Avery Allen, 4, rides her tricycle as her mother, Judy Allen, right, walks Annabelle the dog as people march down Franklin Avenue to protest illegal home rentals in their neighborhood Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016 in New Orleans. Julie Jones of Neighbors First for Bywater said the march was intended to raise awareness of the issue of short term, whole-house rentals and AirBNB rentals in the Marigny, Bywater and St. Roch neighborhoods.

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD

I’m proud to be a part of the art community that helps make New Orleans one of the South’s most vibrant and prized cities. I also know that I wouldn’t have been able to pursue my art as much if I wasn’t able to make a little extra money by opening my home to guests through Airbnb.

It’s hard to make ends meet as an artist. Business isn’t regular — a really good month can be followed by a few bad ones. It’s nothing I’m not used to, but as New Orleans has become a more and more expensive place to live, it puts a lot more pressure on me.

That’s why Airbnb has been such an important part of my life. Sharing my home isn’t enough to cover all of my expenses, but it helps take the pressure off me so that I can focus my energy on my art.

But hosting does more than just give me more time to pursue my passion. It has actually helped expose me to new ideas and inspirations. Since I first listed my room on Airbnb, I’ve met guests from Germany, New Zealand, Taiwan, Nigeria, Kenya and dozens more countries. Meeting someone with a completely different perspective on life — and art — has helped shape my own views about the world.

I’ve heard so many stories about cities trying to lure artists back to help make neighborhoods more vibrant, and how that actually helps increase property values and overall well-being. I love the idea that art can have a part in revitalizing communities and hope that my own work might be doing that.

It’s unclear to me why there are strong opponents to Airbnb in New Orleans, particularly when you look at the facts. From my own experience, Airbnb is helping artists and musicians and other entrepreneurs in New Orleans take control of their destinies and pursue the things they care about most. In a city that prides itself for being a home to so many creatives, how could there be opposition to a tool that helps artists stay here?

I know so many hosts just like me, and the more we read the news, the more frustrated we are with hearing a political back-and-forth that seems to ignore one of the most important aspects of New Orleans. I understand there is more to this city than its art and culture, but I hope that telling my story can at least help people consider the human side and help them understand the many benefits of all types of home sharing.

Baba Ken Amen


New Orleans