[New Orleans, July 29, 2008] At the turn of the twentieth century as the palatial plantations up and down the Mississippi River became only a memory, thousands of former workers migrated to New Orleans as did immigrants, seamen, trappers, gamblers, hustlers, scholars and musicians. This convergence with the native population set the stage that birthed the free spirit of Jazz and opened a new frontier.
The Eagle Saloon, built in 1875 and known as the 'delivery room' of Jazz, had its roof blown off during The Storm of 2005. The second and third floors were ruined, but the original tin tile ceiling and Spanish tiled floors survived and the blues, the spirit and all that jazz re-ignites every Tuesday night lit by the New Orleans Music Hall of Fame and Museum's Blues and Jazz Band, featuring Guitar Slim, Jr., a showman extradonaire.
The son of Eddie "Guitar Slim" Jones, Jr.'s first release earned him a Grammy nomination. Last Tuesday night, Jr., along with Blues Boy George on lead guitar, Anthony on bass and Milton on drums, received multiple standing ovations during their three-and-a-half hour nonstop renditions of BB King, Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Ray Charles, Motown, Marvin Gaye, Prince, gospel and more, during a private party at the Eagle which was arranged as a thanksgiving service by Pastor John E. Pierre, of the Living Witness Church of God in Christ on Oretha C. Haley Blvd, a three minute drive to the Eagle Saloon at 201 South Rampart Street.
Pastor Pierre and many in the heart of the Central City neighborhood, once a haven for drug dealers and prostitutes, demonstrated their gratitude and love for two teams of volunteers who had come to work in the heat of July alongside recovering addicts to demolish the old so as to bring in new opportunities for the formerly homeless men who commit to a year long residential boot camp known as the Nehemiah Restoration Project, just one of many community outreach programs provided by Living Witness.
The teams of committed Christians came on their own dime from the Crossings Church in Clermont, Florida and Cedar Brook of Wisconsin. It was the first mission trip for the newly established Crossings, but some from Wisconsin were on their sixth and eighth work pilgrimage of service to a community that The Storm of 2005 wrecked havoc upon. The volunteers all work alongside the men in recovery who are now building a barbershop and beauty parlor next door to the Living Witness Church of God.
The regal and patient Pastor Pierre informed me, "The bottom line for us is getting families back together and in strengthening the family. We have found that the effects of Hurricane Katrina have become a unifying source. The churches in this neighborhood came together when this area became a ghost town. My family had been evacuated to Houston and it wasn't until October 2005 that my Deacon and I were able to return through the back door; by coming through the West Bank, [the area was still under Marshall Law and no freedom of movement was allowed]. It was stinking smelly all over the block; our roof had been torn apart when a tree fell upon it. There was phone and electricity, but still no water.
"I received a call from the Federal Government Health and Human Services Department and was informed that a pre-Katrina grant for Compassionate Capitol had been granted. I had forgotten all about it!
"Half of our church membership has been displaced and decent and affordable housing is still not up to speed. Then there is that double edged sword of the tourism and convention concerns claiming New Orleans is back for they paint a false picture. The French Quarter and St. Charles areas where the tourists go, didn't receive much damage, but where the people live, the community that is New Orleans is stuck in a time warp. Our Government did not keep its promises."
A week after the levees broke and President Bush spoke in Jackson Square, it was lit up by a generator, and when he was through; boom, boom, out went the lights again!
Ask NOT what our Government will do for the under served people who are the spirit of New Orleans, but what we the people of these United States can do to help heal them.
To have a great time and book a gig with the New Orleans Music Hall of Fame and Museum's Blues and Jazz Band, call Popagee at 504-861-2675 or 504-301-7088 and learn more:
To offer hands, feet and hearts to those who struggle with addictions and learn more about the program that has serviced over 900 men: