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Re: [vegetarian-515] some thoughts on the healing center.

From: Johan B.
Sent on: Wednesday, August 24, 2011 11:42 PM
Ok Derek, I'll bite.  I think it has been established that we all love the Co-op and think it's good to bring groceries to St. Claude.  So let's talk about Pres Kabacoff and class disparity.   
First, I don't know Pres Kabacoff personally, but I did have dinner with him one time last year.  During the dinner he discussed his involvement in the various projects you mentioned including the healing center.  The inspiration for the healing center was (as some of you may know) his voodoo priestess girlfriend Sallie Ann Glassman.  Did he change his evil ways because of love?  who knows. but his intention was clearly not, as can be seen by the low rents being charged, to make money. no offense to all the people that have dedicated their time, but that place is probably not going to rake in big bucks. Not for a long long time. 
As for St. Thomas, I completely understand the concern about people being pushed out.  However, not sure when you were last there, but it's not exactly gentrified.  I lived on Felicity Street a year ago, and there was one, I repeat, one white family in the neighborhood.  What Pres basically did was fix up the neighborhood and only aesthetically.  The same demographic still lives in that neighborhood.  And if you don't believe me, drive by around 10pm on a saturday night and see how "gentrified" you feel.  He made less than expected profit for that project, because mixed income housing doesn't really work in new orleans.  He turned it over at some point, not sure when.
What about Walmart?  Evil corporation? Sure.  But do you know why we all say that?  Cause we can afford to.  Let's be honest with ourselves.  Being vegan/vegetarian isn't cheap and the majority of us that can afford to eat healthy can also afford to boycott Walmart.  Good for us.  Guess who can't afford to? The majority of "River Gardens" residents.  That Walmart is a blessing to them.  They can get everything they need to at a very affordable price.  Did they lose some culture and historic preservation?  Sure, but if you go visit the Walmart you'll see that 1. It's always packed and 2. The majority of shoppers are NOT suburbanite soccer moms. 
On your kind words for the Guardian Angels... First,  vigilantes usually have guns, GA's don't.  These guys are just a bunch of VOLUNTEERS who parole the streets.  Your judgement of them is pretty harsh considering that no one else in this city is doing anything about the crime.  And no I don't think that having NOPD and GA there is oppressive.  Crime is oppressive.  It makes it so that people can't leave their homes.  It makes it so that people can't run businesses or sell their home at a decent price.  The crime in that neighborhood is unacceptable.  It really is, and I applaud anyone who is taking their free time to do something about it.
On to posh developments, my understanding is that the lofts are actually being taken up by a lot of local artists, both black and white.  That's what I know of them.  I don't know very many yuppies that have rushed to buy the prime real estate.  Perhaps I am wrong on this one.  And unless there is a mass influx of white professionals and their housewives, which I surely have not seen, then your statements are misleading.
My first question to you Derek is have you ever lived in the projects?  My experience has been that people who are against knocking them down don't really understand what goes on there.  I sympathize with people who feel displaced by rebuilding of the projects.  They feel this way because that's unfortunately all they know.  But in reality, we should be ashamed of ever having placed any human being in projects.  The projects are societies way of caging and cornering off all the have-nots.  They get placed in their little boxes and are then out of the way for the rest of us.  Standing against income disparity and class structure is a complete oxymoron to supporting projects.  The projects cage in the very people they are suppose to help.  They create squalid conditions that no one can fight because it's compounded with every generation.  Again, I don't think mixed income works in this city.  My suggestion would be Section 8 quotas that every district must meet.  We can surely offer people something better than that third world monstrosity sitting off of Rampart.  The projects in this city are embarrassing and we should tear them down out of shame.  Our citizens deserve better than that.  And yes, tearing them down is harsh, but anything, seriously, I mean this, anything is better than continuing that system. 
My second question is... then what do you suggest?  I read a lot of criticism in your email, particularly to the wealthy evil developer, but no solutions.  All developers are essentially profit driven, there's no such thing as philanthropist developer.  It's not sustainable for development to be a philanthropy.  More importantly, development does not create income disparity.  It merely accentuates the disparity that already exists.  Pres Kabacoff isn't pushing out poor people.  The city's education system and its unaccountable politicians are.  That's who you should be attacking.  That rich guy is doing more for that community than all of city council combined.  He's giving them a co-op , woman's wellness, art galleries, a credit union, and most importantly land value.  So if you don't like that, than what would you like?  The abandoned furniture store? Are you really that afraid that St. Claude will lose its "charm" over this place?  No offense, but this isn't exactly Brooklyn.  People aren't rushing in to anywhere in this city.  We can start worrying about gentrification when there's no more blight.   
If no one else chimes in, email me directly.  I'd be glad to continue the discussion as I enjoy hearing those with views opposite of mine.  I could go on forever as I'm sure you can tell. 
On Mon, Aug 22, 2011 at 12:40 AM, 30 Days for Laboratory Animals <[address removed]> wrote:
Hi everyone --

