What is NOLArize! Doing Five Years After Katrina?

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

When students first came back to Swarthmore after the summer, there were chalkings across the campus about NOLArize! and the fifth year anniversary for Hurricane Katrina — a natural disaster in New Orleans that highlighted the gross racial and socioeconomic inequalities still present in the United States. Swatties might wonder, though: given that Katrina happened five years ago, what is NOLArize doing now to keep the issues alive?

The Gazette spoke with Jalisa Roberts ’13 and Nick Borkowski ’13, current leaders of the student group and residents of New Orleans, to discuss their future plans and ideas for the group.

NOLArize was founded by Marissa Davis ’08 in 2007 as a student group dedicated to helping New Orleans rise up again after Hurricane Katrina. Borkowski described the group as being “here to help New Orleans rise again, one neighborhood at a time, focusing primarily on empowering the youth while actively addressing the needs of the greater community.”

By promoting awareness of New Orleans on cultural, social, and political levels, Roberts and Borkoski hope to “shed light on issues of inequity and social injustice plaguing communities nationwide.”

In the past, NOLArize has organized many on-campus events, including a New Orleans week, speakers, movie screenings, and parlor parties, as well as work on the ground in New Orleans. These off-campus activities included starting a pen-pal mentoring program, teaching classes, and helping rebuild a community center and church in New Orleans.

In that same vein, NOLArize is currently planning several events on campus as well as working with Liberty’s Kitchen, a New Orleans-based non-profit organization committed to helping at-risk youth in New Orleans. Events on Swarthmore’s campus include a Sharples takeover, a New Orleans Week in the Spring, movie screenings, cooking demonstrations with Liberty’s Kitchen, and potential music events.

NOLArize is particularly emphasizing their partnership with Liberty’s Kitchen. The fall semester will be mainly devoted to raising money for Liberty’s Kitchen and Roberts’ potential dance studio project (pending Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility approval), whereas the spring semester is focused on making these events happen on campus.

NOLArize! is an open group that meets on Thursdays at 6:30PM in Parrish Parlors.

Alex Friedfeld contributed reporting for this article.

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