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It is important for us not to get bogged down by the classic oppositions

of black and white. I remind the audience that the coverage of Katrina

in the first weeks of September 2005 would lead to the idea that

no Latinos/Latinas, no Vietnamese, no Greek-Americans,

no Asian-Americans inhabited the city.



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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Rising and Recovering from the Water-Logged Ashes

A Review of The Katrina Papers by Miriam DeCosta-Willis

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The Katrina Papers: A Journal of Trauma and Recovery

By Jerry W. Ward, Jr.


Dear Jerry,   I received my copy of The Katrina Papers this past weekend. I had to order it directly from UNO Press. This is a formidable volume! You write with such eloquence, passion, insight, and power. As survivor and raconteur of Katrina’s devastation, you give the reader your reflections on this event; you also provide us with informed commentaries about a broad variety of other issues that attract your attention and the people with whom you interact. As a student of politics, I guess I am just overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of your critical observations. Reading this volume and The Richard Wright Encyclopedia, I can comprehend not only the centrality of Richard Wright to your scholarly project, but I also can grasp your own intellectual power and clear vision. For example, your critique of Robert Lashley’ rant about Wright’s LAWD TODAY is the model of the art of critique. Marvelous!   Thanks for your generous comment on my paper on Robeson and Wright. I continue to read both of your books. As always, Floyd

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from The Katrina Papers

Wednesday, May 31, 2006—June 2, 2006

Dear James and Rudy,

These unedited segments from THE KATRINA PAPERS represent a sliver of my thinking about the next four generations in New Orleans.—Peace, Jerry


The three-day conference sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Tulane University (Dillard, Xavier, Loyola and the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans are co-sponsors) began yesterday with pre-conference field sessions. One session involved dinner, drinks, and music at selected restaurants, bars, and clubs. In the official letter, dated May 3, 2006, I received from President Scott Cowan of Tulane and President Richard Moe of the Trust, the gentlemen mentioned the purpose was “[t]o energize and elevate the discussion about the important role arts and culture play in the reconstruction effort.” I volunteered to serve on a panel because I wanted to be sure that the “people” component of “culture” did not get short shrift.

This morning, President Scott Cowen opened the day’s meetings very effectively; his speech was crisp, concise, and economic. . There was special warmth in his introduction of Irvin Mayfield. Irvin, accompanied by Ronald Markham (a mechanical engineer who is also a musician), set a very polished tone for the conference with his discussion of the blues and jazz, his playing of a blues, followed by his version of “Yesterday” by the Beatles, followed by a musical demonstration of “the first line” (march to the cemetery, the dirge) and “the second line” (every expanding celebratory return from the cemetery).

The last selection underscored his mentioning that his father, who drowned in the flooding of the city, had given him the means to deal with such a tragedy: jazz. Irvin was at his elegant and eloquent best as he prepared the ears of the invitation only audience. Irvin was very careful in placing his explanations and his playing within the context of American democracy. After his performance, President Cowan introduced Oliver Thomas, councilman-at-large, who filled in for Mayor Nagin, and Richard Moe.

Moe focused on the work of the Trust with places and cultures. His remarks provided a good opening for Jack Davis, publisher of the Hartford Courant, to introduce those who served on the “What Makes Community?” panel: Irvin Mayfield, Tom Piazza, and Jerry Ward.

Tom read from his prepared remarks about community. He said something about black and white that sent up the red flag regarding binary discourses. Had I not early this morning read the phrase “media malfeasance” regarding the coverage of the Katrina disaster? I have no prepared remarks. I trust improvising. When Davis asked for my comments, I began by suggesting that Irvin and Tom were very much a part of my community in the city. I noted Irvin’s alluding to the blues, to the classic definition provided by Ralph Ellison—running one’s finger over the jagged grain of experience.

I added “catching splinters and healing from the injury.” I framed the remainder of my remarks with a quotation from THE KATRINA PAPERS: “Those of us who have made our beds in New Orleans have learned to sleep soundly on the surface of water.” Community is about people being interdependent. It consists of relatives, friends who have returned to the city and friends who are still absent, friends and colleagues at Dillard University. It is about our social communion. Rituals are important.

I mention Dave Brinks and his efforts to reunite writers and artists, the October resuscitation of the 17 Poets Series at the Gold Mine Saloon; I mention the March 6 taping by PBS of a special reading in the series. I wanted the audience to know about the most democratic venue for arts in the city. I want them to note that kind of human spirit that Dave nurtures.

