I get a lot of press releases, easily upward of 300 a week. Some of them are for things that generally interest me. Most of them are not. But last week, I got a press release that really hit home. It was for a presentation at my daughter’s school, Morris Jeff, by The Stained Glass Project: Windows That Open Doors.
Because I am a member of the school’s family partnership, I had already heard about the event and had even agreed to make red beans. But after receiving the press release, my journalist’s instinct melded with my maternal instinct, and I decided there was a story here, and I would actually attend the presentation myself. I am so glad I did.
The back story is that last year, high-schoolers from Germantown, Pa., started creating stained-glass windows for Morris Jeff to put in its new building when it moves in the next couple of years. The project incorporated traditional New Orleans symbols with artwork that Morris Jeff students had done, and the end result was nothing short of breathtaking. The kids who came down to present the windows to the school were amazing, too. Some of them spoke up to six languages, and every one of them was poised, confident and possessed with a true generosity of spirit.
Our Morris Jeff kiddos did us proud, too. Under the director of Morris Jeff’s incredible music and arts teacher, Ms. Rednour, they sang a traditional African welcome song, “Funga Alafia,” which they’d been practicing for two weeks, and then after the windows had been presented, they all sang “What a Wonderful World” accompanied by the words in American Sign Language. I cried like a baby.
Katrina doesn’t really get me anymore, but when one of the students from Germantown stood up and told us, first in his native language and then in English, how sad they all were for us during Katrina and how delighted they were to see New Orleans back and thriving, I started tearing up yet again.
And then after the students had given us the windows and we had given them gift bags full of Mardi Gras masks and Hubig’s pie and Zapp’s potato chips and we had all said our thanks, after I thought for sure the emotional climax had come and gone, out come James Andrew and Tom Fitzpatrick on trumpet and sax, respectively. They started playing New Orleans standards, and some Morris Jeff kids started second-lining behind them, and then Andrews led all the kids in a huge “Who Dat!” cheer. More tears.
After that, everyone adjourned into the library for three different kinds of gumbo, two types of jambalaya, four types of red beans, King Cake and bread pudding.
When I think back to the days after Katrina, I remember saying: “Man, I really wanted to move home to New Orleans. But I also want to have a family. And I don’t think New Orleans will ever be the kind of place where you can raise a family ever again.”
I have never been so glad to be wrong.