Red Room member Nordette Adams is a writer who wears a number of stylish literary hats. Whether as a journalist, poet, spoken word artist, fiction writer, literary critic, or mistress of the blog, they all tend to fit with a touch of classic flare.
It was my good fortune to meet Ms. Adams via the Internet some years ago when I was a stay-at-home caregiver for my mother in Savannah, Georgia, while Ms. Adams was a furiously blogging journalist and Mom in New Jersey. We took note of each other’s work to such an extent that we eventually teamed up with another fellow writer–who also just happens to be a budding music producer, educator, spiritual philosopher, father, and quite a bit more–named Mark “Rahkyt Rockeymoore to produce the spoken word CD Dancing in the Word Labyrinth .
The author of enough poems to fill several quality leather-bound volumes and prize-winning short fiction, Adams is perhaps best known for a provocative style of blogging that is both intellectually stimulating and entertainingly streetwise, featured regularly on her self-branded WritingJunkie website, as books and African-American journalist for Examiner.com, and other blog locales with a decidedly literary and sometimes womanist twist to them. In each of her literary guises, she has been known to explore everything from the politics of poetry and relationship blues to deficiencies in our nation’s educational system and the various fine lines and qualities that make human life what it is in our brand new millennium.
She recently took time to talk with me about the hurricanes that almost erased her hometown, life as a caregiver, distinctions between citizen journalism and professional journalism, favorite modes of writing, and what she’s reading now.
Aberjhani: It’s my understanding that you grew up in New Orleans, after being born in Memphis, but were living in New Jersey when hurricanes Katrina and Rita pummeled the Gulf coast region back in August 2005. Then you bravely moved back to New Orleans with two young adult children a year or so afterwards. What surprised you most about the state of the city upon first returning to your hometown?
Nordette: Yes, when I moved back my son had two years left of high school and my daughter was working full-time. New Orleans east surprised me most. It was nearly a ghost town. When I left New Orleans in 1979, that part of the city was thriving, mostly an area of middle-class African-Americans, but during Katrina it was completely under water. While it’s not the part of the city in which I grew up, it is the part that was the “happening thing” before I left for black locals. When I returned, I saw empty street after street of lonely red or blond brick ranch houses. In the last two years, however, New Orleans east appears to be on the rebound. Other than that, I still feel a sense of my world being scattered. My friends didn’t come back. Many relatives in my age range aren’t here.
Aberjhani: As we approach the fourth anniversary of the hurricanes, what do you see as some of the New Orleans’ most crucial needs, in terms of its continued recovery from Katrina and Rita, at this time?
Nordette: New Orleans needs fearless entrepreneurs, risk takers with vision who are absolutely loyal to the city and creating living wage jobs to help strengthen the infrastructure, especially entrepreneurs who will broaden the kinds of businesses we have here and place them within the city limits not in the suburbs. Like many cities, we also need mental health care programs and more housing to improve the quality of life for lower-income families. And whether our politicians want to hear it or not, we have a long way to go still with our education system, finding ways to keep students engaged in the arts, ways to help them channel positive energy that defeats an attraction to violence and crime.
Aberjhani: Have you had an opportunity to interact with any of the celebrities-such as Susan L. Taylor, Brad Pitt, Jeffrey Wright, etc.– who have worked to bring attention to New Orleans’ and the rest of the Gulf Coast’s post-hurricane challenges and what kind of impact would you say their presence has had?
Nordette: No, other than to pass a note to Susan Taylor during a rebuild event before my mother broke her leg. I’m just starting to get back into the swing of life since the passing of my mother and working with my dad, who lives with me, to get estate-related paperwork straight. However, I did recently write about Brad Pitt and his supposed run for mayor of New Orleans, which is only rumor, but still an amusing idea. As a New Orleanian, I appreciate the hard work of celebrities on behalf of the city, and I’m glad Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie bought a house here and enrolled their oldest child in school in the city. That’s love. Susan Taylor: can’t beat her. She was loving on New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina and did not abandon the city after the flood. A class act. Just gorgeous.
Coming up in Part Two of Three: Writing, Caregiving, and Professional Journalism compared to Citizen Journalism