo essay of the direction, motivation, and consequences of the profound and fast-paced changes happening in the CBD and lower mid-city in New Orleans. Since Katrina, the re-colonization of the city by rapacious Capital has accelerated to a head-spinning pace. The neighborhood documented is not unique, the same kinds of activities are taking place city-wide. When colonization occurs on such a massive scale, only a total revolt can change the dystopian future the present developments are creating.

In the CBD, tailgating before the LSU vs. Alabama BCS football game, the landed gentry of both states converge to bask in their hoarded wealth. The crowd is nearly all white, middle aged, and drinking heavily. Inheritors of a white supremacist past, beneficiaries of the white supremacist present, and propagators of the white supremacist future, these fans are very mean to everyone not "on their team." I saw an Alabama college student in tears from the taunts of LSU fans. If you are not white, you are premanently "not on their team," and it was a scary place to walk past. These are the kind of guests the city of New Orleans is promoting coming to town. Note the brand new Rouse's supermarket in the background, built to resemble a Whole Foods, it caters to the nouveau-riche yuppies buying up condos in the CBD. Rouse's has built a growing chain of stores through price-gouging in neighborhoods with few other grocery options (such as in Mid-City) and arresting people trying to organize a union for it's poverty-wage employees. In a somewhat ironic twist, the building they've developed into this new store was formerly a Cadillac dealership, which, during Hurricane Katrina, NOPD officers stole dozens of Escalades and other caddies from on their way out of town.
Party in the heavily policed tailgating zone like it's 1960s South Africa! Set up the RVs and other accoutrements of wealth that come with a one's partnership with the white-supremacist-imperialist-capitalist-patriarchy (to quote bell hooks), mere blocks from central city and it's hundreds of homeless people sleeping under the bridge, and families struggling to survive in a system that is actively trying to make them disappear into early graves or behind prison walls. But for the white male southern college football fans, they can spend thousands of dollars to re-live their frat-house days, if only for a weekend, in oblivious bliss, protected by half the city's police force.
The newly re-opened Hyatt Regency in the CBD. This hotel was shown endlessly on TV during Hurricane Katrina as it received significant damage: almost all of its windows were blown out and the bottom floor was torn apart by flood damage. The hotel is located very close to the Superdome, where thousands of people were trapped like cattle for days on end during the storm. The hotel sat empty and derelict for 5 years after Katrina, a poignant symbol of the sadness and destruction of that time. It also served as a symbol to those who remained that the only allegiance any of the corporations that exist in New Orleans have is to the almighty dollar, and that if their is no profit to be made, they'd just as soon leave their properties as storm-ravaged eyesores for the locals to figure out how to deal with. But now, it has been re-made into a luxury hotel so rich tourists can party on the former site of so much pain and sadness, while many residents still have not been able to return to the city or rebuild their former homes and others sleep on the streets mere blocks away.....The term bantustans has been coming to mind a lot lately.
Lines of luxury cars stretched for blocks waiting for valet parking service at the new Hyatt in the CBD, where they've each paid hundreds of dollars per night, some likely paying more than the average New Orleanians monthly rent, to stay in luxury within easy walking distance of the Superdome. Rich old white people, every single one of them, either Alabama or LSU fans, but all fans of the apartheid police state they've collaborated with in order to gain such gluttonous displays of wealth and privilege. All of the excess money they'll spend on over-priced hotel rooms is quickly siphoned away from New Orleans by Hyatt, like most of the tourist dollars our politicians mold our entire lives and city around to slavishly accommodate at all costs. The architecture of our entire social reality, from the built environment to the city's legal and policy architecture, is shaped to help multi-national corporations exploit our culture and people for their gain. In exchange, we get mainly low-wage service jobs, along with drunken idiots roaming Bourbon St. 365 days a year. Housekeepers with incredible dignity, honor, and determination clean up the mess these tourists feel entitled by their wealth to make. The women workers at the New Orleans Hilton do it every day for minimum wage to help their families scrape by, and Paris Hilton's spending limit and fame grows exponentially on their backs. Yup, that's a fair economy all right! But, hey, at least it means we can drink on the streets, unlike the rest of the puritan U$A, right? Right? Well, at least if you're white and don't seem homeless to the apartheid pigs of the NOPD, who keep Paris Hilton's racket going for her with their guns and terrorist tactics, you can.
In the world of capitalism, even fans of the same team are separated by class and status. Keep the riff-raff college kids trying to score free beers and burgers because their tuition has gone up 40% in the past 3 years out of our all-white VIP tailgating party, thank you very much.
