Welcome Table New Orleans Stakeholders Build Knowledge, Bridges via Local History 

by Blake Weiss

In April, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced the launch of Welcome Table New Orleans. Since then, as local engagement has deepened, our partnership with New Orleans has grown. Story circles have evolved–in one, a remarkable group of mothers whose sons are either perpetrators or victims of violence support one another. A youth leadership group is being established. The communities are trusting the Welcome Table process.

A challenging part of this process is to dispel myths and untrue histories. To this end, on Nov. 8, at the New Orleans Hyatt Regency Hotel, the City of New Orleans and the Winter Institute hosted the Welcome Table New Orleans History Symposium. There, participants learned information from scholars that they may draw from when they return to the table.

Some 50 Welcome Table New Orleans participants heard presentations on the city’s complicated racial history from scholars nationwide.

The presentations focused on the city’s history, specifically the importance of Homer Plessy, a New Orleans native arrested for sitting in the “White” section of a railcar, and the significance of the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court case. Presentations also brought attention to the influence New Orleans’s history has had on its education system.

Attendants were Welcome Table participants from New Orleans’s Algiers, Central City, Little Woods, and St. Roch communities. They also participated in smaller break-out groups where they discussed individual perspectives with scholars. 

Von Gordon, Youth Engagement coordinator at the Institute, noted that events such as the History Symposium “help cities to better understand their complicated histories.” Through this understanding and truth telling regarding a history that they share, participants “build trust and collectively produce better processes and solutions for their future.” 

Stephen Kennedy, a participant from the St. Roch Welcome Table, said it was helpful to learn much about his city’s history that he “wasn’t in turn with.”

The Winter Institute frequently brings more than half our staff to New Orleans for Welcome Table sessions. As in our Community Building work throughout Mississippi, we receive no compensation. To help us end difference-based discrimination, give a Giving Tuesday gift today!

Blake Weiss, an Institute intern, is a senior psychology major from Fishers, Indiana.

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