There should be a special place in hell for those who vandalize. They should spend eternity confined in a room where each night they’re forced to paint a wall, and each morning they wake up to discover that someone with even less talent has sprayed over their work. We can only hope that one day they will mature and realize the wrongs of their reasoning and their actions.
We should all support the revived St. Roch Market on St. Claude Avenue. It is not hard to want to do. The food is good; the ambiance is festive; the mission (to save a neighborhood) is worthy. We also need to take a stand so that the creeps of the night don’t win.
There were once several public markets around town. They were envisioned as neighborhood places where farmers and artisans could bring their products. Eventually they all closed, victims of the emergence of supermarkets as well as the expanding suburbs. Now there has been an effort to bring these places back. What they once were can never work again, but they can be places where small vendors can sell their prepared food and drinks and where customers can pick and choose in a common space.
On a recent Wednesday night visit, the crowd was big but not overwhelming. The mix included mainline folks and the tattooed set, all various races and ages. It had a good community feel. We began at the bar with an Old-Fashioned and then picked and chose from the various counters. We sat at an inside table, which was just as well because the seating area outside was full. You could sense the energy of the St. Claude District revival.
But then there are the creeps. A few nights earlier, five people dressed in black with knit caps down to their eyes broke several windows and spray painted the side of the newly scrubbed building. Security tapes caught them in action. (We hope that eventually those tapes can be used to convict them.) By that Wednesday their graffiti had mercifully been painted over. Their cryptic message made reference to “yuppies.”
“It’s a damn shame; the folks that came to ruin this, they hurt the neighborhood. The good thing about it is the people who live in the neighborhood have come to clean up.” – Mayor Mitch Landrieu after the recent defacing of the newly opened St. Roch Market
Our guess is that they were white because “yuppiedom” seems to be a white political zealot’s hang-up. Related to gentrification, the stereotype is that of professional white people sitting on their porches sipping merlot in a spot where poor people once sat. The stereotype overlooks that those of all races want life’s amenities, too, as well as the right to live in a decent neighborhood where, among their choices, they can enjoy markets and live comfortably. They also want their neighborhoods to be free of vandals, including those who would deface other people’s property.
Upgraded neighborhoods create a demand for more services; more services create more jobs; more jobs create more opportunities for the poor to seek a better standard of living. No neighborhood has ever been made better by being allowed to decline. New Orleans is blessed with old neighborhoods lined with fine homes, including shotguns and doubles that were built for everyday families; some are now shuttered, some are restored. The future is in giving people incentive to invest in the properties.
In its last days, the former St. Roch Market was a depleted building noted as a place to buy Cowan turtles and good crawfish, but the times were against it. The new market fits in with the reality of today’s world.
Not far from the St. Roch Market is the famous cemetery by the same name. In it there is small chapel known as the place where the needy often leave a replica of a body part (an ex voto) as a part of a prayer for cure. As our prayer for the neighborhood to be rid of vandals, we would leave a replica of an eye with hope that one day those with vision will have overcome the forces of darkness.