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by Jeremy Tuman

the working poor

It's hard to think about social justice without thinking about social injustice: those aspects of our society that seem inherently unfair. Chief among these aspects in my mind is how a person can work a full-time job and remain living in a somewhat mysterious category called "below the poverty line." I say this category is mysterious not because the realities of life in this category are too far removed from most of our daily lives, and not because most of us don't see or know or interact with such people. Of course we do see them, and know them. They are among us everyday, and in fact they are us, in the sense that the working poor are a huge part of our New Orleans community. I say the "poverty line" is mysterious because it's derived by statistics, averages, and mean numbers, and these numbers are "mean" in both senses. The "line" implies that those living above it are okay somehow, that their struggles to make rent, pay bills, pay for health care, pay for child care, provide education, and cover transportation are somehow greatly eased by the simple fact that they live above the poverty line, just outside the mysterious, or maybe mysteriously derived, category.

But any working person who has used a monthly paycheck to calculate a monthly budget, and then imagined trying to calculate the same budget with a paycheck half as much, even one third as much, has a strong understanding that the amounts of money we're talking about are simply not enough. The expenses are too great, too numerous, and at times too unpredictable or unexpected. The poverty line for a family of four is $24,250. A number so low that the logistics and realities of supporting oneself while raising kids on it simply boggle the mind. That working people are forced to survive on less than this, in a society that prides itself on its wealth, is in itself an injustice. That working people earning twice that amount face almost the exact same difficulties, yet receive less attention and assistance because they live above the poverty line, is an even bigger injustice.

The ranks of the working poor are growing in this country, as inequality widens and the middle class is dissolved. More and more of our income is distributed upward, as the costs of health care, education, communication, and transportation rise. These areas are not luxury items or even optional purchases. They are areas of basic need for every American, yet they remain prohibitively expensive, even out of reach altogether for some, even as the economy improves and corporate profits rise. The only thing that remains cheap is food, well, certain foods at least, namely cheeseburgers and fries. But as our tax dollars are used to keep these foods cheap, thereby subsidizing the profits of the corporations that sell them, while at the same time our tax dollars pay for the health care and even the food of employees of these corporations, then cheap cheeseburgers start to seem like less of a bargain. Factor in health care costs associated with over reliance on these cheap foods (how could you not, at poverty line incomes?) then the value meal itself begins to look like an injustice.

It's not hard to find injustices in our society. A school like Xavier, that has the promotion of a more just society built into its very mission, has plenty of work to do and huge challenge to accept. As our first-year students prepare to engage in their required service learning in the spring semester, they have a tremendous opportunity in front of them to effect social change, and to gain a deeper and lasting understanding of both the meaning of social justice and their role in it. Of course this opportunity is facilitated by the faculty, who take on this additional challenge of teaching Freshman Seminar, and designing and leading service learning projects, when the majority of their colleagues choose not to teach the course. These are the teachers at the front line of the intersection of the school, its mission, and its first-year students, a crucial intersection where lifelong purpose can be forged. And I commend them, and encourage them to consider the injustice at the heart of their service learning project, no matter what project they choose.

by Bart Everson

I don't think I've mentioned it previously, but there's a new book out which has a couple Xavier connections.

The book is Please Forward: How Blogging Reconnected New Orleans After Katrina from UNO Press. It collects numerous writings that were shared online in the aftermath of the flooding of New Orleans, and the devastation of the Gulf Coast, from 2005 to 2007.

One contributor is a Xavier prof, the noted theologian and biblical scholar Michael Homan.

Please Forward

The other Xavier connection? Well, that would be yours truly.

We've got a copy of the book here at CAT+FD for your perusal, so stop in and take a look.

If you're interested in using the book in your teaching, read on...

We've been contacted by a handful of teachers and professors who have added Please Forward to their course syllabi. If you, or someone you know, might be interested in using the book in the classroom, teachers and professors can request a review copy by emailing unopress [at] uno [dot] edu and putting "Please Forward for Classrooms" in the subject line.

