Lower 9 Stories

Lower 9 Stories began as a site-specific performance for Junebug Productions' Ec(h)o Arts Environmental Justice Festival, supported in part by the Arts Council of New Orleans through funding provided by the Louisiana State Arts Council and the Louisiana Division of the Arts.  With the help of the Students at the Center program at McDonogh 35, students interviewed and videotaped community members and turned many of these oral histories — centered around personal experiences with environmental racism and injustice — into text for the performance.  Subjects addressed in the piece include the forced break in the levee during Hurricane Betsy in 1965, which flooded the entire Lower Ninth Ward; the on-going conflict between the neighborhood and the city of New Orleans to widen the Industrial Canal; current problems with drugs and violence in the community; the religious lives of the citizens; and overall life in the Lower Ninth Ward. Finally, methods of improving environmental conditions in the community are sought.

Lower 9 Stories examines environmental racism issues in the past, present and future of New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward.  Members of the Positive Outreach Leaders (POL), a peer education/interactive theatre group comprised of students from Lawless High School and the University of New Orleans, portray several roles throughout the course of the production: they are guides, leading the audience on a journey from past to future; they portray their own ancestors; hey tell stories of community members who survived the flood of Hurricane Betsy in 1965; they portray two friends who end up in a violent conflict, then are encouraged by their ancestors to give up fighting and work together to build a stronger community.

Lower 9, don't it sound fine, it gets hard sometimes but you've got to shine.