Last Monday, our program directors organized for us to watch a live Jazz Band at Snug Harbor - definitely a place to visit if you are a fan of Jazz and want to experience it in the city where it was born! I have always loved jazz and was really excited about our visit to Snug Harbor - but the show truly surpassed all of my expectations. We were fortunate enough to watch Charmaine Neville who sang a number of her own songs with her jazz band -- all of whom were incredibly talented. The beat of the music had my hairs standing the entire time! The songs she sang expressed the struggle of the human spirit and embodied its ability to survive hardship. Neville's talent is not limited to her incredibly powerful and beautiful voice - she is also able to relate to people from all over the world – which is clear from the lyrics of her music. She invited individuals from the audience of all ages and nationalities to join her up on stage. At one point during the show there were students from Peru, Chile and New York dancing and singing with her on stage; embodying the melting pot NOLA really is! Part of the beauty of jazz is the spontaneous element to the genre, allowing its artists to play what they feel. Neville even had a few DukeEngage students come share the microphone with her! While we all enjoyed seeing them perform on stage with her, Neville's inclusive performance is a representation of the inclusiveness and warmth of the city. The citizens of New Orleans not only want to welcome those who visit the city to the city but they also want to make them feel like a part of the city. And that is exactly what Neville did by inviting those in her audience to help her create the music she performed that night. She finished the show with one of my favorite songs, "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong. I was hoping the band would perform the song and it was really special to hear it live in NOLA. Neville thoughtfully dedicated this last performance to a couple celebrating their 39th wedding anniversary and it was evident on their elated faces that they were blown away by her warmth.
Yesterday, we drove over an hour to rural Louisiana to visit the historic and breathtakingly beautiful Oak Alley Plantation on River Road. We started our day with a visit to the African American History Museum. It goes without saying that the history of slavery is deeply saddening. That being said, the curator who has made it her life's work to retell the stories of the African American slaves that worked on the sugar and cotton plantations of River Road passionately encouraged us to ask our tour guide questions during our visit to the plantation. To learn and to understand the history called for more than simply reading the stories and descriptions on the walls of the museum. The plantation is majestic - the oak trees (a characteristic feature of this plantation) make the plantation look surreal. It was tough to walk about the premises of the estate without getting lost in the beauty of the nature.
I'm so grateful to have had the chance to be a part of community that is so warm inside and out. I will miss this environment at the Children's Hospital - a place that has come to define my New Orleans family. I will miss the grocer at the store that makes each customer feel as though he has all the time to help. And I will miss the men and women I walk past during my walk to work that have smiled each day I have passed them by. The warmth of New Orleans will always have a special place in my heart. I hope you too will have the opportunity to come give to the warmth of the city!