Footnoote: This is a topic of particular interest to me; see also my series on The Role of Blogs in the Rebuilding of New Orleans

by Jeremy Tuman

There is a disconnect between the narratives emerging from the recent marking of the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. In one narrative thread there is optimism and positivity about the economic direction of the city. In the Times-Picayune of Sunday, September 20, Michael Hecht, president of Greater New Orleans Inc., contributed an opinion piece that exemplifies this optimistic thread. He notes among positive growth markers that "our software sector is No. 2 for absolute job growth" in the U.S., and that the giant new medical complex in the center of our city is "predicted to create more than 30,000 new jobs, at an average salary of $92,000." Our homegrown industry in water management is also doing well by contracting in New York for post-Sandy work, along with presumably working on pressing local issues of water management.

Stefan Selig, U.S. under secretary of Commerce for international trade, joins Hecht in this narrative in another recent op-ed, in which he notes New Orleans' rapid growth, new industries, thousands of new jobs, and increasing property values. But the specific focus of his article is the booming export industry of the New Orleans-Metairie area. In an area of which many of us are likely unaware on a daily basis, we exported just under $35 billion in goods in 2014, including things such as petroleum and coal, chemicals, foods, and forestry and mining products. Our "export hub" ranks eighth in the country by this measure of dollar amount exported, ahead of San Francisco, Dallas, and Philadelphia. Foreign investors have taken note of our growth, Selig says, as noted by the Australian commercial explosives and fertilizer manufacturer Incitec Pivot, and their plans to build an $800 million plant in Waggaman. All of this industry and investment and growth supports many jobs, around 170,000 according to Selig.

But not everyone in New Orleans is benefitting.

The other strain of narratives emerging from K10 paints a much different picture, equally as eye-opening, but for all the wrong reasons. The number that looms for me over all of the positive growth numbers is 52. According to a 2013 study by Loyola University's Lindy Boggs Center for Community Literacy, 52% of African American men in New Orleans are unemployed. The study serves as a focal end-cap to a handful of other studies and reports over the last few years that indicate a singular basic truth: Black New Orleans is not better off ten years after Katrina than it was the day after or the day before, and by many measures it is much worse off. A group called the African American Leadership Conference produced a report in 2013 called the Katrina Pain Index, in which it disaggregated by race data produced by the New Orleans Index. Some of the findings of this reports were that African-American households earn on average 50% less than white households, and that 44% of African-American households earn less than $20,000, compared to 18% of white households. Meanwhile a report by the Urban League indicates that the percentage on Black children living in poverty has increased since Katrina, from 44% to a staggering 50.5% in 2013.

Something isn't adding up. If jobs are growing and industry is growing and New Orleans is doing better than ever, then why is half our population suffering so? I don't claim to know the answers to why or to how to fix it. In fact I claim not to know. A host of issues come into play when attempting to dissect and analyze this disconnect: education reform, criminal justice reform, deeply rooted racism at once cultural, historic, and systemic. But the bottom line is that if we are all not doing well, then we aren't doing well. If half of New Orleans is worse off, then New Orleans is worse off, period. The problems associated with this huge racial disparity in economic well-being cannot be ignored. They seep into our quality of life as a whole, whether its by the crime that continues to plague our city, violence that takes away too many of our young men, homelessness, mental health problems, and environmental degradation. This disparity and how to address it lies at the very core of Xavier's mission to promote a more just and humane society, and service learning is a way for our students and faculty to engage with other stakeholders, the community, to do just that. Service learning is unique as a pedagogy in its ability to produce outcomes of civic engagement and social responsibility. A spirit of volunteerism and of giving back is a valuable and necessary thing for students to have, but an experience in service learning goes well beyond that spirit, to instill the notion that social systems are created by us and can be changed by us, not just from the outside by alleviating the symptoms, but internally through our careers, our professions, our life's work. This is the world our students will inherit, and they have the power to change things for the better. It's our mission as service learning teachers to teach them why things must change, why its our responsibility to change things, and as best we can, how to effect change, even if we don't know all of the answers.