It is important for us not to get bogged down by the classic oppositions of black and white. I remind the audience that the coverage of Katrina in the first weeks of September 2005 would lead to the idea that no Latinos/Latinas, no Vietnamese, no Greek-Americans, no Asian-Americans inhabited the city. The media invoked the classic and reductive black/white template, a template that cherishes the black as victim. This habit is not to be tolerated. It will not serve us well in the future.

The audience has a special interest in restaurants and cuisine. I could not resist mentioning that Pampy’s on North Broad may lose all of it former pretense to elegance and become an upscale fast-food joint. I emphasize that I am replaying Mr. “Pampy” Barre’s remarks on a NPR program. Restaurants have been special sites for eating, for conversations, for political planning. That must be remembered. Food and politics are old friends. I do hope the audience will recall the political implications of what they ate during the pre-conference field sessions.

To recreate a sense of community that will support the rebirth of culture, we must have respect for the multilayered cultures of the city. We can have no respect if we turn our backs on the facts of class tension in the city, the enormous distance between the rich and the poor. Someone mentioned the Aspen Institute during the opening session. I picked that up by noting that those who ski in Aspen may have absolutely no perspective on the lives of successful people, poor and middle class, who lived in the much maligned Ninth Ward.

I recounted the attitude of Gentilly Civic Improvement Association residents to a story about having raised five children in the Ninth Ward. Their negative dismissal led me to believe they would willingly feed rat poison to everyone who formerly live in the St. Bernard Project. This genteel audience must hear something that is often unspoken as New Orleans puts on a daily Mardi Gras face for the sake of tourism.

Tourism is a vital part of the New Orleans economy, for the majority of the city’s revenue comes from tourism. Nevertheless, I feel a moral obligation to end my remarks with a strong assertion. Rebirth demands Honesty, an honesty that may never have existed in New Orleans or in America.


Irvin followed my remarks with a nicely packaged patriotic message. Jazz teaches us that democracy is not easy, that we are always in struggle. The life of community depends on constant struggle. I confess that what Irving actually said is now foggy in my memory. I was busy controlling the internal flames my comments had started. I don’t clearly remember what Tom said either . When Tom was reading, I was pouring gasoline on the smoldering coals of what I planned to say.

I take a break after our panel and have coffee with Tom. He persuades me that I should hear First Lady Laura Bush’s keynote address at 11:30. I return to Freeman Auditorium, Woldenberg Art Center, to witness the address. I catch the end of the second panel on “Rebirth of New Orleans’ Historic Neighborhoods: Coming HOME AGAIN!” Kevin Mercadel of the National Trust, New Orleans Office, is saying something important about sites and creativity, the shotgun house and jazz.

I think of where I write and how the quality of writing is affected. What I write in a hotel room has a very different flavor from what I write in my Vicksburg apartment or on the campus of a university where I am a guest. The writing I did at home prior to Katrina was utterly different. (more)

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After the Hurricanes

                 (for the radical writers in New Orleans)

By Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

Poverty is not devoid of its dignity, Nor is the Ninth Ward a fractured mirror For minor gods to behold factitious laughter. Beware of aliens, of inside agitators, of vultures Who would batten on grief and broken hearts, Kidnap our cultures and dreams, wondrously aged, Transport and auction them for abuse. Against such tragedy within tragedy we stand In solidarity for life, for liberty, for return to happiness.

Saints and soldiers creative Be not blindly meditative, Seeking at noon An impossible drinking gourd.

Hope is not devoid of its deceit, Nor immune to misleading into swamps. Careful.  Don’t move left. Quicksand be there. Don’t move right.  Gators will kiss you. Learn from the fugitive enslaved. Befriend moccasins. Capture and coffle the cruel, The arrogant, the mammon cold. Send them on middle passages into the blues.

