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Posts Tagged ‘G-Bitch Spot’

Dedra Johnson of ‘The G Bitch Spot’ Wins Rising Tide’s Ashley Award

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Each year at the Rising Tide conference on the future of New Orleans the coveted Ashley Award, named in honor of the legendary, larger-than-life Ashley Morris,* is presented to a blogger who has made outstanding contributions to writing about post-Katrina New Orleans.

This year’s winner is Dedra Johnson (right) of The G Bitch Spot, “at which a mad black woman rants about New Orleans, insomnia, teaching, education . . .”, particularly about life in the post-Katrina New Orleans school system. Click here for a video of the presentation, with praise for Dedra by Mark Moseley of The Lens, and here for a special congratulations by someone who knows Dedra well: her husband, Derek Bridges.

To celebrate Dedra’s award and to showcase her strong, no-nonsense writing, we’re showing some samples of her writing. The blog posts chosen have also appeared in A Howling in the Wires: An Anthology of Writing from Postdiluvian New Orleans, edited by Sam Jasper and Mark Folse (Gallatin & Toulouse Press, 2010).

Dedra Johnson is a creative writing teacher and author of Sandrine’s Letter to Tomorrow (2007), a coming-of-age novel set in 1970s New Orleans. Sandrine’s Letter was praised by Robert Olen Butler as “an important novel by a true artist” and hailed by Frederick Barthelme as “a remarkable debut novel” that conveys “the intricacies of a vexed family life.” Dedra received her MFA degree from the University of Florida, where she was a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers. Sandrine’s Letter to Tomorrow was a runner-up for the William Faulkner–William Wisdom Award in 2006. She is also an AOL travel contributor (see “New Orleans Mythbusters”).

Where You Said You Live At? or Margaritas as Coping Strategy,” posted on March 19, 2006, conveys the fatigue of living in a battered, depopulated city that nearly drowned in floodwaters a half year earlier and is slowly being strangled by bureaucratic red tape and incompetence. This post was selected not only for its evocative prose but because it reflects conditions that persist in many parts of America and may spread with any given natural or unnatural disaster.**

The following is a selection. Click here or on the title above for the full post.

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Where You Said You Live At? or Margaritas as Coping Strategy  

Why no N.O. news, commentary, rants, pleas? Because it rankles enough to live it, much less reiterate it for the consumption of others. Each front page of the Times-Pic is demoralizing, infuriating—early pundits bashing New Orleanian stupidity in not getting flood insurance when a large percentage HAD flood insurance; every senator and representative bitching and moaning over the Gulf Coast being OK (and needing no more money) since they see clips of the French Quarter up and running on national news then being agog at their first superficial glance of Lakeview (where WHITE people and PROFESSIONAL people lived, not welfare queens and drug dealing pimps specializing in crack whores of all hues) and then the Ninth Ward, not even taking a look at the chaos of half-repaired and completely ignored traffic lights, piles of debris, refrigerators and 3+ weeks’ worth of garbage and a coming election that is plagued by chaos, in-fighting, racial contempt and deep-seated conflict, federal neglect and unprocessed hurt and anger; and the bullshitting cockamamie half-assed amateurish job being done by all decision-makers and -influencers on the local, state and federal level; and then there’s the particular chaos and neglect and fraud and graft that is FEMA.

I’m shattered and nothing happened to my house.

No one is being decisive or honest. Much of the money directed our way in the early days has been wasted. Entergy and LSUHC saw the post-Katrina atmosphere as one in which they could get concessions and privileges no one would give them before—LSUHC closed Charity and University, “furloughed” most of the employees (all while LSU hospital staff were retained and many helped with housing), and claimed the Charity hospital building was unusable and the federal government needed to build a brand new hospital for them; and contractors ran loose and wild with money, squishing the huge amounts they got through more and more subcontractors and therefore smaller funnels until those who actually did the work got paid shit. It offends all my sensibilities, fuels all my social resentments (one, that Entergy, a private for-profit company, owns a utility at all; none of this would’ve happened if we still had NOPSI [New Orleans Public Service, Inc.] b/c there would’ve been no incentive/profit in delaying repairs or service or paperwork gimmicks). Shaw [the Shaw Group, a Fortune 500 construction and engineering firm based in Baton Rouge] made a shitload of money, too. Meanwhile, no one knows what to do while FEMA drags its barely-competent feet on new flood maps and SBA loan requirements and amounts change at random and Burger King pays better than most of the non-construction jobs in town. I feel like my chest is weighed down, and also feel forsaken. Again.

