This project's funding goal was not reached on May 27, 2014.
About this project
KICKSTART Lower 9th Ward Village A community center dedicated to providing resources and opportunities for Lower 9th Ward residents to empower themselves and others.
History: In 2007, the Lower 9th Ward Village started out from just an idea; from an empty warehouse destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. But that idea, the powerful mobilization of the Lower 9th Ward community members, and the leadership of well known community leader- Ward Mack McClendon- transformed an empty building into a community arts center. This center serves as a community hub for residents to access or create essential resources to empower themselves and others. The center is currently housing New Orleans Airlift, a musical house project bringing together the youth to build an instrument house, mobilizing the community to address the lack of grocery stores in the neighborhood, and building up a job training curriculum around lot cutting of the 600+ blighted lots in the Lower 9th Ward.
In 2012, Mountain Dew agreed to build a skate park inside the Village. Mountain Dew contracted Glu Agency to oversee the project and agreed to pay off the center’s mortgage. Over the course of two months, one of the country’s only indoor skateparks was built, but the rest of the building was left in an inoperable state. The skatepark opening had a 1,000 skateboard give away and much publicity and public enthusiasm, but that energy unfortunately burned quickly because the building was left in a state of dilapidation. To this day, the building is unsafe for this community’s youth to utilize as a skatepark or anything else. The skaters of this New Orleans community are dying to find spaces to ride in. Currently, the only other skating area is under the 610 freeway but also poses as a safety risk.
Since the Village’s opening, over 50,000 volunteers and visitors have come through the center; each one dedicated and committed to giving their drop in the bucket to aid with the recovery of the Lower 9th Ward. Today, the Village faces foreclosure and needs your help to not only save the youth skatepark, but to continue the center’s programs that have been providing resources for self sufficiency to this community- a community that suffers from the lack of no grocery store, no drug stores, only two of seven schools reopened, and no banks. Years of hard work and community mobilization have kept the Village alive thus far and are ready to take the fight to the next level. We need supporters like you be a part of our team.
Your Support: Your funding will go to saving the building from foreclosure. Without your support, the Lower 9th Ward Village would have never become a reality. That building would have remained abandoned and unable to do any of the work that the center has done for this community. The Lower 9th Ward Village is a vital resource for community members especially with regards to at-risk populations: the youth, elderly, and the working class. It serves as creative space for these individuals to build up resources for themselves and to strive toward a self-sufficient community. The Village is an important medium for community members to acquire resources such as access to information and local news and actions, help the elderly with daily tasks, youth summer camps, and open mic nights to encourage creative self expression. acquire such resources.
Donations exceeding our goal will allow us to not only pay off the building but also get the center up to code and gather the start-up capital to implement other arts-based programs such as a recording studio, commercial kitchen, and library and digital arts lab.
Future Hopes: The physical structure of the Lower 9th Ward Village is a tangible ray of hope for not only this community but for all other communities that have faced disaster. It is not just about having programs and opportunities for this community to become whole again after Katrina, but also serving as a model for how disasters should be embraced. The Lower 9th Ward has experienced governmental neglect and displacement since Hurricane Katrina, which acted as a huge barrier for much of the community to return. The Village strives to show how communities can rebuild and revitalize their community through a united and collective energy to serve their own needs. The Lower 9th Ward Village represents the symbol of rebuilding and as the facilitator of many more programs and projects (such as a recording studio and commercial kitchen) that will help to address pertinent issues that this community faces and mobilize collective power where many assume the Lower 9th Ward to be a lost cause. That is false, even with only a third of the community having returned, there is a richness and resilience that can’t be matched by any other community. We have been working with various partners and have supporters around the world that have come through the Village and seen its potential. We are excited to reconnect and build new connections and gain solidarity to truly help this community come back.
Risks and challenges
Once we are able to save the building and skate park from foreclosure, we need to bring the building up to code. This requires mainly electrical work which we already have an estimate for. We also have been in contact with general contractors who are willing to donate their time and labor to assist with the electrical work.
