Exclusive – Branford Marsalis: New Orleans remains in crisis

Publication: Larry King Live on CNN.com
Author: Branford Marsalis
Date: August 27, 2010

Editor’s Note: Be sure to watch Harry Connick Jr. on LKL tonight from Musicians Village in New Orleans.  Also, check out the Marsallis Family’s new album, “Music Redeems.”  It benefits the Ellis Marsallis Center for Music.

Five years after Hurricane Katrina struck and decimated my hometown, I am certainly buoyed by the rebuilding successes of a city reinforced with an invincible spirit and proud of the strides we have made through our partnership with New Orleans Habitat and through the contributions of individuals from around the world. I am fiercely disappointed, though, by the inconsistency of the attention paid to this disaster between these anniversaries and the lack of a sustained, long-term approach to the rebuilding our city.

New Orleans remains in crisis.

Even as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival continues to present that unique musical experience that is so quintessential; even as scientists and engineers have stopped the spillage and contained further devastation of the oil; even as citizens, friends and neighbors have rallied together to build and rebuild, we still suffer and there is still much to be done. Ours is not the world of merely a year or two, but that of decades if we are to restore her to her former glory, we must embrace a long-term commitment.

It is my hope that on this, the fifth anniversary of the storm – as I’ve hoped each anniversary of the storm – as the media once again draws our attention to the city’s successes and its failures, that we might as a nation renew our dedication to and support of the revitalization of the birthplace of jazz with a continued commitment to the rebuilding of its physical and cultural infrastructure.

When we sat down with the folks of New Orleans Habitat to talk about our vision for this Village, Harry and I spoke of creating a community like the New Orleans of my youth – a place where mothers take turns watching each other’s kids play in the street, where neighbors know one another, spend time together, and where the front stoop is merely the continuation of one’s living room – a social hub. We wanted to encourage the continuation of the rich, cultural traditions of New Orleans and provide the responsibility of home ownership to the city’s musicians’, many of whom had never been homeowners before.

Currently under construction is the future heart of the Musicians’ Village, a community and music education center named for my father, the great musician and educator, Ellis Marsalis. The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music will include performance spaces, music lessons, a recording studio, computer access, and music library. Its focus will be to allow the exchange of musical knowledge among musicians and from generation to generation.

Last June, my entire family came together to honor my dad in performance at the Kennedy Center.  We were lucky enough to capture that rare moment on disc and have just released the recording entitled Music Redeems.  The proceeds from the sale of the recording directly benefit the programming of the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music which is expected to be completed in the spring of 2011.

Though located in the heart of Musicians’ Village, the Ellis Marsalis Center will open its doors to the surrounding communities and the general public and in doing so we hope that the entire Upper Ninth Ward, and perhaps the city of New Orleans, will be uplifted.