Friday, December 22, 2006

Georgia Tech - And Getting Out of the Box

On Wednesday, I was invited to a presentation for Georgia Tech students at City Council Chambers in New Orleans. The invitation came from Pamela Bingham, an environmental management and policy consultant and one of the very interesting people I've met through this community disaster response work.

There were about 50 students, all members of Georgia Tech's chapter of National Society of Black Engineers and the African American Student Union. They were in New Orleans during their Christmas break to help New Orleans' residents through the organization ACORN.

Pam had me introduce the Gentilly Project, and I spoke off the cuff for a few minutes. Thinking about what I feel is needed from other African Americans with respect to Katrina recovery and broader issues of black leadership, I asked the students if they were ready to be "out of the box."

I don't know what I was expecting, but I was taken aback and delighted at how many hands went up so quickly. It's natural to have doubt about actions that must be taken, but we all need to step more "out of the box" with respect to our society's approach to the Gulf Coast and how we might address future global catastrophes.

Even within this project, we are regularly stepping out of the box from what is routine and comfortable. I didn't know 2 weeks ago that we'd become a project of 10-20 participants per day, but we improvised and adpated. We met new people, found the resources, and developed a process that got more efficient each day. Now for our return trip to New Orleans next week, we must do get out of the box again.

I flew back to New Hampshire last night, and this morning I met with Sarah Fischer from the Dartmouth graduate team. She just spent most of the past 2 weeks participating in the project, and she's coming back with me to map the rest of Gentilly. Her husband Owen is coming too. Zsuzsanna Mitro and Nick Chernov, two other members of the Dartmouth graduate team, can return as well.

About 1/3 of Gentilly is mapped. Before the New Year begins, we can map all of the Gentilly.

To map the remaining 2/3 by New Year's Day, we'll need 100-200 participants beginning Friday 12/28. And we estimate needing about $6,500. I don't pretend to know exactly how this will work out. But if there is a way to finish mapping Gentilly by New Year's Day, we will find it.


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