Jeremy Tuman

Faculty-in-Residence for Service Learning

We are passing along this opportunity, which presents interesting possibilities for Xavier faculty who may be interested in working with these data sets for research and/or student learning projects.

data.path Ryoji.Ikeda - 3

Since 2008, NEWCITY has worked to collect extensive Community Impact Measurement (CIM) parcel and resident survey data in historic Treme/Lafitte, Tulane/Gravier and 7th Ward neighborhoods. Currently, NEWCITY is working to collect the 2015 data, and previously has collected 2008, 2011, and 2013 parcel survey data and 2013 resident survey data.

This data is available to NEWCITY members and working groups in raw or analyzed form. We would like to encourage members to submit data projects that will assist them in grant writing and informed decision making. Examples of how the data has previously been used to create maps can be found at  Inputs that can be analyzed include occupancy, building use, property condition, residential satisfaction and opinions on the area, and more.  Additional analysis will also be offered for data points that address quality of life, public safety, transportation and public health.

If you have a data project that you would like to submit to NEWCITY please contact the NEWCITY Neighborhood Partnership Coordinator Ciara Stein at or (504) 821 7236.

Image credit: data.path Ryoji.Ikeda - 3 by r2hox | CC BY-SA 2.0

In discussing what social problems my Freshman Seminar class might like to address for their service learning project, the class leaned heavily toward wanting to do something about crime in New Orleans, particularly the amount of violent crime, which struck them on an emotional level that left some of them unable to articulate much beyond anger. "It's just terrible," they said, "and it gets worse and worse all the time and nobody can seem to do anything about it." These reactions struck me in a number of ways, at once similar to the shocked, grief-stricken reactions of victim's families that we've grown too accustomed to seeing in the news, and at the same time far removed from academic literature on the subject by economists, psychologists, and criminologists, that often frame our discussions and study of violent crime and its effects. What's most apparent is that these students feel compelled to address this problem, not from a distance of helping out the communities of the less fortunate, but from the perspective of wanting to help their own communities, because the pain of communities ripped apart by violent crime is in fact their own pain.

The discussion then must turn to what causes young people to turn to lives of crime and violence and what can be done to stem these causes. Lack of viable economic opportunity and lack of education are commonly cited by students and experts alike as causes, and of course the two are related. Economists tell us that even a 5% increase in high school graduation rates can save the country billions of dollars in costs of crime, considering the costs of incarceration, policing, and adjudicating, along with the costs of property lost. Figures like these seem cold, and don't seem to sufficiently target the problem in a way that might issue a stronger call to action. Yet in the face of raw emotions such as those expressed by my students, figures like these sometimes offer the only level of clear thought available. If it seems like absolutely nothing can be done to stop this problem, then perhaps through education, tied to economic opportunity, is the only clear path.

Rising Tide 8 is over — but video coverage of this "conference on the future of New Orleans" is now online. If you missed the live event, which has been hosted at Xavier and sponsored by CAT for three years running, you can still experience some of it vicariously.

All of the main stage panels offered substantive content with potential application for teaching and learning. I've linked these below with suggestions on what disciplines might find the content most relevant.

However, for sheer inspiration and oratory, keynote speaker Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré surely takes the prize. There are some minor technical problems with the audio, but the substance of his speech more than compensates. Listen to this for a strong and stirring message on social and environmental justice in Louisiana. It's a true "call to arms" and must be seen to be appreciated.

Keynote: Lt. General Russel Honore

Of course, no matter your special area of interest, all these videos will be of interest to anyone who cares about the future of New Orleans.