October 19, 2005

posted 21 October 2005

Check out these TKP files as well The Katrina Papers  Portrait of a Suicide/Death in Yellow Flooding  Dreamers Die Young; Dreams Die Eventually

 Returning to the Sources  / Imprisonment in Holding Cells at Tulane and Broad

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What We Need to Revisit this [2010] Katrina Anniversary

The Katrina Papers: A Journal of Trauma and RecoveryBy Dr. Jerry Ward, Jr.Published by UNO Press (2007) / ISBN: 0972814337 / 233 pgs, paperbackCover Art: Herbert Kearney

This journal begins on Sept. 2, 2005 and ends August 29, 2006 containing a year of the author’s struggles, defeats, and triumphs in the face of the destruction of his city and home. In a larger and more poignant sense, Dr. Ward tackles the destruction of one’s faith in the face of disaster, a faith beyond the borders of religious ideals, it’s a simple faith in the way that the world should work, in the way that the day should hold its shape. There are so many beautiful insights, so many heartbreaking truths laid bare on the page. The journal is a gumbo, a composite of the professor in his academic world, a man breaking bread with his friend, an African American responding to the coded speak of those who hold forth in the recovery of New Orleans.

Dr. Ward pours it all in: the suffocating days exiled in the shelter, the catalogue of things lost to water, the anger, the depression, the weight of trying to move forward into the next actual entry in the journal’s progression. In there as well lies the keen eye poised on literature and what it teaches us; Dr. Ward shares peer reviews, colleague emails, letters of recommendations and advice to young teachers. His schedule to appear and speak, to grant interviews and to be present civically in this tumultuous year is admirable and exhausting. There is a return again and again to the body, its need to slow down, and the mind, which cannot sit still long enough to let the sorrow seep in.

Dr. Ward tends to his “post-Katrina” heart in the journal, aware of the tenuous thread anchoring him to the city and to the life he can lead within its recovery. He responds with the poet’s declaration: “I elect . . . to exploit language and my own emotions” (38). This will be difficult to read if you were here, if you too have a post-Katrina heart. You will feel it in your skin, be it color or non colored, the prickly anxiety and fear that shadowed that first year back.

You will be forced to recall the smells of your moldy possessions, the loss of your home, the sounds of the empty streets, the joy of each returning business and neighbor, the frustration of insurance contacts and FEMA paperwork, the endless lines, and the falling asleep truly not knowing what the next day would bring. You will be taking a strange boat like the one on the cover, “all mothers are boats,” is its name, and you will be rowing toward an island where we keep these things tucked away for they never truly leave us.

The mother in this case is your city, your survival; she weeps for you even as she turns her back. “The perpetual wonderment of tragedy is that we do not tire of looking into its fractured surface to see ourselves as we really are” (150).

Source: Solid Quarter

posted 2 November 2008

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America.

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The Katrina Papers

By Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

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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Pictures and Progress

Early Photography and the Making of African American Identity

Edited by Maurice O. Wallace and Shawn Michelle Smith

Pictures and Progress explores how, during the nineteenth century and the early twentieth, prominent African American intellectuals and activists understood photography’s power to shape perceptions about race and employed the new medium in their quest for social and political justice. They sought both to counter widely circulating racist imagery and to use self-representation as a means of empowerment. In this collection of essays, scholars from various disciplines consider figures including Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and W. E. B. Du Bois as important and innovative theorists and practitioners of photography. In addition, brief interpretive essays, or “snapshots,” highlight and analyze the work of four early African American photographers. Featuring more than seventy images, Pictures and Progress brings to light the wide-ranging practices of early African American photography, as well as the effects of photography on racialized thinking.

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Whatever It Takes

Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America

By Paul Tough

What would it take? That was the question that Geoffrey Canada found himself asking. What would it take to change the lives of poor children—not one by one, through heroic interventions and occasional miracles, but in big numbers, and in a way that could be replicated nationwide? The question led him to create the Harlem Children’s Zone, a ninety-seven-block laboratory in central Harlem where he is testing new and sometimes controversial ideas about poverty in America. His conclusion: if you want poor kids to be able to compete with their middle-class peers, you need to change everything in their lives—their schools, their neighborhoods, even the child-rearing practices of their parents. Whatever It Takes is a tour de force of reporting, an inspired portrait not only of Geoffrey Canada but also of the parents and children in Harlem who are struggling to better their lives, often against great odds. Carefully researched and deeply affecting, this is a dispatch from inside the most daring and potentially transformative social experiment of our time.

Paul Tough is an editor at the New York Times Magazine and one of America’s foremost writers on poverty, education, and the achievement gap. His reporting on Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone originally appeared as a Times Magazine cover story. He lives with his wife in New York City.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 12 July 2012




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