Thursday, September 12, 2013

Shit My Jackie Says

I don't think the originators of this proposal intend it this way, but there's something not quite right about creating an "iconic" Disney-type attraction based on the memory of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade
The project would be located at Celeste Street, and organizers envision it as part of the city’s complete reinvention of the riverfront, from Poland Avenue downtown to Jackson Avenue in the Uptown area. The project is called the National Slave Ship Museum (on a similar scale to the $110 million National Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati), but it is international in scope. The core of the museum would be a drydocked replica of an 18th-century slave ship, with an amphitheatre and other features built around it. Many of the performers there — as well as the cuisine in the cafes and the wares for sale in the gift shop — would come from Africa, Lazard said.

Other features include an on-site DNA lab that would enable visitors to trace their ancestry back centuries. Inside the replica ship, one exhibit would be a simulation of the conditions on the terrible voyage across the Atlantic. And, in a second phase, a sea-worthy version of the ship (with modern safety features) would actually take visitors onto the Mississippi River — Lazard hopes to model it after the Antelope, a slave ship whose capture off the coast of Florida in 1820 led to a Supreme Court case on the illegality of the international slave trade.
This isn't to say there's not a kernel of an idea here. Though this situation has steadily improved, even today Louisiana's historical attractions do not adequately convey the context of the slave society that created them. It is appropriate that we develop ways to correct this.

But certainly there is a more dignified way to remember the greatest human calamity of the past 500 years than an amusement ride and an "ampitheatre." ("Ampitheatre" by the way is defined as "What you put in your proposal when you want a 'monorail' that doesn't go anywhere.")  But then, what do I know?  According to New Orleans's foremost paragon of racial reconciliation, this is an idea whose time has come.
City Council President Jackie Clarkson said she had been supporting Lazard’s efforts for years.

“We almost needed the city to catch up with that dream,” Clarkson said. “We’ve become a museum city, and that has helped immensely. You had to wait for the rest of the city to catch up with you.”

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