Rising Tide 7


Rising Tide NOLA, Inc. will present its 8th annual new media conference centered on the recovery and future of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast on Saturday, September 14, 2013 at the University Center of Xavier University of Louisiana.

This year, Rising Tide invites participation from community and university organizations from across New Orleans by issuing this request for proposals for programming, panels, and presentations at the event.  The conference is a one day event with programming presented in a variety of formats including - but not limited to - individual presentations, directed conversations, keynote addresses, and on-stage panel discussions. The space available allows for significant flexibility when it comes to programming proposals.

Successful proposals will address issues relevant to New Orleans and the Gulf South’s ongoing recovery, diverse history, unique culture, or emerging concerns. Additionally, proposals could focus on or incorporate aspects of new or social media, information technology and access, and creative uses of communication. Collaboration between organizations to present programming is encouraged to add multiple and diverse perspectives.  While programming is free to address political topics, Rising Tide maintains a strict non-partisan forum, current elected officials and campaigning candidates for political offices are discouraged from participating in programming.


Proposals should include the following: a brief description of the topic being considered, with an indication of the relevance of the topic to local issues and what the audience should take away from the experience; a list of participants/presenters that describes their roles to the presentation and describes their relationship to or expertise on the topic; and a draft facilitation plan for how the programming will be presented to the audience, and how the audience will be involved in the presentation through questions, participation, discussion, etc.

Please email brief (2 page max) proposals in plain text, word documents, or PDF attachments to Jeffrey Bostick, Katy Monnot, and Patrick Armstrong at


Acceptance notifications will follow within two weeks.


While hosting the event at the Xavier University Center, attendance has averaged more than 300 attendees, media, and volunteer staff annually. The conference content has been live streamed on the web with over 1000 unique viewers during each event, with archives on the Rising Tide website. For this conference, organizers are hoping to coordinate programming for three separate spaces: a large stage-oriented venue with seating for up to 200; a medium venue with seating for between 30 – 40; and a seminar or group discussion venue for seating around 20. Program length can run from a minimum of 30 minutes for presentations or directed conversations in the smaller venues, to hour and a half panel discussion for the stage-oriented space.

Previous conferences featured keynotes by acclaimed local writer Lolis Eric Elie and Tulane University professor of history Lawrence Powell, as well as panel discussions on the status and future of local journalism, changes to the education system, environmental impacts of the oil spill, development of cultural economy, parenting, entrepreneurship, and neighborhood activism. Past speakers have included Treme and The Wire creator David Simon, geographer Richard Campanella, journalist Mac McClelland, entertainer Harry Shearer, and authors David Zirin, John Barry, Christopher Cooper, and Robert Block. The full 2012 conference schedule and list of panelists can be viewed on the Rising Tide website, as well as a list of participating vendors and non-profit organizations.

Conference registration information and publicity will be available online at There will be discounted student admission, lunch is included in the price of admission, and vegetarian options will be available.

More information is available:

Rising Tide 8 is sponsored by The Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

Rising Tide NOLA, Inc. is a non-profit organization formed by New Orleans bloggers in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the federally built levees. After the disaster, the internet became a vital connection among dispersed New Orleanians, former New Orleanians, and friends of the city and the Gulf Coast region. A number of new blogs were created, and combined with those that were already online, an online community with a shared interest in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast developed. In the summer of 2006, to mark the anniversary of the flood, the bloggers of New Orleans organized the first Rising Tide Conference, taking their shared interest in technology, the arts, the internet and social media and turning advocacy in the city into action.

CONTACT: Programming Committee
WHO: Rising Tide NOLA
WHAT: 8th Annual Rising Tide New Media Conference
WHEN: Saturday, September 14, 2013, 9am – 6pm
WHERE: University Center, Xavier University of Louisiana

A conversation with Dr. David Park of Xavier University of Louisiana about teaching and service learning.

Download Conversation #2

Links referenced in this episode:

...continue reading "Conversation #2: Service Learning"