Honoring Ronald Lewis

April 6, 2020

Dear Friend,

 

We have had calls and emails from so many people wondering how we are doing. We are so grateful for all the support and our hearts are with everyone who is suffering now, all over the country and the world. Our staff is all healthy so far and working from home so we stay that way.

 

Here in the Lower 9th Ward, we have lost one of our great leaders, someone who embodied the culture of New Orleans in his very being. For me personally, Ronald Lewis was one of the first people I came to know here and he was ever generous with his time and wisdom, teaching me so much about this place I would come to love. I remember him talking about the first time he caught a fish in the bayou and was so proud walking home with it down Deslonde Street; how neighbors used to grow different vegetables in their backyard patches so they could trade over the back fence; how he worked on the streetcar tracks and joined with white union leaders to battle discrimination.

 

After Katrina, his wife Minnie was having a difficult time so Ronald was one of the first in the neighborhood to get their home rebuilt. He didn’t let the levee failures slow him down at all. He was the author, along with the Neighborhood Story Project, of The House of Dance and Feathers, named for his backyard museum that told the story of Mardi Gras Indian and second line culture. He co-founded the Big Nine Social and Pleasure Club and was a master sewer of Indian suits. He was a friend to everyone, riding as a leading member of the Krewe de Jew, despite his lack of any Jewish ancestry. If you are looking for something to read while you stay at home, I recommend Nine Lives. Author Dan Baum captures Ronald's voice and his spirit and the book confirms that this indomitable culture-bearer continues to live among us.

 

Pictured: Councilwoman Cyndi Nguyen and Pastor Jeanmarie of New Philippians Baptist Church partnering with chef Jose Andres's World Central Kitchen to bring hot meals to homebound L9 residents.

 

While we mourn Ronald’s passing we are also caring for each other. Neighborhood leaders, along with Councilwoman Cyndi Nyugen and her staff, have banded together to make sure food distribution is happening every day for students, seniors, and families. Equally important, our community organizers, Ms. Cynthia and Ms. Galethea, are calling the seniors we have worked with over the years. They're finding out what their needs are and we are pulling this information together so we can plan our response to this crisis. Mostly, though, they are checking on them and making sure they know we are here for them. When people are isolated and alone, we know this is the most important thing we can do.

I also wanted to let you know that your calls and emails to Congress regarding the stimulus bill were successful! The National Low-Income Housing Coalition reports that the package includes billions of dollars for the homeless and low-income renters, as well as a temporary moratorium on foreclosures and evictions for homeowners and renters in federally-supported housing.

 

We know that your support for us over the years are the reason we are able to respond to this crisis now. I hope you are finding ways to stay connected to life and love during these strange and difficult days. It is caring for each other that will get us through, sharing what we have though we’re six feet apart across the back fence. Ronald Lewis wouldn’t want it any other way.

 

With Love and Gratitude,

 

MA

 

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