A common ground for all generations
23rd September 2013 · 0 Comments
By David Dennis Jr.
Two weeks ago, I got an email from Mrs. Renette Hall asking me if I was interested in writing columns for The Louisiana Weekly. It took about 2.3 seconds to jump at the opportunity. While I immediately understood the grand opportunity in front of me, it wasn’t until I stepped foot in the office that I grasped the vast importance of the paper I would be lending my pen to. When I walked into the building, I noticed the wall adorned with old covers. One headline stuck with me: “James Weldon Johnson Killed.”
As Ms. Hall spoke to me about the paper and my duty here, I started to sink into my seat, nervously shifting my feet and eyeing the various awards in her office. As she explained the paper’s role in the city, I struggled to comprehend just how massive a responsibility it is to have a voice in a paper that has helped New Orleans become the great city it is now. It was hard to wrap my head around the importance of being able to speak in The Louisiana Weekly.
That’s when it hit me: this is history. Our history. For 88 years, The Louisiana Weekly has been the pulse of New Orleans and a voice for African Americans in the city. My father has always spoken about the paper with reverence and fond memories. Now, I’m honored to be a part of the newspaper that has helped shape the Big Easy for almost a century.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure if more people my age (I’m 27, by the way) understand the Weekly’s integral role in the city.
Recently, I started teaching a writing class at Delgado and have tried to explain to my students the importance of having their own voices. Too often the true stories of what’s going on in our city are being ignored because so many voices have been muted. New Orleans is at a tremendously important time with the city emerging from the ashes of levee rubble and decades of mismanagement. But as so many outsiders and opportunists are turning our town into its newest cash cow, the rest of us are at risk of being left behind.
When Super Bowls or All-Star Games or new movies are filmed here, the story usually turns to how far the city has come since the levees fell. But not enough outlets are willing to address the work that still needs to be done. That’s why publications like the Weekly are so vastly important.
I hear all the time that my generation has become complacent. That we are somehow taking injustice lying down, ignorant to what’s happening in Black America or not caring enough to affect change. The idea that young Black New Orleanians simply don’t care is simply an unfair dismissal of our efforts to speak on issues affecting us.
That’s where The Louisiana Weekly comes in. The paper has been the microphone with which so many have been able to get their voices heard, but now young voices are focused on the digital side of communication. Twitter, Facebook and blogs have become my generation’s newspaper. By the time most news gets broken by CNN, the story has already been reported on Twitter. By the time most writers form an opinion in a column, hundreds of thousands of people have expressed their thoughts via Twitter. Unfortunately, this leads to a disconnect as the older generation isn’t necessarily tuned in to the tweets, Facebook statuses and blogs. So since they don’t hear our thoughts, passion and cries for change. The Louisiana Weekly can provide that common ground for all generations to meet and exchange ideas.
In order for my generation to affect change, we need to communicate and learn from who came before us. And in order for those that came before us to leave their legacies, they need to be able to share their stories with us so we can carry on for them. It’s time to close the gap and this is the place for that to happen.
As I continue here at the Weekly, I’ll do my best to speak for myself and my generation, allowing the city to see how we feel. What we’re going through. Where we need help and our vision for change.
We are not a complacent generation. We are not a naive generation. We want to make this city better. We have things to say. And we’re going to say it here as we bring The Louisiana Weekly into its second century.
This article originally published in the September 23, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.