Jerry Ward Reports on Dillard

Jerry Ward Reports on Dillard


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes




 Rumor like poverty will always be with us.  What we need to demand most is TRUTH from

the Center for Disease Control about how at risk people in Louisiana, Mississippi,

and Alabama are from toxins, viruses, and bacteria




Books by Jerry W. Ward  Jr.

Trouble the Water (1997) / Black Southern Voices (1992) / The Richard Wright Encyclopedia (2008)  / The Katrina Papers

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Another view of rumor

Jerry Ward Reports on Dillard

Demands Truth on Levees

& from Center for Disease Control


Dear Rudy,

I did not read Carr’s article, so I will not add ignorance by commenting on what I am not familiar with.  I do have it from two of my Dillard colleagues who are now in Atlanta that the three buildings that burned were student modules (dormitories) adjacent to the Samuel DuBois Cook Fine Arts Center.  The Cook Center sustained extensive damage, and we suspect that Dent Hall, the gymnasium was flooded. Lawless Chapel was also damaged—to what extent I cannot say. 

We will have no 98% reliable information about the campus and our future as an institution until it is possible to have an on-site inspection and assessment.  I do want everyone to applaud our new president Marvalene Hughes and other administrators for their level-headed, compassionate efforts regarding the safety of Dillard undergraduates and their yeoman efforts to ensure that all the students continue their educations this semester. 

This is no rumor.  It was confirmed during a conversation I had this morning with the President of Tougaloo College.

Rumor like poverty will always be with us.  What we need to demand most is TRUTH from the Center for Disease Control about how at risk people in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama are from toxins, viruses and bacteria, and whatever in the waters and the soil, and the diseases being carried by greatly energized mosquitoes.  Our second demand for TRUTH rather than rhetorical promises concerns the long-term restoration of levees around the city and rebuilding that just might exclude any meaningful input from low-income residents. 

I do worry that the very people who contributed to the flavor and culture of New Orleans will truly be too poor to afford housing in the NEW New Orleans.  As one of my friends put it, “Katrina passed judgment on America and the country has been found wanting.”

Thanks, Rudy, for promoting open dialogue about life and death issues.  We can prevent rumor as easily as we can prevent terrorism. 

We can succeed, however, in asking questions about why we can not spend as much money to restore homes as we have spent to destroy Iraq. And those questions do need to appear in global cyberspace.

Best wishes,


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Rudy, I had a conversation a few nights ago who has a background in microbiology and explained that it will be months before New Orleans is going to be livable and it is not advisable to tell people that it’s safe to go back with the intent of staying.  The level of pollution is too great. – Chuck

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Rudy, Mona Lisa was one of the first persons whom I contacted, and I knew that you were worried about her.  This is so sad, and it’s like so many of the stories that are coming out of New Orleans:  everything lost, in shambles, moldy and mildewed.  How can a person go back to that?  Maybe M. L. can because (I think) she’s young and will have the energy to undertake the monumental job of rebuilding, but what about the aged and sick and disheartened and clinically depressed? — Miriam

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Dear Miriam and Mona Lisa,

Since I had direct deposit, Dillard did put my final August check in the bank; I’ll have to go online to see if there was a September 15 deposit.  Dillard now has a new website: which contains updated news and other information.  When I talked with Dean Taylor last week, there was a strong possibility that Dillard would offer classes in January from the Morris Brown campus. That would be an historically noteworthy happening.

I have an apartment in Vicksburg and am doing some volunteer teaching at Tougaloo College as my alumni gift.  Working with students also prevents my falling into self-pity about what I may have lost in New Orleans. Doing a two-week seminar at Grinnell College (24 Oct-4 Nov) will also help.  I am working on various entries about the disaster and my oddly convoluted states of mind and my brain walking a tightrope to somewhere under the title “THE KATRINA PAPERS.” Let us pray we do not have to add a “RITA CODA.”

Mona Lisa, it would be good if John Lowe and the LSU English Department could sponsor a Red Beans & Ricely Yours party for you next month or in November.  I am sure those of us who are in driving distance would come for the celebration.

Love, Jerry

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Dear Mona Lisa & Jerry,

Today I talked with Karen Green, a Dillard profressor who knows you, and she told me that Dillard is paying its faculty.

Apparently, her sister, who is in Houston, has direct deposit and received her salary, but Karen doesn’t have dd. She had to call the following number–1 (877) 888-0100–to give them her address.  She also gave me the e-mail address of the provost (?), which is bparker  She said there’s a space in the middle of the name, but that doesn’t look right to me.

Karen is in Natchez with her parents.

