Katrina@10 is a national symposium to be held at Georgetown University on October 22nd and 23rd, 2015.  Katrina@10 will examine the impacts of Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans on memory, culture, history, media, policy and social justice. 

A decade ago, in late August 2005, for several hundred thousand Americans, Hurricane Katrina presented a problem of survival.  For those who remained in New Orleans, climbing onto roofs in Chalmette or into attics in the Ninth Ward, Katrina was life threatening and world changing. On Monday, August 29, 2005, at 6:10 a.m., Hurricane Katrina made landfall at Buras, Louisiana.   The federally-constructed levee system began to fail as early as 4:30 a.m.  By mid-morning, much of the City of New Orleans was under water.  All told, 80% of New Orleans was flooded and 1,056 people died.

For everyone else, Katrina was experienced as a media event marked by a surplus of images and a paucity of experience.  Ten-years later, Katrina presents a problem for memory and for understanding.  In On Collective Memory, Maurice Halbwachs argued that memory is social and that coherent and persistent memory is generated from shared contexts.  Halbwachs maintained “crucial public events leave deep imprints on the minds of direct participants” (30).   In the case of Katrina, whatever has imprinted deeply has been shaped more by television news coverage than by direct experience.  As Aric Mayer has argued, “Fewer than several hundred thousand people witnessed the storm in person.  For the other 99.8 percent of Americans, the disaster was a media experience with lasting implications for public opinion and action” (178).  A global audience experienced Katrina as a flood of images, and those images have defined collective memory over the last decade.  If Katrina is to be understood, we must interrogate the production of our own collective memories.

Katrina@10 will provide opportunities for the interrogation of collective memories of Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans through film screenings, musical performances, and panel discussions. On Thursday, October 22nd, Katrina@10 will open with a screening of Tia Lessin and Carl Deal’s award-winning film Trouble The Water (2008).  After the screening, Lessin will discuss the film’s production and reception with Dr. Bernie Cook, Director of Film and Media Studies at Georgetown.

On Friday, October 23rd, Katrina@10 will continue with three panel discussions: Cook will lead a panel discussion on Media and Memory with filmmakers Lolis ElieDawn Logsdon, Leo Chiang, and Luisa Dantas.  Dr. Adam Rothman (History)  will lead a panel discussion on Public History with Professor Kim Vaz (Xavier University New Orleans), Cherice Harrison-Nelson (educator, curator, New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame), and Professor Lynnell Thomas (University of Massachusetts, Boston).  Dr. Randall Amster (Justice and Peace) will lead a panel on Activism and Justice with Jordan Flaherty (community activist, journalist), Tamara Jackson (Executive Director, Silence Is Violence), Tracie Washington (President and CEO, The Louisiana Justice Institute).

Also on Friday, October 23rd, Katrina@10, in partnership with Georgetown Music Program, will present a Friday Music Series performance by Donald Harrison Jr., acclaimed jazz musician and educator.  The performance will include discussion with Mr. Harrison about the impact of the flooding of New Orleans on musicians and other culture bearers and about the importance of the continuance of culture for the future of New Orleans.

Katrina@10 was made possible by a Reflective Engagement Grant from Georgetown University.