Texas Tech University

Serving and Learning for a Brighter Tomorrow

Not only are they making housing more affordable and rebuilding neighborhoods, they are teaching a trade to a younger generation.

May 27, 2018 • Service Breaks

By Cooper Deupree, Service Breaker

Today we worked with an amazing organization called Youth Rebuilding New Orleans. YRNO's mission is to purchase blighted homes and then employ the local youth to remodel/rebuild. Then they sell the finished homes at discounted rates to area teachers. Not only are they making housing more affordable and rebuilding neighborhoods, they are teaching a trade to a younger generation. Most of theses homes were abandoned and repossessed by the city after Katrina. We arrived on site a little before nine and were greeted by the team. Maggie and John were the project and construction managers. Earl, Jevon, Isiah, and Paris were all local college students supervising different parts of the project.

Jacy, Taylor, and Caitlin worked with Jevon cutting 2x6s with a table saw to the appropriate size to fit between the studs in the home. Courtney, Ethan, Destinee, and Mia assisted Isiah and Paris with hanging the sheetrock in the attic. Trevor, Aaron, Willow, and I helped Earl measure and nail boards between the studs. Most of the work done was to bring the home up to code and to stop the spread of fire. Many of the homes in NOLA are referred to as shotgun homes because they are narrow and very long. We learned in our tour of the French Quarter that the expression comes from the idea that one can fire a shotgun from the front door and it will travel out the back without hitting anything.

The home we worked on was a double shotgun because one family lived in each side of the house. This is why a lot of care is taken to stop the spread of fire from one family's living quarters to the other. We worked with some exceptionally, caring people. I really enjoyed myself and got to converse and laugh with the crew the entire time! We were also able to try multiple jobs on the site. The house we were working on was basically just a shell with studs inside, but there was a house across the street that the organization had already finished. They gave us a tour of the final product and it looked so incredible. It appeared small and old on the outside, but the inside was a different story. YRNO really does turn out a quality product. It was obvious the amount of pride that everybody had in it. I could tell how much they all enjoyed doing their work as well. This has definitely been my favorite project of the trip so far. I would definitely want to volunteer with this organization again if I am ever in NOLA. It was a privilege to be able to work with such driven, passionate individuals.

After we cleaned up the house, we loaded up and were off to Wallace, LA which was about an hour away from NOLA. We visited the Whitney Plantation outside of town. This tour emphasized the economic institution of slavery. I could never put into words how profound of an experience this was. Looking back it almost seems surreal. Our tour guide, Ali, was nothing short of spectacular. He didn't sugar coat anything and really explained the harsh, ugly reality of a slave in the early days of the US.

In those days, being a slave in the deep South couldn't have been any harder. There was a 113% mortality rate of slaves on the Gold Coast, so there was a labor shortage. Meanwhile in the northern part of the South the mortality rate was around 25%, so they had a surplus. When the international slave trade was outlawed, the deep South required slaves that were sold by plantations from the northern part of the South. This is where the expression “sell you down the river” comes from. Everyone knew how deadly it was to be a slave in the deep south. From the time a slave set foot on a deep south plantation, their life expectancy was ten years no matter how old they were.

The main cause of death for a slave was, literally, being worked to death. There were three monuments erected on the plantation. The first was The Wall of Honor that is dedicated to the over 350 documented slaves who worked on the plantation. This plantation was massive compared to others, so there are countless slaves here whose names will be lost forever. The Allées Gwendolyn Midio Hall is dedicated to over 107k slaves who lived in the state of Louisiana prior to 1820 although it is estimated that for every name on the wall there are two to three more slaves that we will never know about. The one that moved me the most was called The Field of Angels. This one was dedicated to over 2200 slave children in the parish that died before their second birthday. I could write on about our experience here forever.

I think this place should be mandatory for everybody to visit, so it will be known to all the vulgar injustice that was committed against our fellow men and women. There are no fingers to be pointed because every nation played some part in slavery. It is key for us to learn from our dark history because if we don't, we are destined to repeat it again and again. I don't mean to sound morbid or anything, but it is just a very powerful, very sad, and very true subject that shouldn't be sanitized, white-washed, or censored in any way by anybody. It was a dark time in history that should never be forgotten.

On a much lighter note, we had an incredible dinner at The Acme Oyster House. It was an incredible, authentic creole meal for all of us. Supposedly they had the #4 po' boy sandwich on the top ten list. It was the Fried Peace Maker Po' Boy and it was my choice along with raw oysters on the half shell. We found out that Mia is not a fan of raw oysters whatsoever. I couldn't have asked for a better meal. I'm pretty sure everyone was very satisfied with the meal even though we had to wait in line for thirty minutes or more. After dinner, we walked further into the center of the French Quarter to Café du Monde where we had coffee, hot chocolate, and their famous beignets. This trip gets better by the day and I really do feel that we are making an impact. We are going to continue to make the most of every waking minute in NOLA.