In August 2005, New Orleans faced the effects of Hurricane Katrina and failed levees which left four-fifths of the city submerged. In the face of loss and overwhelming challenges, many from the city showed the best of their spirit and went to work rescuing, salvaging and rebuilding.
Our choreographer of many years, Lula Elzy, is a native of New Orleans who still lives there when not creating with young people here at Muse Machine. At the time of Katrina, phones in that area worked intermittently at best and many connections simply could not be made for days or weeks. While Lula was unable to get through to many in that area for some time, she was able to reach Muse. Already working alongside organized help efforts, Lula told us, “This is what’s going on and this is what these people need.” We shared that information with the extended Muse family.
Within a few days, the costume room had been converted to receive and package these items, which came in from students, alumni, teachers, Board members and friends. The room was quickly filled to capacity with giant boxes of emergency supplies, more than anyone would have imagined. They were sent to Lula who worked with a community distribution center to immediately put them in the hands of those in need. No delays, no red tape.
It was just one gesture in the face of a massive tragedy, but gestures like those added up alongside heroic efforts of so many in the area. Ten years later, the city is vibrant. The work is not complete, but growth and evolution are evident and one of our most historic cities has tremendous music, dancing and beauty again.