The other day at the Hollygrove Market, I found myself in the midst of a debate with a woman about the implications of the Healing Center and its notorious co-chair Pres Kabacoff. Before I go any further, let me say that I don't wish to cause infighting within the NOLA veg community, or diss on the Food Co-Op or anyone working toward the accessibility of organic/raw/veg food alternatives. I simply wish to air a concern that gives me pause in extending support for what I'd say is the very dubious and insidious "mission" of The Healing Center.

As many are probably aware, Pres Kabacoff is one of the wealthiest developers in the city. Pre-Katrina, he was one of the main movers and shakers on the "restoration" of the St. Thomas projects, where the thousands of people who formerly lived there were essentially pushed out to make way for the "mixed income" (and what I must call horrid) apartment units now known as the "River Gardens." Additionally, he provided WalMart, no "sustainable" or ethical business by any stretch, with the contract to set up shop in that neighborhood. This redevelopment of low-income public housing essentially laid the groundwork for what post Katrina (you know, cause it's much easier to evict poor residents from public housing when they're displaced) would be the destruction of the "Big Four" public housing complexes -- an orchestrated urban development plan to basically ethnically cleanse the French Quarter-bordering "ghettos" of all poor black people whom tourists might not want to interact with.

I'm not here to mask any underlying premises, so I would like to let you know where I am coming from. I have been an active volunteer with the Iron Rail Book Collective since age 16; I am involved with a collective living space seeking to establish itself as a Land Trust to keep rent affordable for low-income Midcity residents; last year I undertook a month-long campaign to raise awareness about vivisection happening at Tulane; and I continuously try to lend my efforts to worthy grassroots organizing around town. Ideologically I support the mission to bring healthy food to New Orleans residents. We need that. New Orleans is a bit of a grocery void (well, anywhere not Uptown, anyway), and Co-Ops are obviously preferable to chain supermarkets. However, I'm torn as to whether to support what I see as something that will benefit the interests of rich developers like Pres Kabacoff and is destined to primarily serve, unfortunately, the more well-off residents of the neighborhood -- as the Healing Center, the planned vision of a kind of "French Market" on St. Claude (yuck!), and Pres's "Bywater Art" lofts will only further displace the poor with the continued gentrification of that area. I believe Pres Kabacoff's "greenwashing" of his image, using a noble enterprise like the Food Co-Op under his auspices, to be disingenuous at best. I am disgusted that Pres has invited the vigilante group the Guardian Angels to provide security for his building and given the corrupt NOPD their former headquarters back, encouraging even more of a police-state atmosphere in an area where the poor residents are struggling to not be dispossessed by gentrification. (Glad to see we can solve our problems holistically, you know...)

Obviously, this is a much bigger conversation. But I definitely think we need to begin having conversations about the role that people like Pres play in the disparate class divisions that exist in our city, how crime is a symptom of this poverty and economic racism, and our responsibility as conscious individuals in a predominantly white consumer movement to question what we're doing. Many of us have a coherent analysis of the ways in which corporate America forces a harmful paradigm upon our bodies and our earth; so why can't we also acknowledge privilege and class structures and begin to redefine our relationship to the developers, police, and politicians? My immersion into "food politics"  6 years ago was not simply a lifestyle choice so I could feel better; it was a process by which I began to examine all social conditioning -- how it's all part of a larger system of colonialism that is destroying lives and perpetuating an unjust world. I understand we all as individuals pick our battles. But I just hope that we don't overlook the egregious crimes of a man like Pres Kabacoff despite his ostensible support for worthy community initiatives, and I hope we can begin to question who are allies are...

 I'd also like to begin a dialogue, so if you feel you need correct or clarify points you think I may be missing or misconstruing, please do so!

Thank you for reading.



30 Days for Laboratory Animals | an ongoing project to remember the lives of animals inside research labs

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