Friday, December 27, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom, excerpt four)

from National Book Award winner The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom:

The Red Barn on the corner of Chef and Wilson that before blasted Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” became the Ebony Barn with Lee Dorsey’s “Working in the Coal Mine” coming off the stereos, serving a new clientele. Around this same time, constructions began on a public housing project, a scattered site some city planners called it, on Chef Menteur Highway just next door to the Ebony Barn. Its proper name was Pecan Grove, but on the streets it was just the Grove. Before it was all the way finished, the children on the short end sold Ms. Schmidt’s fallen pecans to the construction workers. Ms. Schmidt couldn’t have cared less; she was leaving the East soon anyway. The Grove would house 221 apartments in a reddish-brown brick, two-story compound. According to the newspapers, it was an “experiment” meant to bring residents from several different downtown housing projects closer to New Orleans East, which soon-to-be residents would call the country. From the start of the complex’s going up, Simon Broom said it would infest everything around. He pointed to Press Park, where Ivory Mae’s sister, Elaine, living, another scattered site, more westward. Press Park had been built on top of the Agriculture Street Landfill, ninety-five acres and seventeen feet of cancer-causing waste.

By the late 1970s, the racial composition of the East had flipped. Within twenty years, the area had gone from mostly empty to mostly white (investment) to mostly black (divestment).

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