Sat. Nov 26th, 2022

On Sunday, Nov. 20, the Music and Tradition Coalition of New Orleans will rejoice its tenth anniversary with a celebration and fundraiser at Zony Mash Beer Challenge. The group grew out of weekly conferences in late summer season 2012 known as by New Orleans musicians and music venue homeowners and held at Kermit Ruffins’ Speakeasy bar in Treme following a allow enforcement sweep that pulled the plug at a number of venues.

The nonprofit has since grown to advocate with members of the cultural group on myriad points, from the town’s sophisticated allowing course of and dwell out of doors leisure rules to surveillance and policing towards road performers.

In the course of the pandemic, MaCCNO began a low-barrier grant program for artists, musicians and tradition bearers, and the direct assist continued within the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. The group additionally writes a month-to-month column for Antigravity discussing points impacting the New Orleans cultural group.

Sunday’s celebration is 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. and can function performances by Water Seed, The Authentic Pinettes Brass Band, Robin Barnes & Pat Casey and Flagboy Giz together with DJ Mikey Offline. There additionally might be a silent public sale and raffle objects and meals vehicles. Admission is an inspired $10 donation, however nobody might be turned away. Discover extra at

Gambit spoke to MaCCNO govt director Ethan Ellestad, group engagement coordinator Renard Bridgewater and program coordinator Hannah Kreiger-Benson in regards to the group’s tenth anniversary, how its mission has modified and what will probably be watching in 2023. An edited transcript follows.

Members of the Music and Tradition Coalition maintain an indication exterior Metropolis Corridor. MaCCNO is marking its tenth anniversary on Sunday, Nov. 20.


Gambit: Might you inform me about MaCCNO’s mission when it began and the way it could have modified?

Hannah Kreiger-Benson: The unique thought was — nicely, a pair issues: Downside fixing points that the town and the group type of have a disconnect [over] and attempting to determine how one can downside remedy long-running points. The impetus was music venues being informed they couldn’t have music as a result of their allowing wasn’t so as, after which determining how to verify dwell efficiency isn’t collateral injury of a dialogue round allowing for companies. Additionally, extra typically, bridging this hole that grew to become very clear between authorized and coverage folks and music and tradition folks, and there being that type of canyon in the midst of data the place there weren’t lots of people in a position to bridge that hole. MaCCNO simply type of began forming in that hole.

By way of the way it developed over time, one factor that I believe is essential is that — I do not assume we have had mission creep, however I’ve observed that we have had mission growth. One factor that’s turn out to be clear is the interconnectedness of many various issues and the interdisciplinary area of interest, the holistic-ness. It turns into apparent in a whole lot of totally different contexts, however if you happen to’re speaking about musicians having the ability to carry out, it is not lengthy earlier than you are additionally on the very least partnering with of us who work on housing justice points.

It’s ranging from the purpose of: What are the limitations, the sticking factors, with the legalities of efficiency on this city. After which [our work] has expanded to fill that gap, the canyon that we’re speaking about, between coverage house and the music and tradition house and to construct bridges over that house.

A powerful picture of MaCCNO that I’ve is constructing bridges throughout this divide after which additionally type of opening up channels for communication, as a result of you make positive that the voices of the group are in dialogue round insurance policies that immediately impression them. And in addition ensuring that data is evident, as a result of misinformation tends to unfold and proliferate and mutate when there’s lack of readability. Let’s be honest, authorized data might be actually daunting and actually inaccessible.

Gambit: So MaCCNO’s work typically goes forwards and backwards — you might be advocating on behalf of the cultural group, however you even have to clarify to the group what policymakers are doing.

Ethan Ellestad: I believe that is a part of it. As Hannah was saying, the inaccessibility of so many issues round — an instance I believe I might use as a result of it nonetheless has not absolutely resolved however it’s on its manner is out of doors dwell leisure. It was this willpower made in type of this again room of the [Department of] Security and Permits that determined companies couldn’t host out of doors dwell leisure. And what does that imply? As a result of it’s not simply dwell music. It’s additionally theater and it’s stand-up comedy. It’s all sorts of efficiency that companies will legally not be capable to do outdoor. However [it wouldn’t include] road performers, it’s not second strains, it’s not dwell efficiency in public house.

