Location: New Orleans, LA
In 2004, the Neighborhood Story Project was founded as a book-making project based in the neighborhoods where we live and work. We work with writers in neighborhoods around New Orleans to create books about their communities.
We started at our neighborhood public school, John McDonogh Senior High, with the idea of our students investigating their worlds. For a year, the students wrote, photographed, interviewed and edited. In June of 2005, we brought out five books—collaborative ethnographies—about New Orleans.
In the years since, we have expanded our practice of collaborative ethnography outside of schools, producing books and posters that do the work of telling stories of the city. We work with authors and neighborhoods, then celebrate publication with block parties. The books have gone on to be citywide bestsellers, selling more than 35,000 books.
We continue the work as a center at the University of New Orleans, with Rachel in the Department of Anthropology, and Abram in the College of Education and Human Performance, and publish our books through UNO Press and our own 501c3 non-profit.
When I Was Your Age
In partnership, the Greater New Orleans Writing Project and the NSP led teachers at Andrew H. Wilson Charter School toward writing this book. The resulting document takes readers back in time, to when the teachers were the age of their current students. When I Was Your Age chronicles important events and lessons of youth: first crushes, school dances, bullying, getting lost, and finding truth. It talks back to the notion that teachers were born old and live at school–stories from when teachers were young>
Talk that Music Talk: Passing on Brass Band Music in New Orleans
In the early 1900s, jazz was created in New Orleans. Soon afterwards the fear began…it’s moving away, it’s going to die out, it needs to be preserved. Yet each generation has put time and energy into making sure the roots of the music stay strong in the city. This book is about the history of that kind of organizing work, and what happened when the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park brought together a new group of young people to learn traditional brass band music from older musicians and the Black Men of Labor Social Aid & Pleasure Club.
Straight Outa Swampton: Life at the Intersection of Natural and Built Worlds in New Orleans
From Creative Writing Students at Lake Area NTEC High School, Straight Outta Swampton is about life in a city in which the line between nature and civilization is often unclear. It is the story of a city that rose from a swamp, and that for 300 years has been engaged in an epic struggle with nature for its right to exist. The young writers are themselves both actors and tellers of this story, and they pick the story up in a particular time and place.
Aunt Alice vs. Bob Marley: My Education In New Orleans
Kareem Kennedy documents his quest for an education in the schools and streets of New Orleans. With his father gone and his mother frequently out of the picture, Kareem looks towards teachers, friends and extended family for the skills to muster through public schools, Hurricane Katrina, and the “heavy hands and hard shoes” of his life. Tracing Kareem’s history through the Seventh Ward, exile in Houston, and a return to school in New Orleans, the book represents two years of highs and lows: losing friends, surviving violence, and the beginning of his college career.
Beyond The Bricks
Daron Crawford and Pernell Russell tell more than parallel stories, Beyond the Bricks is a conversation about life in New Orleans as the city’s major public housing projects are torn down. With childhoods spent in the Calliope and St. Bernard Projects, Daron and Pernell document what these communities meant, the new struggles of living outside the projects and their families’ new footholds in the city. Beyond the Bricks documemnts the many cultures of teenage New Orleans: rap and dance, skateboarding and fashion, showing the strengths and tensions of the different scenes they call home>
From My Mother’s House of Beauty
From her childhood in Englishtown on the Caribbean coast of Honduras to her life in the Seventh Ward, Susan Stephanie Henry writes of transitions and shifting identities. In From My Mother’s House of Beauty, Susan investigates her many worlds: family homes, beauty salons, public schools and fashion runways. Part memoir, part ethnography, House of Beauty explores what it means to be a black Honduran woman living in New Orleans.
Signed, the President
A portrait of family life during turbulent times as seen and felt through our narrator and interviewer-at-large, Kenneth Phillips, aka, the President. Kenneth tells his story through interviewing family members — questions that begin to tell the stories of the St. Bernard Public Housing Development, the beginnings of bounce, sweet shops and church services. Where the interviews leave off, Kenneth explains: his relationship with his father, losing the family dog Kobey, and his journey toward manhood.
