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 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.
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.
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