Whether it's from Jeff Raines of Galactic, Spike Lee, HBO or a member of the New Orleans Saints, there's been a lot of talk about New Orleans and the Gulf of late, and much of it is good news. The 2010 Census is seen as a once-a-decade opportunity to increase federal funding to the area, and there's great optimism around new leadership in City Hall. With millions watching HBO's new drama about New Orleans musicians "Treme" each week, perhaps this will be a year of heightened attention to the Gulf and prove to be a critical turning point.
- New Orleans-bred funk extraordinaires Galactic, joined by Cyril Neville, are busy on the road promoting their new album Ya-Ka-May. This new album spans many genres of New Orleans music and brings together musicians from in-and-around the area. During a March run through Southern California, I was able to catch up with Galactic's guitarist Jeff Raines to discuss the current status of hurricane recovery for an interview that appears on the HeadCount blog. He spoke about how he and the other band members believe that Mayor Elect Mitch Landrieu will bring an organized and unified message from city hall on where and how to rebuild.
- Raines also stressed the importance of the 2010 Census. The members of Galactic and touring partner Neville want people to know how imperative it is for individuals and families displaced by the storm to return their census forms as residents of their former neighborhoods if they intend to return, even if they are still displaced. Ultimately, this will translate to desperately needed federal dollars to the Gulf Coast. The Census Bureau has announced additional measures to ensure the most accurate reports about the Gulf Coast population including increased time and staff to canvas the area, newly formed branches in the region and many changes to the method of delivery of census forms.
- In environmental news, both President Obama and former New Orleans Saint and Super Bowl champion Scott Fujita are calling for the protection of the Gulf's endangered coastal wetlands. The White House released a plan to address the catastrophic dangers of rising sea levels, hurricanes and erosion on the Gulf Coast. Fujita will be featured in a number of public service announcements and will be donating money to draw attention to the cause.
- In recent months, music has not been the only branch of the entertainment industry drawing attention to the Gulf Coast. Spike Lee is in Southern Mississippi shooting a follow-up documentary to his first Katrina-related film "When the Levees Broke." The new "Spike Lee Joint" will shine a spotlight on Gulfport, Biloxi and Long Beach in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Also, keep your eye out for "Treme," a new HBO drama series by the creators of "The Wire." The series explores the struggles of New Orleans musicians and other residents post-Katrina. The show premiered on April 11 and has had already garnered popular and critical acclaim.
No matter where you live in this great nation, be sure to spread the word on the importance of the Census. You can read more of my interview with Jeff Raines on the HeadCount Blog and be sure to stay current on hurricane recovery and other important issues by following us on Twitter.