Expanding the Vision
After the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, Ruby and the foundation became more dedicated than ever to confronting the interlocking problems of poverty, racism and unequal educational opportunities. The city of New Orleans is world famous for its art, architecture, music and cuisine – all of which have been heavily influenced by its rich cultural diversity; however, the diversity that makes the city unique is laced with longstanding social inequities that have plagued the “melting pot” for generations.
Katrina captured the world’s attention, albeit briefly, and illuminated one of the worst cases of racial and socio-economic division in the United States. Thousands of New Orleanians were trapped without the means or provisions to evacuate when the worst natural/ man-made disaster in US history inundated the city.
Some five years later, the problems persist as many still lack adequate housing, gainful employment and the resources to improve their situations. The socioeconomic gap that existed between races prior to the storms is all the more pronounced today. The recovery process has been rife with disparity, as the most segregated and impoverished neighborhoods continue to struggle.
New Orleans’ social infrastructure is woefully inadequate when compared with the needs of its citizenry. The public schools, which had been failing long before Katrina, are in many cases still riddled with violence, drugs and gangs. Since 2005, New Orleans schools have had to educate a higher percentage of students from low-income homes, and the demand for social services usually outstrips what regular schools are able to provide.
The Ruby Bridges School of Community Service & Social Justice (RBS) would serve as an anchor for community development by forging partnerships with local organizations to provide many social services that are currently lacking in the neighborhood. The school’s leadership would also actively engage the Upper Ninth Ward neighborhood and the New Orleans community more broadly in important conversations regarding issues of equity, social justice and civil rights. In addition, the school will serve as a focal point for celebrating the arts, life and culture of area residents.