I hope that you are doing better this week than last.

Take care,Miriam

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Hey now Jerry and Miriam,

If you don’t know, I’ve accepted a Visiting Assoc. Prof. position at the University of Washington for the year.  They begin school next Wednesday; I need the job so I can keep my property. 

Y’all, I visited New Orleans on Monday. Ishmael Reed’s words are more than on target.  My beloved New Orleans is a ghost town, like the abandoned towns of the old west, empty, dead, no grass, nothing growing, no one there.  Jerry, can you imagine Dillard with all dead grass?  That’s what’s there, deadness, and the surrounding homes were flooded like mine.  

I salvaged a few clothes, some research, my soggy Kaufman books since I’d like to finish that work and get it to a publisher.  Everything is ruined, my library, even my clothes–the smell is unimaginable; already, I’ve washed them again and again, hoping to at least recover my jeans and some shirts.  Some fine things are in the dry cleaner, and because everything floated around, I couldn’t get to my winter coat.  

All my shoes are gone, my beautiful kitchen and new bedroom; I had just renovated last year.  How can we all rebuild at once?  At least, in my neighborhood, our old shotgun homes are still standing.  In the East, it is more of a war zone with massive damage to most every home and more extensive flooding. It was horrible.  Even if Dillard opens in January, who will be there, who will come into this?

I’m exhausted, and trying to get everything in order before flying out on Friday, the 23rd of Sept. 

I’ll get together, with my sister Barbara too, who lives in Seattle as well, one great reason to pick that place.  I have so much to be thankful for since daily I see so many without jobs or a place to go.  God help us all.

Please keep in touch.  Hugs to you both.

Red Beans and Ricely Thankful and Hopeful,Mona Lisa

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Jerry Ward to Rhonda Miller

Dear Rhonda,

Rudy sent your note.  I am back in the briar patch = Mississippi.

4311 Commons Circle / Vicksburg, MS 39180 / (601) 883-9926

I don’t want to think of what all of us have lost, but I do have to be brave and face the music of disaster and chaos. My doing volunteer teaching at Tougaloo College and getting involved in some tasks for the Mississippi Humanities Council may preserve my sanity.  If you have not done so already, check the new DU website

for the most recent information.  There is a slim possibility that we will offer courses on the Morris Brown campus beginning January 2006, but the logistics of relocating faculty and students will be staggering.  I hope you and Chuck are coping as well as possible with this unnerving season.  Do let me know where you are.

With best wishes and existential choices,


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Audio: My Story, My Song (Featuring blues guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)

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Panel on Literary Criticism

26 March 2010

 National Black Writers Conference

Patrick Oliver, Kalamu ya Salaam, Dorothea Smartt, Frank Wilderson discuss the use of literature to promote political causes and instigate change and transformation.  The event is at the Medgar Evers College at the City University of New York. C-Span Archives

Panel on Politics and Satire

26 March 2010

 National Black Writers Conference

Herb Boyd, Thomas Bradshaw, Charles Edison and Major Owens discuss how current events are reflected in the writings of African Americans.  The event is at the Medgar Evers College at the City University of New York. C-Span Archives

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The Katrina Papers, by Jerry W. Ward, Jr. $18.95  The Richard Wright Encyclopedia (2008)

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The Katrina Papers is not your average memoir. It is a fusion of many kinds of writing, including intellectual autobiography, personal narrative, political/cultural analysis, spiritual journal, literary history, and poetry. Though it is the record of one man’s experience of Hurricane Katrina, it is a record that is fully a part of his life and work as a scholar, political activist, and professor.  The Katrina Papers  provides space not only for the traumatic events but also for ruminations on authors such as Richard Wright and theorists like Deleuze and Guattarri. The result is a complex though thoroughly accessible book. The struggle with form—the search for a medium proper to the complex social, personal, and political ramifications of an event unprecedented in this scholar’s life and in American social history—lies at the very heart of The Katrina Papers . It depicts an enigmatic and multi-stranded world view which takes the local as its nexus for understanding the global.  It resists the temptation to simplify or clarify when simplification and clarification are not possible. Ward’s narrative is, at times, very direct, but he always refuses to simplify the complex emotional and spiritual volatility of the process and the historical moment that he is witnessing. The end result is an honesty that is both pedagogical and inspiring.—Hank Lazer

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posted 20 September 2005 /  updated 9 April 2008



Home  Jerry W. Ward Jr. Table and Bio  Literary New Orleans   Black Arts and Black Power Figures   Katrina Survivor Stories  Katrina New Orleans Flood Index

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