My friend Andy Lee (pictured on right) is on the local Board of Directors of Habitat for Humanity. He invited me to see Habitat’s Musician’s Village project. Well, actually, he invited anyone reading the comments to a blog post by Ashley Morris, one entitled Tone Deaf Musician’s Village. The post was critical of Habitat’s MV project (read it for yourself to see why). The post spawned a whole bunch of pointed commentary, which was frankly hard for me to read because there was a lot of criticism being flung about. But I did read the comments, and when I saw among them Andy’s invitation for a tour of MV I took him up on it.
The first person I met was Jesse McBride
(pictured with Andy). Jesse’s a young jazz pianist who studied at UNO
and is now hoping to get a home in Musician’s Village. Andy walked me
around, introduced me to some volunteers, and described the project in
great detail. He seemed to know the name of most of the families that
had moved into MV, and most folks knew him. We stopped at a house
where a bass player named Chuck Badie
lived. As we approached the house, Jesse turned to me, raised his
eyebrows, and said "Old school." He was referring to something more
than just Chuck’s age. Jesse obviously had a lot of respect for the
eighty-two year old bassist.
I have a lot of respect for the people I met in Musician’s Village.
The road home isn’t easy for anyone who wants to live in the Ninth
Ward. Fortunately a lot of people are trying to help, and apparently
doing an outstanding job. Sure, we can spend a lot of time assigning
blame for why things aren’t moving faster. But no one can blame the
Habitat volunteers. They’re accelerating the pace of recovery, not
Some people say that Musician’s Village isn’t really doing enough
for musicians, or that Habitat misrepresented the program by not
emphasizing that non-musicians are allowed to live there too. All I
know is that when I looked around I was bathed with a palpable sense of
optimism, not something I imagined I would find in the Ninth Ward.
After the MV tour, Andy took me to a restaurant called Jazzy Po-Boy
where the owner Kevin served up a delicious oyster po-boy. As I sat
talking to Andy I thought about how grateful I was. First, that Andy
had taken the time to show me the Village, and also, that Ashley had
written a post about it. There’s nothing wrong with criticism, and I
certainly respect Ashley’s concerns. Until yesterday I didn’t know
what to make of Musician’s Village, since I’d never seen it. I figured
that, as Wynton Marsalis learned from his dad (see the video below),
you should "check stuff out before you have an opinion about it."
So, if you have a chance, check out the Musician’s Village. And if you do check out this sign that’s hanging on the door near the soda fountain at Jazzy’s Po-Boy restaurant.
Kinda says it all, doesn’t it?