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The New New Orleans, Part 2: David Williams 

Native New Orleanian who lives in the CBD

David Williams is a native New Orleanian who lives in the CBD.

  "I was 17 (when Hurricane Katrina hit). I feel like I've grown right along with the city after the hurricane in this weird way, so that it's hard because I've changed in eight or nine years.

  "It's a little more active, people are busier. It's certainly richer than I ever remember it being. We have new curbs. Think about how every curb was a treacherous universe. The city's been shocked a little bit, gussying itself up.

  "There's so many New Orleanians in prison right now, and I've realized that's a much bigger problem. Our justice system is an extremely racist one in this city, and I think that's its biggest problem. The city has this history of racism and segregation and these practices have carried over. It's like one in 14 black men are in prison or something like that. That's a problem. If you combine those old problems that haven't changed with this new energy and money and attention ... when you suddenly have the money to change things and propose solutions, you have to do it.

  "I think the changes are accelerating these problems. Like developments, the ways that things are going down right now and for the past couple of years is just terrifying. Before the hurricane it was like, there's so much I want to change, there's so much, and then all the sudden it's happening, and I'm like, 'Oh my god, careful what you wish for, can we throw the brakes on?' It's like, there's all this stuff for us to figure out, and there are so many decisions being made and I have no idea how. It's kind of overwhelming.

  "I have come to relish that position. Going to school up North and making these weird decisions, recognizing my sexuality and trying to exist as this queer dude in this queer town, I don't know, it's been so fun to realize the ways in which I'm an outsider. Me and all my friends are coming down from [college] and I'm indistinguishable from them in all physical ways. So I feel more comfortable criticizing the city, because I get a lot of the shit that these kids like us are getting. I totally feel on both sides.

  "There are a million viewpoints going on, but it's interesting because I get treated like an outsider, which I don't think is some terrible oppression, like so horrible all the time, but people are definitely surprised when I say I'm from here. I begged all my friends to come down here, and my dream is coming true, and, 10 minutes later, I'm like, 'Goddamn all these problems and all these new people who aren't paying attention.' It's like, 'Well what? OK, David, it's time to get to work because it's happening.'

  The main thing is the prison because it's such a blind spot. Everyone agrees that [Orleans Parish Prison] is so bad, it's really sad, we need to fix it. ... It's almost never been this bad. Half of this city is living in a war zone where they're being thrown in jail. It's a serious disconnect where a lot of these young movers and shakers, we need to understand the ways we're not on an equal playing field.

  "What's really great about New Orleans is that, first of all, the kids are coming home. You and I live in New Orleans, which wasn't happening 10 years ago, with kids who went to school elsewhere who said, 'Hell, no. We're getting jobs in places that have good jobs.' It's totally exciting that New Orleans is feeding her kids, and it's this generation that would f—ing die for the city and will die for the city. And we get this new confidence.

  "I'm not worried what they think in Austin or Brooklyn. In fact, all my friends from Brooklyn are trying to move here, and it's this new confidence. People should listen to what we have to say. ... I really think there's something good happening here, for sure. At the same time, we're so ignorant of these things that are killing us, which is not to mention our ecological situation, which we refuse to accept. We deserve to die. We deserve to be the first people to drown because that's what we're working toward every day. ... We need to deal with that." — As told to Jeanie Riess


You can read all the stories on "The New New Orleans" at www.bestofneworleans.com/newnola and discuss it on Twitter using the hashtag #newnola.

And if you'd like to tell your story, contact us at response@gambitweekly.com. We'll definitely do a Part 3.

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