From St. Louis, I drove south through Missouri (or Missoura, depending on who you ask) to the Ozarks. Just across the border in Arkansas sits Boone County. A predominantly white region, Boone County is home to several KKK factions that are still present and active (I was told that a community film screening several years ago on the history of U.S. race riots got picketed by Klansmen).
Monday, March 22, 2010
Today I drove from NOLA to Baton Rouge to attend a meeting in the Old South Baton Rouge neighborhood, a predominantly black, very low-income community that is nearly completely lacking in fresh food options, and whose population suffers from disproportionately high rates of obesity and diabetes. I visited a small educational garden in a lot across the street from a Black Muslim center (which, interestingly, is located in a storefront that used to be a grocery store).
After becoming very aware that I was in the jaws of death, futility trying to drive my swerving compact Hyundai rental car in a Southwestern snow storm (and realizing that I was physically unable to stop), I rented a 4WD truck and headed north to the town of Espanola, NM in Rio Arriba County. The meeting was held at the health council offices and convened by the department director. The first portion of the meeting was about forming a local food policy council. There were about 25 attendees who were mainly ranchers and farmers, as well as some health workers.
Four plus hours north of New Orleans, I turned off I-55, the road running through the heart of the Mississippi Delta. I headed down rolling side roads into Holmes County, Mississippi, the poorest county, in the poorest state in the nation.
Finally made it to New Orleans! I got here yesterday. My taxi driver from the airport was a spirited older gentleman who's lived his whole life in the Lower 9th (minus a 2 year absence following Katrina). We were talking about the Deep South, and he remarked: "This here's the butter biscuit bottom. You get any farther south and you'll be in Mexico."