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* Ashley Morris, Ph.D., who died in 2008, was one of the founders of the Rising Tide conference and an inspiration for the character Creighton Bernette, played by John Goodman, in HBO’s Treme.

** If you think conditions in storm-damaged America may have improved since 2006, just listen to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor [R-Va.] insisting that federal funds for disaster relief after Hurricane Irene should be offset by additional spending cuts.

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Dedra Johnson after being presented with the Ashley Award by Mark Moseley and Leigh Checkman at Rising Tide 6 at Xavier University, August 27, 2011. Photo by Derek Bridges. More RT6 photos here and here.

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Live-Blogging from Rising Tide 6

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

A conference on the future of New Orleans

Xavier University, New Orleans

Tune in to webcast here. Rising Tide 6 main web site here, and RT6 blog here. Photos here, here, and here.

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Usually we worry that Rising Tide might be disrupted by a hurricane—after all, it’s held each year on the anniversary of Katrina. Ironically, this year, while Hurricane Irene is lashing at the East Coast and New York City is evacating some 250,000 people from low-lying areas, the weather in New Orleans is warm (okay, hot), clear, calm. At the conference some of us are scratching our heads and asking of the millions who live along the East Coast, susceptible as it is to hurricanes, Why do they live there? 

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Dedra Johnson of The G-Bitch Spot Blog Wins 2011 Ashley Award 

Congratulations to Dedra Johnson of The G-Bitch Spot—a blog that doesn’t just have a great name, but shines with clear, independent thinking and sharp, sassy writing—in which “a mad black woman rants about New Orleans, insomnia, teaching, education, and ‘education,’ various -isms and anything involving a bitch, a spot or the letter g.”

4:30 Presentation of the Ashley Award 2011

Presented by Mark Moseley of The Lens and Your Right Hand Thief and Leigh Checkman of Liprap’s Lament.

The Ashley Morris award was established in 2008 to honor and remember the late Dr. Ashley Morris, one of the founding members of Rising Tide and still a guiding spirit. The award is given each year to someone who embodies Ashley’s fierce passionate defense of New Orleans, its people and culture. And the winner is . . . Dedra Johnson (see above).

3:05 Panel Discussion: New Orleans Food: Continuity and Change

Chris DeBarr, chef at Green Goddess, longtime N.O. blogger as “excitable chef”; Alex del Castillo, chef and owner of Taceaux Loceaux; Adolfo Garcia, chef and owner of RioMar, LaBoca, etc.; Rene Louapre, food columnist at Offbeat magazine; and Todd Price, freelance writer.

2:00 David Simon, featured speaker

Creator of HBO’s celebrated TV show Treme, set in post-Katrina New Orleans, and of HBO’s The Wire.

An argument against “standing.” Not clear at first what Simon means by “standing.” Sounds like a synonym for legitimacy, credentials.

Began as a reporter in Baltimore, covering police beat in a mainly African-American neighborhood. As a young reporter it struck me how few reporters would not want to ask questions to which they did not already know the answer. But I would ask anyone anything. Tells the story of a former Pulitzer Prize–winning Herald Tribune reporter who asks so many questions that an Esso executive complained to the editor why did you send this idiot to interview me? He didn’t know anything; I had to explain everything to him.

As I approached New Orleanians to make the show Treme with Eric Overmeyer, I decided to hire local people, and determined to be very deferential to the people in this city who had suffered through such a terrible trauma. There are no rules. Standing is the lamest way of judging quality, authenticity. I don’t believe standing matters.

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