There’s a whole lot of nuance in a whole lot of these items that matter. As a result of [something] easy-to-read, one thing generic will say like, “Town of New Orleans mentioned there might be no out of doors dwell music.” Effectively, that’s not what they mentioned. It’s extra particular than that. It’s companies can’t have dwell out of doors leisure, however it didn’t impression these different, extra conventional cultural practices. It’s essential to attract that distinction in order that individuals are conscious of what’s occurring and so they can advocate and work to repair the correct issues.

It’s simple to get folks outraged and upset, however ahead momentum — to get folks to assist deal with the foundation of the issue, each policymakers and the group — you’ve bought to just be sure you’re specializing in the correct factor. And so we spend a whole lot of time actually attempting to make issues accessible and make folks conscious of: What’s occurring, what one thing does and the way it may be modified. These three steps in making a optimistic change.

And one factor we at all times speak about is that we don’t advocate for, we advocate with. We wish to be sure that the individuals are on the forefront of selections that impression their livelihood, their cultural exercise, their cultural apply, their identification. Folks should be on the forefront of that call. We might be an avenue during which that may occur.

Renard Bridgewater: I believe that’s positively essential. We prioritize and ensure we middle the voices of the tradition group. One factor I believe we additionally do nicely is the actual fact we’ve two musicians as employees members — Hannah and I are each immediately impacted by issues that happen at Metropolis Corridor. So we’ve the connection and the power to have the ability to put these insurance policies into language in a manner that our tradition group colleagues and friends can extra simply perceive.

From mutual assist to grocery containers and micro-grants, musicians started working.

Gambit: There could possibly be nearly infinite points impacting musicians and tradition bearers in New Orleans. With a purpose to have sufficient room for the work, are there onerous choices about what might be taken on?

Ellestad: My thought is there are some issues you can’t not have interaction with, proper? There’s a direct disaster that’s so overarching or there are such a lot of totally different repercussions. I believe an excellent instance of that’s doing catastrophe help, catastrophe reduction and restoration. There’s no manner we couldn’t be concerned in that house — and it wasn’t one thing that we initially ever deliberate to be as a corporation, however it’s one thing that we did as a result of there was a necessity.

I believe as we’ve progressed as a corporation, we’ve began to work on extra systemic points. How do we modify the coverage so it advantages everyone? In order that we don’t must hold chasing and placing out fires. That’s type of the best way we method it, I believe: What as a small group can we do to have the best impression and the way can we make investments our time?

Bridgewater: We’ve additionally been in a position to construct a assist system of different arts and cultural organizations that we belief and may depend on and really feel assured in filling in that house, as nicely. We are able to accomplice and collaborate to carry in regards to the change we collectively search.

Kreiger-Benson: We’ve been, I assume, fortunate to not have had moments the place there was huge, disparate issues on fireplace that we actually needed to type of shortchange one for the opposite. Which, — knock on wooden. Perhaps it’s a mirrored image of the truth that we’ve been in a position to hold our mission fairly constant. We’ve been in a position to increase and ship out tentacles in numerous instructions and proceed to strengthen our partnerships, however I believe we’ve completed it methodically — a mixture of fortunate and methodical sufficient that we’ve by no means over prolonged.

Ellestad: And one factor we’ve actually tried to do as a corporation isn’t be the bottleneck on a problem. We at all times attempt to work in partnerships, with different social justice organizations, arts and cultural organizations. We’re attempting to be deliberate about increasing the house for other people and organizations to come back in and do the work and have a seat on the desk as nicely. I at all times take into consideration once we get a seat — we’re lucky sufficient at this level to have some entry — at any time when we get entry to assembly to elected officers, to bigger organizations, how will we increase that entry? How will we broaden that desk? How will we create house for extra folks? We wish to be certain as a corporation that we’re creating alternatives for others to come back in and advocate.

Musicians play on the Royal Road pedestrian mall.


Gambit: What have you ever counted as a few of the successes within the first 10 years?

Bridgewater: We’ve been concerned in anti-surveillance-related organizing since 2018. By means of two mayors, two Metropolis Council our bodies. And I’m very grateful for lots of the work with reference to serving to New Orleans move the facial recognition [ban] ordinance, making New Orleans the second metropolis within the South to have the ability to move the sort of laws. We’re nonetheless doing this work.

