Posted July 14th 2010 at 4:47 pm by
in New Orleans, Who's on Broad? (The Broad Street Story Project)

Who’s on Broad Finale

Janet at Simply Divine is the last story in the Who’s on Broad digital story series. Broad Street is full of characters whose livelihoods depend on Broad itself: from David at the Pumping Station, who keeps NOLA dry; to Mama Jennifer at the Community Book Center, who works to educate women in the area; and Felix at F&F Botanical, who helps people improve their lives through spiritual healing. Through this series, I have introduced just eleven of Broad Street’s strong personalities, in sounds and images, to audiences inside and outside of NOLA, hopefully convincing some to visit these local establishments.

Carlos Club House_small This is a photo of Carlos LeBlanc’s Club House at the corner of Broad and Bayou.  Carlos says this is a place for hardworking people, and that most of the men that hang out here have been doing so since they were sixteen. Photo by Aditi Mehta

I started this entire project exactly one year ago as a NOLA Fellow working for Broad Community Connections. In July 2009, I went up and down Broad Street distributing disposable cameras to all the business owners and employees along the corridor that agreed to participate in this endeavor. I took photos too. At the time, I had not really envisioned an end product for all these pictures and recorded interviews. I didn’t even know how to edit audio! But slowly, this project has unfolded. I learned how to transform thirty minutes of disorganized recordings into three-minute stories.

In January 2010, with support from the MIT Public Service Center, I was able to travel back to New Orleans to curate an exhibition of everyone’s photos in a vacant storefront on Broad Street. This event not only allowed the people of Broad to meet one another and attract newcomers to the corridor, but also activated an under-utilized space on an important Main Street that was slowly recovering from Hurricane Katrina.

Over the year, as I have revisited my Broad Street friends’ audio recordings to create these stories, carefully trying to represent them as earnestly as possible, I learned new things about the corridor and its people that I did not realize at first. As the partakers explored Broad Street to take pictures, the experience gave them a sense of ownership over their community. I observed this effect when Kine discussed the trash strewn across the street and suggested ways to make the area cleaner, when Toney said that the future development of Broad is important to him because it allows him to do what he does best – cut and style hair, and when Derek proudly expressed how Gild’s Steakhouse was a catalyst for more positive real estate development along the street. It takes a lot to really know a place, and I thank the people of Broad Street for sharing their stories and insights with me.

When planning neighborhoods and figuring out how to improve streets such as Broad, city officials or architects will observe an area with their own eyes – taking pictures with their own cameras, using research to validate assumptions based off their perceptions. This project and exhibition flip that model. Ultimately, the Broad Street Story Project intends to inspire members of Broad Street to make a difference in their community by encouraging them to take pride in their neighborhood and their work, and bravely showcase their thoughts, ideas, and concerns to the public. These sorts of long-term effects are important because a successful commercial corridor relies on the attitudes, visions, and work ethic of its employees and users.

Keep following stories about place on CoLab Radio, and check out Alexa Mills’ Who’s on Newbury series.

Post by Aditi Mehta

8 responses to “Who’s on Broad Finale”

  1. Aseem says:

    Aditi, your project is very cool and incredibly powerful. Spanning from the images of a tired and overworked David diligently keeping his city dry to Felix’ mission of helping others by giving them direction, the “Who’s on Broad?” series is a reminder that everyone has a story to tell and that those stories contribute to the diversity that make a city vibrant and alive. The expose of Broad Street creates a connection between us, as scholars, academics and the general public, to the lives and livelihoods of an entire community. While I probably will never meet Mama Jennifer, her story, along with the 14 others that you have collected and documented, makes me feel as if Broad Street were my own home. Your project is an important piece in the economic redevelopment of the Broad community, and shows that the value of a community and neighborhood comes from its people, its stories and its ideas. Great work!

  2. Sabrina says:

    Aditi, the people of Broad Street are an inspiration! I’ve rented an apartment for 5 years, and never really took any care for the outside of the place. It took my mom, visiting and planting flowers, to make me realize that every place you are–is what you make of it, the pride you take in your space. The people of Broad really embody what can be accomplished when everyone takes pride in their space. And how much the success of a neighborhood or community is really the culmination of the people who live and work there–their personal and emotional investments. Thanks again for sharing the Broad Street community’s stories.

  3. Melissa says:

    The “Who’s on Broad?” series is truly refreshing. After watching the stories I felt a connection to this community that I myself have never visited. What vibrancy! The voices of the people on Broad St. are presented for what they are; and not editorialized or emotionalized. I can’t wait to see what’s next for this community.

  4. Alexa Mills says:

    As you know, the Who’s on Broad series inspired me to start Who’s on Newbury, a street that is different from Broad in many ways. I really believe in this project, especially the part about local people taking their own photos of Broad Street. Places present so many questions. It’s easy to see a street and think it’s one thing when actually it is entirely another.

    I wish planners and real estate developers would consider doing something like Who’s on Broad as an integral part of every project.

  5. Alison Hynd says:

    Aditi, I’ve really enjoyed following your Who’s on Broad series and I’ll miss looking out for the new stories! These videos have really helped me to understand the needs, aspirations, and opportunities in the community you’ve been working in. It’s been a pleasure to support the NOLA Fellows over the last year or so, and I hope to continue doing so.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Aditi, thanks for sharing these wonderful stories. By creative use of multi-media you shared pain, happiness and dreams of the residents of Broad Street. You made us connected to Broad Street forever!

    Please continue your good work….

  7. Libby McDonald says:

    Aditi:

    I have so enjoyed Who’s On Broad. It was a brilliant idea for a blog series and fantastic execution. I will miss it.

    Libby

  8. Nikita says:

    Aditi, thank you for your work on this project and to the Broad Street Community for sharing their powerful stories. Having the chance to hear about this community from the people who live with the triumphs and challenges of Broad Street every day is so important and often gets overlooked in academic discussions. Your dedication to showcasing their experiences and stories through this blog is inspiring! May the trees on Broad Street continue to flourish! =)