Thinking about ‘culture’

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about culture in general. My experiences thus far in New Orleans have reiterated just how powerful culture can truly be. The House of Dance and Feathers Museum, which we visited yesterday, displayed the richness of NOLA’s past. The elaborate costumes used in the weekly parades (which we watched a clip of) varied in color and style, but each one told an interesting story, a small snippet of life here. What really struck me, however, was when Ronald Lewis, the director of the museum, answered his own question of “why should people return to New Orleans if another disaster will inevitably strike.” I agreed, because scientifically it makes little sense to continually try to urbanize such a vulnerable region. Well, Ronald then explained that even though hurricane Katrina destroyed houses and uprooted families, it never touched the spirit of New Orleans. After walking through the French Quarter, sampling the local cuisine, and hearing live music, I have experienced firsthand the spirit and continued vitality of this city. This revelation motivated me earlier today, when I worked with the St. Bernard’s Project and AmeriCorps to help rebuild the Burrell family’s home. Ibrahim and I turned square holes in the walls into functional doorways. Others painted and installed baseboard. The work was especially rewarding considering my newfound knowledge of what I was helping to do: not only bring a family back to its house, but also back to its history and culture.

This reminds me why I’m here, both in New Orleans and in OU. I believe that culture inspires a sense of community, acting as a uniting force that can overcome devastation. It has brought thousands of people back to a place that could have become Atlantis. I’m sure it can also work cross-culturally, connecting diverse groups into one stronger, greater, and interlocked society.

Dan Schuman, William Penn Charter School, OU 2010

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