The new Champions Square, a public gathering place next to the Superdome for fans to celebrate, revel, commune, and literally "pre-game" in heavy-security patrolled safety. Perhaps one day the Square, as a public gathering place, will facilitate the revolt that inevitably springs forth from such places of communication in times of robber barons and police state control. Precisely for this reason, many such public congregation points have been done away with or turned into heavily policed zones (think malls) by politicians and capitalists afraid of the loyalty of the crowds they contain. Take away the cops and see how long people keep paying the price-gouging $10 for a beer at the Dome.
In the current phase of capitalist social reality, their are primarily two choices given to those who were formerly the working class, and are now considered excess labor in the era of automation and globalization: work for the capitalists in the expanding police state to coerce and control your former co-workers as a pig cop, or be controlled by them and likely end up in prison. CrimethInc. states this reality well in their new essay "Nightmares of Capitalism, Pipe Dreams of Democracy": "A system driven by competition for ever-increasing profit can’t run indefinitely; sooner or later everything that can be commodified has been drawn into the market, all the capital accumulates in a few hands, and the profits dry up. Today the factories of every industry produce commodities more and more efficiently via automation that renders workers increasingly redundant. The only way to profit on these commodities is to cut costs: to eliminate workers or pay them next to nothing. But without work or wages, people can’t play their part as consumers. The only job openings are with the police, who wage a never-ending war on the population to control the poor and unemployed. This is why our world is overflowing with cheap shit, with human life cheapest of all."
Charity Hospital, once a lifeline for the uninsured in New Orleans, has been abandoned, just like the uninsured it served, since Hurricane Katrina. It has also become a battleground for local activists involved in the Save Charity Hospital campaign. The lack of medical access since the storm has been a terrible problem, and probably significantly contributes to the higher murder statistics, as it now takes longer to get gunshot victims to an ER. Often, it seems the short-sightedness of this city makes it it's own worst enemy, even on its own terms and the way it desires progress, like the desire for a lower murder rate. A cynic might contend that the city actually doesn't give a shit how many poor people die from gunshots every year, as long as they can protect their tiny share of the money multi-national corporation's rake in off of the tourist cash-cows. Charity is an example of a former largely African-American used area in the CBD, with current fenced-off status as a years-long frozen zone, and who knows, maybe it will become some condos and complete it's transition to a whitened zone of gentrified tranquility? Stupider things have happened... meanwhile, people continue to die for lack of medical care.
Turn in your neighbors to the New Orleans gestapo. Everyone is a potential snitch. Trust no one. Empathize with no one. Profit off of the misery, exploitation, and kidnapping of others. Earn CASH. Don't commit crimes against the law, commit crimes against humanity! (Lest you still believe in the police state version of safety, let's remember that 80% of prisoners are locked up for non-violent offenses in LA. By not focusing on rehabilitative and restorative justice, including economic equality, and using overwhelming police control instead, we actually make ourselves less safe. For conclusive proof, see the local murder rate.)
The area under this section of I-10 elevated interstate above Claiborne Ave., the former center of black cultural life in New Orleans (before the old growth oak trees that lined the grass-covered neutral ground were dug up and replaced with the loud, polluting, ugly interstate in the 1950s), is fenced off with spike-tipped bars that bend out, to keep people from climbing the fence to get to the interior area. There is no purpose for the area inside the fence, other than to be a dead zone, devoid of life or people or activity, waiting for the day when the elevated overpass is torn down and Claiborne Ave. is re-developed into a whitened zone. This is a good example of how capitalism is not just content with using resources for itself, but also interested in keeping people dispossessed of idle resources they could find useful, forcing them to stay dependent on making purchases for every need of survival, which keeps them working for the ruling elites. From the enclosures of the commons to this fenced off former black cultural hot-spot, the story has been the same for the past few hundred years.
The tall white building is a former hotel, abandoned since being a place of refuge for people during Hurricane Katrina. It is scheduled for demolition by implosion with months. For years it was allegedly occupied and run covertly by drug dealers, pimps, and sex workers. Different pimps would own different floors, and rent rooms and women out to johns or drug users brave enough to walk the darkened halls. A friend explored the building and found blood all over some walls and curtains. It has been a very scary place since Katrina, a place of violence against women by pimps, and the city let it happen by protecting the private property "rights" of its owners above the needs of the surrounding community. Neighbors would've preferred to have a lived-in and fixed up building to a vacant hotel full of violent pimps, no matter whether it happened through someone buying the building or through people who need housing taking it away from the negligent owners, which is what the homeless camp that lived under the I-10 right next to it for 2 years before being evicted by the police should have been allowed to do. Instead, the city prefers vacant buildings where women can be beaten by pimps and the neighborhood around it is made less safe, and then the police would victimize the women again by applying sex offender status to those women arrested for prostitution. That's how much the city values private property laws over human life, even when it means homeless people must sleep on the concrete in the shadow of an empty hotel, and even when it makes women easier to victimize.
This is the demolition site where the future LSU/VA medical complex will be located, if all the funding has been secured to complete it. When the destruction of this former working class neighborhood began, the agencies in charge of the development had funding for the demolition phase, but none for the planned construction phase. Many of the former residents had just recently finished renovating their Hurricane damaged and flooded homes when they were forced out in this absurd project. This is just outside the CBD, which houses an abandoned VA medical complex right next to the abandoned Charity Hospital (see eighth photo from the top). This was promoted by the city as a cynical way to get poor people away from downtown tourism, business, and condo zones. It was desired by LSU as a giant land and influence grab. The only losers were the people who actually called the area home, and those nearby who now will be living next to a giant medical complex rather than in a neighborhood with neighbors. One need only observe the desolation of the nearby LSU complex which already exists, with it's elevated outdoor walkways linking buildings used to keep safe the professionals and students above the normal sidewalks that the second class citizens (aka the scary scary poor people of color) of the area must use. Such racist and classist architectural sentiment is being further expanded into Mid-City after a long battle with activists against this LSU/VA monstrosity. This is all part of a massive development/resettlement plan called the New City Initiative (the link is their propaganda: any area that becomes a desirable and nice place to live will become colonized by the rich, no matter the allusions to affordability, etc...), "one of the largest urban revitalization initiatives in our nation’s history," other than the genocide of the Native Americans, I think they meant.
Here is the poster for a new LSU building across the street from the LSU/VA site, also known as the Mid-City Blast Zone. Many buildings being erected in the spree of development occurring in New Orleans have chosen this ultra-modern design aesthetic. In a few decades, such radical design aesthetic will likely be considered as ugly as the weird garbage from the 1960s. Such sentiments are already beginning to be felt in cities that have seen such aesthetics for the past decade such as Seattle and New York City.
When the LSU/VA Blast Zone is constructed, those who move to the city to work at it (because education is poorly funded in New Orleans and Louisiana, most high paying jobs will go to non-locals) will need somewhere to live. So the same corporation profiting from building concrete and steel cages in the new African-American slavery complex (aka OPP) for Sheriff Gusman, Woodward, is also building chic condos right down Tulane Ave., mere blocks away from the prison. Different incomes require different housing models, and Woodward is more than happy to provide them. Os Cangeceiros once used creative methods to acknowledge the hard work of such architecture firms that build prisons for the poor:
"Subject: Ambush
Are your wounds well healed, architect? Did you figure out why? Shamelessly, with no discretion of any kind, centimetre by centimetre, you have conceived these cages in which even the handicapped will be locked up. Inside the walls which you have designed, individuals who are worth more than you will be beaten up on a regular basis. It is good that you have received an appetizer of what thousands of prisoners will endure to the Nth degree. To be sure, architect, this is not your company's first infamy. Considering what you build to house normal citizens, one can guess your competence to shut away delinquents. One moves easily from the tower blocks of the 13th arrondisement (ed.: "ward") to prison cells. Pig, looking at your snout up close, we were able to note form your tired face how deeply you involve yourself in your projects. Before you were building walls, now you're going to knock them down."
-Os Cangaceiros, Lyon, 29/03/1990
Woodward doesn't need local workers to build its ugly condo developments, especially not the poor people of color it has just finished constructing hundreds of prison cells for. If they hired local neighborhood people, then who will live in their brand new prison?! They may never get to help expand OPP again!
