Video by: Elizabeth, Olivia, Ryan, Ricardo
Hannah: I was extremely touched by the story of Linda Hill, the woman who was in charge of the museum artifacts at SUNO. When Hurricane Katrina hit, she had only been working at SUNO for a few months and had just been working on organizing all the artifacts that SUNO had. After the hurricane hit, SUNO was in extremely poor conditions. The museum artifacts in particular were in need of a lot of attention and Mrs. Hill was determined to give them what they deserved. When she asked for assistance from the government they essentially told her that the artifacts were not worth salvaging. The collection at the time had around 1000 pieces and had been donated from people all over the United States and Africa. There was no way Mrs. Hill was going to throw the pieces away. She started applying for grants and gathered the space and people needed to re-store the works. Today, the collection has grown to over 3000 pieces and Mrs. Hill has put forth tremendous efforts to establish a plan and to organize the art in case anything like Katrina happens again. It was incredible to speak to a woman who was so passionate about her job and willing to take risks for what she believed was right. There was nobody telling her what to do but she took the step on her own to become a leader and do the right thing. Mrs. Hill works with communities and schools throughout New Orleans to educate people on African art and tradition. When we met with Martha last night, she told us about the need for strong males of color in New Orleans to be leaders. I personally believe what Mrs. Hill does with outreach programs is a great tool for creating leaders. Inspiring youth through knowledge of the past and helping children of color understand where they came from can assist in shaping who they will become as adults.
It took me no less than 5 minutes of being on campus to realize that SUNO was a special place. As we waited in the hallway to see where we would be meeting our speakers, every person that walked by us said good morning and I saw multiple faculty members greet each other warmly as well. However, despite feeling like as I was in somebody’s home, everyone was dressed professionally and it was obvious we were in a professional setting. This leads me to the conclusion that the people of SUNO truly are proud to be at the university, and, they are happy to be part of the community. Because they are happy to be there, it is not hard for them to take pride in themselves and show respect for the university. This stood out to me because too often, you do not get both of these qualities colliding. It takes a special environment to foster both of the feelings and it can be hard for people to find a place where that can happen. SUNO knows that they are creating good in the world and I believe that contributes to the special environment it has.
Joshua: I thought the story by Maurine was very interesting since she came a year after Katrina hit and decided to place herself in a hostile and tragic environment to better others and help positively progress the situation. Especially how she described the city as “still in the disaster,” being almost nothing had changed, in terms of destruction/devastation, since the hurricane came. It was also surprising that it took so long to finally reopen and utilize many of the campus’ buildings; I would have never guessed it would’ve taken until 2014, only 7 months ago, to reopen.
Ms. Hill really demonstrated how she and many in New Orleans are passionate about culture and history preservation and restoration. I thought Shannon’s story was very inspiring and showed the determination, as well as passion she and her colleagues have for developing, supporting, and improving the lives of their students in the school. For example, how they stayed in the school as the hurricane approached just to ensure the students got the money they need. Also how determined Shannon and many others are trying to “build back” any culture or unequal treatment lost after Katrina.
What stood out to me the most today was the optimism and reassurance many of the New Orleans locals like Shannon and the others give about recovering from Katrina and Ike (the usually forgotten hurricane). Many people say, “it’ll come back” or “don’t worry, that’s coming back,” when talking about certain neighborhoods and areas where reconstruction is in process. The optimism stands out to me a lot, and it’s something I wish I could relate to in Washington, other than the sports fads.
Philip: Our visit to Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) included a few speakers to talk with us about pre- and post-Katrina and the ways the hurricane affected SUNO. There were some amazing stories on how the hurricane changed SUNO. Ms. Hall talked about how she went above and beyond to get the help she needed to fund the history artifacts the university lost from the flood. Throughout the time she was talking with us, her voice was raising and your body started to move, as she was so passionate with the work she does. Shannon Jones was amazing and I had the privilege to ask more stories of how it affected her. Shannon said the university could have more student enrollment, even with the lack of buildings for classes. As we talked with her, the love she has for not only her community, but also her job is What defines her.
The one thing that stood out for me during the visit today was Shannon’s willingness to go the extra mile and make everyone feel welcomed. She used her own vehicle to bring us back to our hotel after our visit, which is wonderful considering she never met us until today but acted like we were all her best friends. As we were walking the campus, there were students that came up to her and they have this special connection, which makes the experience that much better. The reason this stands out for me is because it shows that if you are willing to help someone, whether they are a stranger or friend, at the end of the day, you can make a positive influence on them.
Cristian: The stories told at SUNO were interesting because I had only read articles online about the disaster so it was a different experience to hear it in person.
What stood out the most from the visit at the university was the fact that everyone was greeting us. That stood out to me because at Central Washington University there are not a lot of people that say hello when making eye contact. A couple times I’ve said hello and they look back at me weird so after that I just never said hello to anyone that I didn’t know and just pretend I’m on my phone to avoid an awkward situation. So after today it really got me thinking how none of those students/ faculty members at SUNO knew me but always said hello, so I don’t have an excuse to not do it when I head back to CWU.