The Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs and Mardi Gras Indian tribes that perform in the streets of New Orleans with local brass bands, musicians, and street performers, represent a centuries-long tradition of cultural expression, social unity, and community pride. Less known, however, is the extent to which these groups—which number almost 150 citywide—are persistent victims of racial profiling, police abuse, harassment, illegal arrests, and intimidation.
2010 Soros Justice Fellow Alison McCrary talks about the need end these harmful police practices and achieve greater protection of New Orleans cultural bearers and cultural spaces. McCrary’s fellowship project—the Decriminalization of Culture Campaign—sits at the intersection of a range of issues vitally important to the Open Society Foundations in the Gulf Region (criminal justice reform, the role of arts and culture in the struggle for social change) and represents a promising new approach in the advocacy landscape. The campaign will be hosted by Safe Streets / Strong Communities, one of the leading voices for change in the city’s criminal justice system.
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In the five years since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the levees broke, residents have developed innovative approaches to tackling some of the city’s—and the nation’s—most persistent problems: criminal justice reform, unresponsive government, and racial and economic inequality. In recognition of these efforts, during the month of August the Open Society Blog shines a light on people and organizations in New Orleans bringing change from within one of the country’s most important cities.