No one is more excited than I about msnbc and Essence uniting for coverage of the 2013 Essence Festival live from New Orleans. If you are a regular viewer of “Melissa Harris-Perry” then you already know that I live in New Orleans during the week where I am a professor of political science at Tulane University. On Fridays, my husband, daughter and I grab a flight to New York where I broadcast live from 30 Rockefeller Center on weekend mornings. Sunday evenings we head back to New Orleans and start again.
Living in New Orleans and New York is both exhausting and exhilarating. My only complaint is that I rarely have a chance to share my beloved city with #nerdland viewers. All of that is going to change on July 6 and 7 when Melissa Harris-Perry will broadcast live from the Essence Festival!
New Orleans is among the world’s most distinctive cities. People travel from everywhere to share our food, our music, our cultural celebrations and our way of life. For others, even though it is nearly 8 years after the devastating levee failure in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, many still think of us as a city underwater. But is not just a tourist attraction or a site of national despair. New Orleans is not a metaphor or a symbol. It is a living, changing place and it embodies some of the key challenges that face us as a nation.
More than a quarter of New Orleanians live below the poverty line. More than 1 in 5 have no health insurance. We suffer with the highest gun murder rate in the nation. And despite aggressive and controversial reform efforts, our city’s public schools still struggle to serve the children of our community. My family and I choose to live in the 7th Ward: a community where many of these concerns are most concentrated, but also a neighborhood of attentive neighbors, resilient families, and innovative grassroots organizational efforts.
It is a spirit also embodied by the Essence Festival. For years Essence brought top talent and motivational workshops to New Orleans during the 4th of July weekend. After Katrina’s devastation, many wondered if Essence would ever return. They did, immediately! And in the subsequent years the Essence Festival has been an opportunity to party, but also a chance to reflect on the challenges our communities face and the resources that that we have to solve our own problems and chart our own futures. It is the work I see my fellow New Orleanians do every day.
It is also the work I see my colleagues at msnbc strive for with every broadcast. The men and women of msnbc, from summer interns, to production assistants, segment producers, executive producers and hosts believe that Lean Forward is more than a tagline. It is a mandate that our shows offer our viewers information that is accurate, analysis that is meaningful, and opportunities for action that are tangible.
In just a few weeks these many venues that give my life meaning and purpose will come together in a fantastic few days of celebration, information, and action. Melissa Harris-Perry will be the same show you have come to know and love, but we will have a special fire of purpose during our New Orleans weekend! I hope we will be able to give you a glimpse of the city I love so much and find a way to connect the solutions we are working on here in New Orleans, with the challenges you face in your own hometowns. Tune in July 6 and 7 for the #nerdland you will not want to miss.
Read more on poverty in New Orleans here.