The House of Dance Feathers
In a backyard on Tupelo Street, in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Ronald W. Lewis has assembled a museum to the various worlds he inhabits. Built in 2003, and rebuilt after Katrina, the House of Dance & Feathers represents many New Orleans societies: Mardi Gras Indians, Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs, Bone Gangs, and Parade Krewes. More than just a catalogue of the artifacts in the museum, this book is a map of these worlds as experienced by Ronald W. Lewis. Through stories and conversation, we come to know the wide network of people who construct and nurture performance traditions in the city.
This is New Orleans history through place—less from the Andrew Jackson slept here style and more This is where my parents met style: barrooms as comfortable as living rooms, an empty lot that holds more life than many houses, a barbershop that doubles as an artist’s studio, and a museum that grew out of one man’s back shed. Through interviews, photographs, site maps, and architectural drawings, we document the intersections of places and people that make New Orleans great.
Nine Times Social and Pleasure Club
Beginning with their own childhoods in the Desire Housing Project, Nine Times take the reader on a journey through their world: Motown Sound at Carver games, DJ’s in the courts, and sandlot football. It continues as the Housing Authority of New Orleans begins to demolish the Desire, and Nine Times begins to parade in the Ninth Ward. Written by the members during the year after Katrina, Nine Times writes about their lives, their parades, the storm, and the rebuilding process. Through interviews, photographs, and writing, Nine Times brings readers into their world of second lines, brass bands, Magee’s Lounge, and the ties that bind.
Before and After N. Dorgenois
In her book Before and After North Dorgenois, Ebony Bolding examines life in the Sixth Ward. She talks to her neighbors on North Dorgenois, interviewing newly arrived doctors, members of the church on her block, and a neighbor who has returned to the block where her mother grew up. From her porch near John McDonogh Senior High, she looks at the ways the block is changing, and writes about her mother’s decision to move the family deeper into the Sixth Ward after a new landlord buys their house. Ms. Bolding interviews the new landlord and discusses life in the Sixth Ward with the Bayou Road Boys.
Between Piety and Desire
In their book Between Piety and Desire, brother and sister team Arlet and Sam Wylie talk about their regular and irregular life living above a neighborhood store. They remember a childhood of parents keeping them inside to avoid the struggles of the neighborhood around them. They interview the people who hang out on the block, weaving the history of the street through their own history living upstairs. Unusually candid and self-reflective, the Wylies detail their “inside life,” including Sam’s new fatherhood and Arlet’s new home.
In The Combination, Ashley Nelson paints a nuanced and lyrical portrait of one of downtown New Orleans’ oldest public housing complexes, the Lafitte. She begins with her own family, weaving their history through the daily life of the community. Ms. Nelson’s interviews let the reader hear from voices rarely engaged, from the owner of the corner store, to the Residents’ Council, to the members of the community more often profiled than listened to. She writes about and photographs much of Lafitte — from second lines to ward signs, from the Wild Side to the Real Side, from Dooky Chase to Southern Scrap, it’s all here.
Jana Dennis examines one the most diverse blocks in New Orleans in her book, Palmyra Street. Located in the heart of Mid-City near the new Streetcar line, her block of Palmyra is rich with many typical and not-so-typical New Orleans stories. Through interviews, photographs, and vignettes, Ms. Dennis paints a thorough and intriguing portrait of a block in flux. The reader watches Jana’s family construct community not only on their block, but also through their participation in church life and the Golden Arrows Mardi Gras Indian Tribe.
What Would the World be Without Women: Stories from the 9th Ward
Waukesha Jackson’s book is an examination of loss and recovery. Starting with her relationship to her mother, Ms. Jackson writes about the struggles that have been a part of many of the lives of women in the Ninth Ward. In particular, she examines the frequent role of women as caretakers of the community– in their homes, social clubs, barrooms, and churches. Through interviews, photography and reflection, Ms. Jackson captures the tough times and victories of her family and neighbors.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has"
Margaret Mead, Anthropologist
(used with permission)
"If you don't like the news .... go out and make some of your own !!"
Wes "Scoop" Nisker, Newscaster
Government is a slow and tedious process. While it often includes citizen and neighborhood involvement, non-governmental, private organizations have created movements and interesting groups which can create positive change in our cities and towns.
I am fascinated by the way groups are created and how they influence public decision making. This blog merely recognizes them and forwards the description of these groups from their own websites.