Edited to add: Since I drafted and scheduled this post a few days ago, we’ve learned that Doug Jones’s Republican opponent for Sessions’s old Senate seat is an unrepentant pedophile. Folks, DOUG CAN BEAT ROY MOORE. But he needs our help like whoa. So PLEASE donate, volunteer, or both at https://dougjonesforsenate.com/. Shit just got real.
You know how, for some very lucky people, once (or maybe twice for the exceptionally lucky), you’ll go to a place for the first time and, as soon as you arrive, you’ll feel like you’ve come home? Like you have some sort of ineffable tie to that place, like some piece of your soul is connected to that place, like your body may live somewhere else, but that’s where your heart is really from?
I felt that the first time I went to New Orleans, almost 20 years ago. It was like finding a piece of myself I never knew was missing. I’ve been back at least once a year every year since then. I’ve been at all seasons (yes, it’s hot in the summer, but, as a very wise woman said to me my first time there in July, “Slow down, child!” and she was right), and I’ve been all over the city, including places WELL outside what the casual tourists usually see. I love the culture, the music old (Lionel Ferbos, may he rest in strength, Lionel Batiste, may he rest in strength, Marva Wright, may she rest in strength, Allen Toussaint, may he rest in strength) and the new (Big Freedia, Trombone Shorty, New Breed, Meschiya Lake, Aurora Neeland, Tang & The Bangas), the food, the architecture, the history. I love that it’s a place that has always felt the breath of mortality on its neck, so they understand in their bones that we’re not here for a long time – we’re here for a good time. I love that it was home to an early and substantial free community of color, and I love the impact that had and continues to have on every aspect of life there. I love that it’s not the worst run city in the US – it’s the best run city in the Caribbean. I have friends there who’ve dubbed me an honorary native. It’s where my heart lives.
So you can imagine how I felt during Hurricane Katrina. We’d been down there just a few weeks before the storm that summer, and when it made landfall on August 28 at a lower intensity than predicted, I breathed a sign of relief for my beloved Crescent City, which seemed to have escaped the worst.
And then the levees broke, and we woke up on August 29 to learn that the city was drowning. I spent the following weeks obsessively pursuing any bit of news I could glean about what was going on (HUGE props to the heroic and Pulitzer-winning efforts of the Times-Picayune staff and to the team that ran the Interdictor Live Journal), donating to relief agencies, and working magic with all my might to try to save the city of my heart and its people.
My first time back in the city was for the abbreviated 2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival the following spring. It was pretty much the first time the city was even halfway ready to receive visitors. Most of the city was still without power. Driving lakeside out Canal Street, the waterline crept up the buildings until it vanished, because the ENTIRE STRUCTURES had been submerged. Some of the I-10 underpasses had been turned into junkyards for ruined vehicles. Others were hosting tent cities of residents who were trying to clean out their devastated houses and had nowhere to live in the meantime. The banquettes were heaped with people’s entire lives – and scores of strapped-shut refrigerators. We could barely convince a cabbie to take us to Rock-n-Bowl. “Lady, Mid City has no power.” “I know, but we called ahead, and they’re open, running on a generator.” We couldn’t bowl – the floodwaters had warped the lanes – but oh, how we danced. Curtains still flapped from the blown-out windows of the Hilton Riverside near the Superdome. I burst into tears as I saw workers swarming the Morial Convention Center, the location of so much pain and death eight months earlier, frantically trying to get it ready for the American Library Association’s meeting the following week. They’d intentionally moved their large annual gathering to be the first group back in New Orleans, and the city was teeming with librarians, in early to do service projects to help the community (librarians, let it be said, are a bunch of awesome bad asses).
Our next-to-the-last night there, we took a cab uptown to Tipitina’s, to see the Soul Rebels. The club was packed, and that evening, in quick succession, they played “Take It High” and “504.” I looked around at all the faces of the people who loved the city and what it stands for, natives and visitors, and knew in my bones that New Orleans would survive. As that realization hit me, shaking my groove thing on the dance floor, the Rebels rolled into “No Place Like Home” (which would become the title track to their first post-Katrina album a few years later), and I swear I had an out-of-body experience (perhaps assisted, at least in part, by the joints that were being generously passed around).
“I need you to shout like you felt when you came back to New Orleans after the storm!”
And we did.
Joy. Pure joy.
Tuesday night wasn’t quite that good. But almost.
Democrats across the US worked our assess off. For Phil Murphy. For Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax, and Mark Herring. For Danica Roem. For Ravi Bhalla. For Wilmont Collins. For Vi Lyles. For Tyler Titus. For Elizabeth Guzman and Haya Ayala. For Dawn Adams. For Kathy Tram. For Manka Dhingra. For Larry Krasner.
And we won. We won, if you will, bigly.
When we organize, we win.
When we canvass, we win.
When we donate, we win.
When we phone bank, we win.
When we text bank, we win.
When we work focused, intentional, juicy, deep magic, we win.
WHEN WE VOTE, WE WIN.
And we need – and deserve – to celebrate. We killed it. So pop the champagne, dance, scream, make love, sing, make art, bake a cake, give thanks, pour out offerings – you do you, baby.
And then get back to work, because it ain’t over yet, y’all.
ACLU attorney Doug Jones faces insane racist shitbag Roy Moore for so-called AG and evil Keebler elf Jeff Sessions’s old Senate seat in just over FOUR weeks. You can go to his website to donate, volunteer, or better yet, do both.
Some of Hillary’s campaign alumnae got together to launch Nasty Women Serve, dedicating November 8 to the first annual Hillary Rodham Clinton Day of Service in honor of her legacy and ongoing work to make the world a better place. OK, it’s no longer November 8, but you can still donate, or call Congress about tax reform or our desperate need for sensible gun regulation, or drop off supplies for a local women’s shelter, or volunteer for a campaign or your local Planned Parenthood.
Speaking of Hillary’s ongoing work to make the world a better place, Onward Together unsurprisingly picked some amazingly kick-ass organizations for signal boosting. I’ll just let Hillz’ tweet storm speak for itself.
OH! And this too:
So you could donate to Onward Together, or just go directly to the organizations it supports and give time or money to them.
To quote Winston Churchill: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
2018 is just around the corner, and we have a real shot to take back the House, the Senate, governships, state houses, and local elected positions across the country.
Let Tuesday night’s mighty blue wave be just the beginning of what we accomplish together in this vitally important fight for the soul of our country. This is my will, and as I will it, so mote it be.
I’ll leave you with one more Soul Rebels tune that was played at that magical post-Katrina night at Tipitina’s, because it feels SO GOOD.
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