Yesterday as part of the Rising Tide Conference the Nola Bloggers went out with the Arabi Wrecking Krewe to gut the home of 84 year old Mrs. Cora Foster. The Arabi Wrecking Krewe works on the homes of NOLA musicians in order to make sure they can come home and the music of New Orleans will not die. These guys are Magnificent.
Mrs. Cora Foster had lived in their Holly Grove neighborhood home with her daughter. She was not there today but her 2 daughters Miss Sandra and Miss Regina Foster-Scott were. The family had evacuated to Texas for Katrina. They had not been back to their home since Katrina until today. Miss Regina told me they never thought they would ever get this done until she met the magnificent men of the Arabi Wrecking Krewe by chance.
Miss Regina lives in Michigan but something told her to go to New Orleans recently. Keep in mind this is a large financial burden as a car had to be rented and hotels paid for. Once here she happened to drive past a neighbor’s home being gutted by the Krewe and stopped to just ask who they were. When she heard they gutted the homes of musicians she said I’m a musician and told the Krewe of heself and her family’s deep roots in NOLA music which includes her uncles Jelly Roll Morton, Sam and Honore Dutrey and Buddy Bolden.
The Krewe knew of her family and were eager to help. As Brian West of the Krewe said to Miss Regina, “Dahlin the hand of God brought you to us.”
The original plan was to gut this home however as the day went on it became apparent the home was structurally dangerous. 2 workers fell through the floors. The home is not salvagable and will almost certainly be demolished. The decision was made to focus on the recovery of family possessions. Miss Regina and the Krewe were hoping to find material she had from the Smithsonian Institute on her famed relatives. Boxes were brought out and myself and Shannon DiGenova went through the contents.
I must take a monent to tell you about Shannon. She came to New Orleans on her own in February to volunteer. She has been living in a tent since that time at the Bayou Liberty Relief camp now run by Plenty. She goes out and guts home 6-7 days a week. This is incredibly hard work. It is hot and humid and dirty. You must wear a respirator due to all the mold and who knows what else in the homes. There were a couple of times I thought I’d pass out (and I wasn’t doing any hard work) I was in awe of Shannon’s stamina and dedication. However there are too few like this incredible 33 year old Chicago native. She said they really need more bodies on the ground to do this work. If you can come down even for a weekend I encourage you to do so.
So Shannon and I went through box after box of the Foster’s life, unwrapping dearly beloved possessions, still soaked in flood water and sludge. It was worth it to see Miss Regina’s face as we found items she thought she would never see again. Unfortunately the Smithsonian material was never found.
I can not heap enough platitudes on the Arabi Wrecking Krewe and if I did they’d just be embarrassed I’m sure. These folks work their jobs and gut homes. That’s it. That is there life now and some wonder at times where their old lives went. But they won’t stop. If anyone ever says the people of Louisiana aren’t working hard at recovery then just point them to this video below of what it is like to gut just one home. This is one house down but remember there are Tens of Thousands more to go here……..
Arabi Wrecking Krewe members today…
Armand “Shiek” Richardson
Shannon Di Genova
Fred Lumma (Fom Germany! His family of musicians has started a foundation to help fund this work and he was here for 3 weeks to do it. He was a hell of a worker and extremely nice guy)