The property at 3820 Alfred Street has always been the focal point of the St. Bernard community. As the headquarters of the New Day Black Community Development Organization, it provided economic assistance, advocacy against injustice, day care services, job banks, GED programs, a youth club and many other social, political, and recreational services. There is not much left of what used to be our community physically, but the spirit, culture, and love for St. Bernard still lives. The FIGHTBACK center is the perfect place for the yearly Mother's day reunions that the Big 7 parade has become. To see some pictures from this year's parade, see the survivors Village blog, at communitiesrising.wordpress.com.
Regaining our culture of cooperation and struggle
by M. Endesha Juakali
New Orleans and the St. Bernard community have always been a place where people enjoyed each other and loved a good party. But there is another part of our culture that I remember that seems to have disappeared lately. The original purpose of social aid and pleasure clubs was to assist the community and those who needed help. They were also called benevolent clubs because they were used to feed the hungry, help with rent and assist those in the community that were in need. A very large part of their benevolent activity was to bury indigent members of the community. The concept was that poor people could pool their pennies, nickels, and dimes into a sort of safety net for everyone. Therefore when they would come out yearly to embrace the pleasure side of the equation the entire community had a good reason to party with the membership.
It seems that the current generation of participants have forgotten the original intent of these Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs. The aid part came first and the pleasure is at the end. Since the hurricane and levee breaches, the Black community and all the neighborhoods have been under constant attack by the forces of white supremacy and injustice. They have thus far been successful in their plan to turn back the hands of time.
This necessitates a return to our roots, not only with helping each other, but also the community spirit to struggle against injustice.
The same brothers and sisters that put together the second line clubs, also challenged the national guard tanks in 1968 with rocks and bottles after the murder of Martin Luther King. They were the ones that put together the Black Youth for Progress (BYP), and represented us in the historic period that saw segregation fall and issued in the Black political progress that has been overturned since hurricane Katrina.
The culture of St. Bernard has been based on helping each other, fighting for our rights, and having a good time. We are still having a good time once a year, but life is not about just partying...even in New Orleans!