It might still be 31/2 years away, but New Orleanians are starting to think about the city’s tricentennial celebration in 2018.
Making sure that all of the city’s residents — African-Americans, in particular — are included in the festivities was the topic of a panel discussion Saturday morning at the Ashé Cultural Arts Center in Central City.
“We’ve had some very hurtful times during those 300 years, but we’ve had some very good times,” said Linetta Gilbert, who moderated the panel.
Few solid ideas were presented during the discussion, which included Carol Bebelle, co-founder and executive director of the Ashé Center; Flozell Daniels Jr., president and CEO of the Foundation for Louisiana; Ronald Markham, president and CEO of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra; and Mark Romig, president and CEO of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp.
Rather, many residents expressed the hope that the city’s true culture will be represented during its 300th birthday, instead of a pre-manufactured and less authentic vision of the city that some tourists have come to expect.
“There needs to be a full recognition of the real New Orleans,” said public relations executive Bill Rouselle, one of several audience members who listened to the panel discussion and spoke during a question-and-answer session. “The roux of the gumbo is the African-American community.”
Responding to concerns that many of the city’s tourism efforts focus on the French Quarter, Romig said that as 2018 comes closer, city leaders will be looking for stories from across New Orleans to share with visitors who arrive for the anniversary.
“We want to be able to tell more of those stories as we get closer to the time,” he said.
Follow Danny Monteverde on Twitter, @DCMonteverde.