And simply rapidly as nicely, we’ve been discussing our low-barrier micro-grant program — having the ability to present [those to] over 500 cultural group members throughout the town. Nearly $300,000 distributed to these of us, and I believe that has definitely helped over the past year-and-a-half or two years to have the ability to increase the [number of] of us that find out about MaCCNO.

Kreiger-Benson: A whole lot of our success are onerous to seize as a result of a whole lot of instances it’s been about stopping hurt, from poorly written insurance policies or some badly intentioned elected officers. And that’s onerous to measure with out the alternate universe comparability side-by-side. That’s not the sexiest or shiniest success, however I believe it’s probably the most profound.

Ellestad: There was the thought to place real-time crime cameras exterior of each enterprise that offered alcohol in New Orleans, and at one level they wished to place some inside companies. We have been in a position to defeat that — the Tradition Not Cameras initiative was in a position to get that withdrawn by constructing a very broad coalition of parents pushing again. However one factor we had talked about loads is the impression surveillance can have on tradition. We simply had a video of somebody on Royal Road, a constable threatening to make use of cameras to derail road performers. We’ve been on that message for thus lengthy and have had some success — steps ahead and steps again, . I believe it’s one thing.

Perhaps what I’m most happy with in our group is we simply type of hold our head down and do the work. We’re not at all times probably the most forward-facing or thrilling components of tradition and advocacy, however it’s essential. And we’ve been in a position to proceed to do our work and increase over a decade.

Kreiger-Benson: So as to add, I believe paradigm shift is absolutely essential once I take into consideration successes. It isn’t essentially particular moments — though there are positively some — however it’s type of altering the dialog, altering who’s on the desk, altering what is taken into account acceptable by way of how legal guidelines are made and the way cultural folks and practices get handled. The actual fact is the underlying disconnect — this can be a metropolis with an economic system and an identification based mostly on cultural practices, and a authorized system that’s so extremely disconnected.

A proposed framework for future out of doors dwell music in New Orleans is headed to the Metropolis Council with none official advice from the Metropolis Planning Fee. 

Gambit: The flip facet of this, what do y’all really feel have been the most important classes realized?

Ellestad: One factor has at all times been to be constant and to be correct and to have integrity. We are saying we’re gonna do one thing, we’re going to do it. If we are saying we oppose something for some purpose, that is why we oppose it. We attempt to be sure that we keep that as we transfer ahead, as a result of it makes it simple for folks to know what’s occurring and why and the way we are able to change.

Bridgewater: Accuracy has turn out to be definitely one among my tenets over the past a number of years, however I believe additionally remaining humble. Regardless, if it’s redlining a coverage or talking with a wide range of totally different stake holders or convening a gathering with cultural elders, there could also be alternatives there the place we’re going to be unsuitable. So for me, it’s about remaining humble and lengthening grace to of us who typically are probably the most overworked and underpaid group within the metropolis. Ensuring they’re actively listening to these people and, once we’re unsuitable, course right. After which simply not strolling into numerous rooms and pondering that we all know extra or pondering that we don’t have a chance to study.

Kreiger-Benson: This is kind of from early on as a result of I believe we have been in a position to do a good job of pivoting from this lesson, which isn’t to be too educational or inaccessible in our personal language. Particularly early on, we have been extremely cautious to be so, so correct, so unignorable, to be nicely vetted, and I keep in mind somebody saying, “Be careful together with your tone as a result of if you happen to’re too educational, then you definately turn out to be inaccessible, too.” I really feel like an enormous quantity of what we do is eradicating these limitations to entry by way of the cultural course of. Whether or not it’s our group teach-ins or being clear in our communications, it’s attempting to create these channels for people. However it’s positively been a sequence of classes alongside the best way on how to do this.

Additionally, the unpredictability of issues — and that is true in working in nearly any house, however simply to at all times take a beat and take a breath and know that a whole lot of issues might be actually unpredictable. And a whole lot of instances when issues are up at a disaster pitch or there’s a whole lot of pressure or anxiousness or rumors flying round, actually studying how one can hold our heads on straight and how one can deal in a second when issues actually really feel on fireplace. fire-fight whereas maintaining ourselves wholesome and grounded and issues like that.

A digicam is seen alongside Bourbon Road; MaCCNO is a part of the Eye on Surveillance coalition and has been organizing towards the usage of mass surveillance.