In addition we have been in partnership with businesses, public benefits corporations, and other non-profits who are looking to be housed inside the building and skate park which will help to raise the necessary funds to operationalize the building and bring the building up to code.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Over the past 7 months, the Lower 9th Ward Village (Mack McClendon, ED; Rebecca Fisher-McGinty and Chika Kondo (volunteer staff)) have been organizing around 3 main projects and continue to support current issues that are brought to the forefront for the Lower 9th Ward community.
The first is organizing around food access and we have partnered with an urban farm, SUA (suanola.com) to develop a community driven outdoor market that will provide access to healthy and fresh produce. Currently we are working with a new local business that opened, Galvez Goodies under the leadership of Burnell Cotlon to create a mutual partnership in working towards building up a permanent grocery store.
The Village is also developing a job training curriculum around lot cutting. The Lower 9th Ward has over 600 blighted properties that need to be maintained before further plans of development are pushed forward. We have already initialized a soft launch and have cut over 4 lots in the past 2 months and have created contracts to continue maintaining those lots.
Lastly, we have been pushing forward in our development of a disaster blueprint concentrating on the narrative of the Lower 9th Ward to ensure that no other community faces what this community has faced after a disaster. This blueprint aims to advocate on the issues this community has faced through individual interviews and concrete documentation of evidence and research. See Kick Starter update on our Bringing Back our Community Project (BBOC) for more information.
In January, the Lower 9th Ward Village participated in the organizing of candidate forums to invite local election candidates to speak on the issues pertinent to the Lower 9th Ward and New Orleans East. We are currently members of the East of the Industrial Canal coalition as the Lower 9th Ward and New Orleans East are part of the same District, District E. The 2 forums we held were widely attended and gave the opportunity for residents to directly ask questions to the potential election candidates. We are using the responses that came from those forums as a strategy to hold those who did win seats accountable to what they promised.
In 2012, Mt. Dew expressed interest to Mack McClendon, ED of the Lower 9th Ward Village, about the possibility of building a skate park inside the center. For Mack McClendon, he saw this as the perfect opportunity to give the youth an outlet and a safe space to seek opportunities that would be positive for their growth. The skating community is growing in New Orleans and with very little spaces to skate in, the Lower 9th Ward Village went into an agreement with Glu Agency, Mt. Dew's contracted PR firm to carry out the project. The stipulations of the contract laid out that Glu Agency would pay off the mortgage of the building and spend 2 months to build the indoor skate park. After 2 months, they built a skate park but left the building in an inoperable state: the electrical was not redone properly. There was a grand opening where Lil Wayne and other well known skaters came and 1,000 skateboards were given away, but since that opening, the skate park has not been able to be available to the public because of safety concerns.
Before October 2013, the Lower 9th Ward Village was operated by Ward Mack McClendon and had no real staff support. He had great volunteers dedicate time and much sweat equity to build up the center. Currently he has a team of two others, Rebecca Fisher-McGinty and Chika Kondo, and they have been working on strategic planning and structuring of the center and 501(c)3 to begin generating sustainable revenue sources and grant funding. With the $75,000, the Lower 9th Ward Village will be able to reach better stability and leverage to 1.) save the building from foreclosure and 2.) build up its programs and ability to sustain its operational costs.
The direct answer is no. However the Lower 9th Ward Village does not intend on depending on solely grassroots funding and individual donations to save the building. We currently house volunteers and have housed close to 500 volunteers in just this year alone (Jan-April 2014). In addition we have launched a lot-cutting service where we are cutting lots in the neighborhood to help residents and property owners avoid fines for having their grass be over 18 inches. After Katrina, the city of New Orleans instituted a rule that fines property owners for having their grass be over 18 inches. We are working with various non-profits in the Lower 9th Ward to partner on funding and programs and are also seeking our own grants to assist with our operational costs. Lastly, we are also in discussion with other entities and actors to negotiate extension on the foreclosure.
- (40 days)