In your May 18 cover story 'Down on the Corner,' you mentioned Joe's Cozy Corner as 'a vital community center.' To us, a model is one by which we would hope the members of that community would want to live up to. Is 'a few narcotics arrests, a gun possession charge, a murder that took place in the bar' (p. 23) the model of excellence we want to support as a tradition?
If so, then what complaint do we have being No. 1 in the country in juvenile incarceration or between 1 and 2 in adult incarceration?
After school, do you want your child to 'race down the steps' and 'sprint down a stretch' (p. 24) headed for Joe's Cozy Corner, knowing that a little bit of narcotics and only a few weapons are present? Do we want our elementary school children to connect 'rolls of money and donuts' (p. 24) at Joe's bar with good answers? What would your loved one's legacy be if it were he/she who was on the receiving side of that 'one shot he fired from that gun'? (p. 25).
I would hope that the wonderful influence that Gambit Weekly has all over greater New Orleans would rather be used to envision a community safe from violence and encouraging justice, culture and a life that has value to us all.
The Gullette Family: Gwen Gullette German, Cynthia Banks, Diane Crutchfield, Gloria Garrison, Patricia Cook, Shelia Gullette, Sandra Gullette, Yolanda Gullette and Reginald Gullette
Just wanted to say thank you for a careful and in-depth look at the whole story behind Joe's Cozy Corner. I was terribly saddened at the news that the bar and music club was to be closed down. I know the bar has been the scene of some criminal activity over the years, but no one seems to talk about all the good that comes out of this place, or at least no one did until Katy Reckdahl wrote this cover story. Joe's is a very important focal point for the Treme community (not to mention the rest of New Orleans) and closing it down will leave a gaping hole in an already struggling part of the city. I support addressing the violence that occurs around this area, but I think that working with the community at the bar as opposed to shutting them out will have the best and most sustainable results.
BIGGER PROBLEMS THAN JOE'S The short answer is very definitely, yes, the Treme will lose a priceless community center if Joe's Cozy Corner closes its doors.
The use of guns and drugs can never be condoned, and it is tragic that someone lost his life over such a trivial incident. It is right that our heartfelt condolences should go out to the victim's family and friends. Nevertheless, the USA is a country that by and large has chosen to tolerate guns, and so it is inevitable that from time to time some people will use them for the purpose for which they were designed: to kill or maim.
On my visit to Joe's on Easter Sunday, the respect Papa Joe commanded both inside and outside his bar was noticeable. He is clearly a positive and moderating influence in the area, notwithstanding the crime he has been charged with. It strikes me that the energies directed toward getting the liquor license revoked would be better directed in other areas. My wife (who is a schools inspector in the UK) and I were profoundly shocked to learn that the building on St. Claude Avenue at Alvar Street, which we took to be an abandoned warehouse, was in fact a high school (Frederick Douglass). You guys should be demanding that something be done about what really should be a national scandal. Concentrate your energies on those things that can make a difference.
Ed Ievers Surrey, England
PUBLIC SCHOOLS ACCESSES
Gambit Weekly and writer Lili LeGardeur are to be commended for the four-part series on the arts-education programs in the New Orleans public schools and in the city. I am honored to have been included in this series, which gave many teachers the opportunity to speak about the instruction that goes on in their classrooms.
I also am happy that my book, Chord Changes on the Chalkboard: How Public School Teachers Shaped Jazz and the Music of New Orleans, was mentioned, because the contributions of public school teachers have long been overlooked. In the course of my research, I interviewed many professional musicians who told me they received their first formal music training in a public school classroom. Under the watchful eyes of highly trained public school music teachers, they first touched a real musical instrument, learned to read music and grew to appreciate a broad range of musical styles.
In my 21 years as communications coordinator for New Orleans Public Schools, I experienced how willingly -- and even hungrily -- some people consumed bad news about the schools. I found that there are many, many, many public school success stories in New Orleans. Whether they make the news or not, capable former students and great public school teachers are everywhere.
All too often we tend to think of the public schools as separate from the communities they serve. We forget that almost every neighborhood has a public school building. Lili LeGardeur took the time and the trouble to visit classrooms all over the city. She showed that the fate of the arts in New Orleans is connected to the arts programs -- or lack of them -- in the public schools. And this applies to other Louisiana parishes as well. Al Kennedy Former Communications Coordinator
New Orleans Public Schools, 1977-1998 learn from shreveport Congratulations to Lili LeGardeur for writing the excellent four-part series on arts in public education in New Orleans. As founders of one of the grassroots organizations trying to fill the void left by the elimination of arts programs in the public schools, we appreciate Gambit Weekly focusing on this very serious problem.
The concluding paragraph of LeGardeur's series points out that the majority of arts education is being carried on by organizations outside the public school system itself. She correctly observes that organizations such as ours (KID smART) lack a strong mandate from the parish's education system.
For the public school system to all but ignore arts education is tragic. The facts are that arts education:
• Makes a tremendous impact on the developmental growth of every child and has proven to help level the learning field across socio-economic boundaries
• And has a measurable impact in deterring delinquent behavior and truancy while also increasing overall academic performance.
This is not an insoluble problem. Recently, we attended ARTBREAK, a six-day hands-on youth arts festival in Shreveport, where we witnessed what can be done when the public and private sectors combine efforts. ARTBREAK, a partnership between the Caddo Parish School Board and the Shreveport Regional Arts Council, showcases the visual, literary, music, theater and performance arts of 50,000 children in the Caddo Parish school system. We learned from the visual arts supervisor for Caddo Parish Schools that all public schools in the parish have at least one visual art instructor. The quality of the artwork exhibited and the enthusiasm and spirit of the young people involved in ARTBREAK were truly outstanding.
If Shreveport can do it, so can New Orleans. Let's all do what we can to make arts education a vital part of each of our public schools.
Campbell Hutchinson and Allison Stewart Founders, KID smART