Gambit: You talked about the facial recognition ban. There’s been some regression on that in 2022. Metropolis Council reinstated a few of these instruments, and lately the French Quarter Administration District plans to put in extra cameras in that neighborhood. Might you discuss to me about your ideas on the way forward for that battle?

Bridgewater: It’s definitely disappointing to see the repeal that happened in July, and as you talked about the French Quarter Administration getting the pay bump to usher in extra surveillance expertise. One thing I’ve mentioned quite a few instances since July: That is an ongoing, collective battle. And it’s comforting to have the ability to see so many people, no matter socio-economic and racial demographics throughout this metropolis come into their very own so far as changing into extra knowledgeable and in the end understanding that they want to see one thing completed in another way. Simply seeing extra feedback on social media platforms and people questioning these choices which are being made and on the lookout for extra data on why these harms exist and the way these biases are baked into these types of tech.

That’s the place to begin of the change. The Eye on Surveillance coalition and related organizations and folks can have a leaping off level to have the ability to get extra to the origin story, roughly, of once we began that coalition again in March 2019. And that was to particularly have interaction group round this topic. So I believe that’s type of the place we’re at now. Sure, we’ve had two alternatives which have offered themselves negatively, so how will we reinforce the optimistic? How will we have interaction the general public within the course of they sadly by no means had the chance to really be part of.

Ellestad: Speaking in regards to the French Quarter facet of it. The funds allocation they handed was very closely invested in surveillance and never a lot in different facets of security. That course of occurred nearly completely out of the general public eye. There are theoretical public conferences, however the actuality is it’s a funds adjustment completed for a state-appointed physique, the French Quarter Administration District, that has their security and safety committee that meets as soon as a month on a Monday afternoon that’s making these choices. And so it type of reveals how these items can occur. How anyone would even find out about it till it’s completed. We weren’t in a position as a corporation to get the traction we wanted or transfer the needle on it but. However that doesn’t imply the needle can’t be moved sooner or later.

Folks cease to pay attention as Caylen Larson and different musicians carry out on Royal Road.


Gambit: What’s MaCCNO keeping track of in 2023?

Ellestad: The Royal Road pedestrian mall. It’s been an ongoing difficulty, sadly. It has been suspended principally for the reason that collapse of the Onerous Rock resort, and at the moment the town isn’t even placing up the barricades that create the pedestrian mall, regardless of NOPD having an announcement that mentioned the pedestrian mall might be again. That lasted possibly two weeks, and now they’ve eliminated the barricades solely. That’s been a problem on and off for a decade, however on this iteration actually since 2015. And we have to get it resolved to be sure that road performers have a protected place to carry out.

The opposite factor we’re speaking about loads is — our motto has been “Music Is Not A Crime,” and actually there are issues which are nonetheless legal offenses. It’s nonetheless on the books you can’t play a musical instrument after 8 p.m. on the street. It’s enforced sometimes. It’s nonetheless a legal offense to violate the noise ordinance. It’s an offense to parade with no allow. These are misdemeanors punishable by fines and, I believe, as much as 90 days in jail. And if you happen to’ve bought this heightened surveillance all these totally different regulation enforcement businesses across the French Quarter, the simplest option to just be sure you don’t put the cultural group and musicians in danger is by ensuring they’re not legal penalties in any respect. No one ought to go to jail for taking part in music.

Kreiger-Benson: One factor we’ve tried to work on extra the final couple of years is cultural economic system. Actually attempting to take a look at how musicians and cultural practitioners could make a good dwelling. We’re attempting to untangle all of the totally different components that go into not solely making a dwelling however the potential to thrive within the cultural world. We’re persevering with attempting to deal with that in numerous methods, by way of group teach-ins or providing sources or attempting to demystify a few of that stuff.

Bridgewater: I look towards 2023 to simply proceed to do what we’ve type of hung our hats on — simply to have the ability to inform the group. Despite the fact that we’ve made strides in that area, to have the ability to present clear and concise information, there’s nonetheless work to be completed.

We’re additionally dedicated, with reference to our direct help, we’re attempting to determine how roughly we will we outline and in the end proceed to create a bigger and wider security internet for our tradition group members. How will we create extra methods for our tradition group to entry funds to have the ability to proceed to guard, protect and perpetuate tradition inside this metropolis with out limitations?

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