It's a good thing that Louisiana is financing condominium construction next to the LSU/VA complex with Disaster Recovery Unit funding. It's not as if people are still struggling to rebuild their homes and return to New Orleans, or anything.
This is a seedy motel on Tulane Ave. across from the LSU/VA Mid-City Blast Zone. As you can see, the property is ready and willing for any rich developers to buy it and turn it into a profitable development. They'll be assisted, of course, by government incentives like tax credits, write-offs, and cheap financing for those qualified millionaire developers who just need a little bit more help in the form of corporate welfare to be able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and make a profit on a piece of real estate. The prominent QR code signals to the potential welfare-millionaire that the real estate company is on the cutting edge, and that he could be as well with this property full of "potential," and that if you don't know what that QR code is, maybe you should just move along. And they'd be right about that "potential," what with the government-funded re-development of Tulane Ave. into a corridor similar to Magazine St. as part of the New City Initiative and the special financial and regulatory treatment it is sure to bestow on those "investing" along the corridor.
The juvenile prison on Tulane Ave., with it's long lines of African-American parents stretching out the door each morning, trying to free their children from the grip of the apartheid police state, proves with certainty that the city is not uninterested in providing services to the black community, and especially black children in New Orleans. There may not be any open playgrounds within 20 blocks, but this prison provides ample yard time for the kids to enjoy. The Sheriffs who guard the kids may not be able to read at a high school level, and therefore have little ability to help the kids inside, but they very likely may be related to or have grown up near the little rascals they "care for." Once again, the city is teaching it's youth that the solution to any problem is to get the people with guns to solve it. From police officers who deal with behavior problems in schools, to the Sheriffs who guard the kids in these "affordable youth condos for the underprivileged," to the police who will harass them for the rest of their lives every time they are IDed because of their criminal record, and be able to tell them what to do with the threat of gun violence if they do not comply, our city shows it's youth how best to handle conflicts: with guns and orders, with no concessions or discussions necessary. With absolutely no willingness to understand why a 15 year old high school drop out would try to rob a rich-looking white tourist, with no willingness to understand the root causes of crime, the city reinforces using the solutions it says it's trying to discourage. But maybe those who make city policy believe, much the same way as the "hoodlums" they lock in cages like animals, that "only God can judge them."
The barbed wire fencing accentuates the reflective windows of the kid-cages, giving a modern touch to this Dark Ages gulag.
Arriving at Tulane Ave. and Broad St. in Mid-City the massive complex of municipal courts, traffic courts, state courts, prisons, jails, DAs offices, Sheriffs offices, and NOPD police headquarters reveal the sheer immensity of the machinery of the apartheid police state for all who care to look. In a city where schools are under-funded, where affordable rental housing is harder to find since Katrina, and social services are almost non-existent, the societal breakdown such indifferent neglect for the social fabric creates results in the necessity while simultaneously proividing the justification for this New Orleans style version of a complex reminiscent of the so-called "Green Zone" U.S. Embassy complex in Iraq. NOPD: stop the occupation of New Orleans for the old money aristocracy! They are solely interested in protecting their inherited wealth, not even in combining labor and capital productively to create more wealth, which would make the people they keep trying to dispose of in graves and behind prison walls less of a dangerous crime threat by keeping most people out of desperate poverty. They'd rather build ramparts than bridges, and so, upon those ramparts we will build our guillotines.
People continue to die in the streets so a few can live in mansions and wield undue power and influence in our neo-feudal city.
Translation: "No loitering, even in spanish. Comprendo? You are all potential threats, and even just standing there, not working as a productive resource for the ruling class, much like the fenced off abandoned lots under the Claiborne Ave. I-10 interstate, cannot be tolerated. Your time is not your own. Your life is not your own. These are our streets. Go to work! We have work for you in the systems of control if you're willing to destroy your humanity, or prepare to be constantly hunted."  

These are the only 2 choices we are given in our city. 
How will we respond?


  1. This is an article about another neighborhood and it's own post-apocalyptic insanity, courtesy of the lens. About the upper 9th ward, agriculture st landfill, desire/Florida projects area:

  2. More evidence of the city keeping the brand alive through attacking the poor:

    Help this guy fight the blight assholes, and fix up his house.

  3. Mid city destroyed, bio district, headed by a shady random dude, running out of money:
    At least we got a big sand pile....

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