Hurricane Katrina Awareness Week to include Louisiana foods, films, jazz, speakers and play
In an effort to keep the University of St. Thomas community informed of the ongoing humanitarian and environmental crisis in the wake of the August 2005 Hurricane Katrina, a group of students has organized a week of campus events that include Cajun- and New Orleans-style foods, jazz, films and a play.
Hurricane Katrina Awareness Week activities will run from Monday, Feb. 12, through Thursday, Feb. 15. Some of the activities will help raise funds that support social-service programs for needy children at the Lusher Charter School in New Orleans. More information about the school can be found at: https://www.nops.k12.la.us/SchoolWebs/LusherExt/About%20Lusher/default.htm.
Funds raised during the awareness week also will help support a service trip that 35 members of the St. Thomas community will take to New Orleans over spring break, March 17 to 24. The trip is a joint effort of the St. Thomas Hurricane Katrina Awareness Campaign and the All College Council.
Here’s a day-by-day list of the events:
Monday, Feb. 12, through Thursday, Feb. 15:
- Look for the “Send Your Love to Louisiana” booth (the information desk in Koch Commons) that will accept donations for the charter school and for the spring-break service trip. For even a small donation you can pick up a bracelet that says “Look. Listen. Choose. Act. New Orleans.” The bracelets include the French fleur-de-lis (flower of the lily) symbol and are in the Mardi Gras colors of green, purple and gold.
Tuesday, Feb. 13:
- Part 1 of Spike Lee’s documentary, “When the Levees Broke,” will be shown at 7 p.m. in the third-floor lounge, Room 304, of Murray-Herrick Campus Center. The film will be followed by a discussion; the public is welcome. More information about the HBO documentary can be found at: https://www.hbo.com/docs/programs/whentheleveesbroke/.
- Cajun and Creole foods will be served in the Student Dining Room and the Grill in Murray-Herrick Campus Center, and in the Binz Refectory on the south campus. The foods can be purchased with meal-plan and flex dollars.
- A jazz ensemble, led by St. Thomas student Dejen Tesfagiorgis, will perform over the dinner hour in the second-floor Student Dining Room in Murray-Herrick.
Wednesday, Feb. 14:
- Part 2 of Spike Lee’s documentary, “When the Levees Broke,” will be shown at 7 p.m. in the third-floor lounge, Room 304, of Murray-Herrick Campus Center. The film will be followed by a discussion; the public is welcome.
Thursday, Feb. 15:
This main program of the week, “Hurricane Katrina: Real Stories,” will run from 6:30 p.m. to about 9 p.m. in the auditorium and first-floor atrium of O’Shaughnessy Educational Center.
The Dejen Tesfagiorgis ensemble will perform New Orleans-style jazz in the atrium starting at 6:30 p.m.
Dr. Lawrence Potter, executive director of institutional diversity at St. Thomas, will open the program and introduce Archbishop Harry Flynn. Now serving the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and chair of St. Thomas’ Board of Trustees, Flynn once served as an archbishop in New Orleans.
The next speaker will be Crystal Koenig, a St. Thomas student who was displaced by Katrina.
During an intermission, the Dejen Tesfagiorgis ensemble will again perform jazz in the atrium and free Cajun “finger food," catered by Popeye’s, will be served.
Following the intermission, a one-act play, written by Hamline University student Tony Wilson, will be performed. The play, presented in conjunction with the Hamline Theater Department, features the perspectives of two New Orleans natives who survived Katrina; one is a 65-year-old African American man and the other is a 37-year-old white woman.
The week’s activities have been planned by a group of St. Thomas students; co-chairs are seniors Lizzy Freeman and Matt Mehlhoff, and juniors Carl Mickman and Erin Maye. They hope to make the week an annual event.
“We decided on an awareness week because we found that the biggest obstacle to rebuilding New Orleans was simply that the general public had forgotten about it,” Mickman said. “The initial push from charities, churches, volunteers and grassroots organizations was phenomenal. It was a hot issue and it was great to see the compassion the public exhibited when the tragedy occurred.
“Unfortunately, the novelty of the cause eventually died out and enthusiasm, as well as funding and volunteers, dried up. The fact is, New Orleans didn’t need three months of funding and support, it needs years of sustained support from both public and private sectors.
“Our job is not specifically to enlist a few people to make a difference, it is to make a difference in the people, and lead them toward making choices so that they don’t forget about those who are often left behind in our fast-paced society. That is the goal for both the awareness week and the spring-break service trip.”
For more information about the week’s events or how to contribute, Mickman can be reached at (612) 618-7945.