Lolis Eric Elie knows how to get right to the point. As a regular columnist at the Times Picayune, Elie has little room for verbosity, but still those few words of his printed on a little slip of newspaper are often more than enough to knock you over. He has the same effect in person.
In the early summer of 2006, I was covering a story about a group of restaurateurs, who were visiting New Orleans to learn more the levee failures. Before getting on tour buses to see the devastation, the sponsoring-organization, Share Our Strength, asked Elie to say a few words about the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. With a straight, almost deadpan-delivery, Elie asked the group to imagine a trucker crashing his 18-wheeler through the middle of their living room. The trucker gets out of his cab, looks around and says, Wow. I feel bad about this. Tell you what, Ill give you 50 percent for everything Ive destroyed. Pause.
Elie: Thats what the response has been like.
If Elie has more time and in this case, more than words, but images, people, music and culture the results can be breathtaking, unforgettable and indelible. Thats what Elie along with his partners, Dawn Logsdon and Lucie Faulknor have accomplished in their film, Faubourg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans.
In the film, Elie provides a contemporary, firsthand look at the Treme and the destruction unleashed upon the countrys oldest African-American neighborhood. Elie lets viewers know that this isnt the first time that the government has neglected the African-African community; theres a long recorded history of it. Despite personal racism and laws intended to break, not protect, the Treme has survived and produced great art, great people and inimitable culture that should be cherished, not punished.