In New Orleans, I live on the side of MidCity where real estate is valued less – about $20,000 less than those across the dividing line of Jeff Davis Parkway. It is no irony that what separates us is a parkway named after the incompetent leader of the Confederacy. On the side that is bound by Jeff Davis and Canal Street live more white people, therefore the housing prices are higher. On our side, bound by Jeff Davis and Broad Street live more people of color, hence the lower value of our homes.
The other day I took some photographs of the statues that line the scrappy neutral ground of Jeff Davis – my original intention was to photograph the swing set there and speak to KABOOM about putting in a better playground because the two that are on this stretch are dilapidated and eyesores and certainly not enticing to play on.
But I became interested in the statues and who was being memorialized up and down the green space and my, is it a motley crew.
There is the statue of General Albert Pike, a Confederate officer, attorney, Freemason, writer and notably someone who conspiracy theorists say was one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan. He was the first Grand Dragon of the Klan and wrote the anthem and the rules of the organization. History writes that Albert Pike was very enamored with the idea of world dominion.
At the same time, incongruently, there is a bronze statue of one of the leading Latin American intellectuals, José Marti, whose poem in Versos Sencillos became a song – Guantanamera – immortalized to me by my Cuban father, which became the definitive patriotic song of Cuba, immortalized by Celia Cruz to the younger generation.
There are more memorials and statues – an odd collection anchored by the overarching theme of the Confederacy.
There are no statues of resistance to oppression other than Marti. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if there was a statue of a Black domestic worker? According to Angela Davis it was not Martin Luther King, the messiah, but rather the Black Domestic Workers who took buses from their neighborhoods to the white ones that made the Montgomery Bus Boycott happen.
Who will memorialize all the nameless ones who have really suffered to change our society for the better – Americans always have had the need to single out the hero, the leader, the messiah rather than give homage to movements that are undertaken by the people for the people.
There are other statues along Jeff Davis Parkway, none worth mentioning here, but one – the one that struck me as so poignant was of the MAN himself — Jefferson Finis Davis, President of the Confederate States of America (1861-1865):
And how appropriate that someone scrawled WHITE PRIVILEGE on its foundation.