Sarah Abdel-Jelil ’16, Gabriela Olvera ’16, and Khuaten Maaneb de Macedo ’16
In a city almost synonymous with joy and mirth, Sarah Abdel-Jelil ’16, Gabriela Olvera ’16, and Khuaten Maaneb de Macedo ’16 were struck by how present tragedy was, too.
The three Carls traveled to New Orleans last December to analyze how music helped communities heal as an independent fellowship project, funded through the Four Friends Fellowship. “It was really interesting,” Gabriela says, “and weird that there’s such a huge celebration on Frenchmen Street and Bourbon Street and such a huge tragedy not far away in the Lower 9th Ward.”
Seeing that museum, the friends say, was a highlight of their trip because it manifested all the things they’d heard about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. “You could expect the racial divide and the devastation—but actually seeing the physical space and the segregation still today was really powerful,” Sarah says.
To discover how music has helped the New Orleans community, the friends attended jazz shows and brass band shows, interviewed street performers, chatted with citizens, and explored places where music is present in the city. One of the most interesting spaces they found was a café that hosted a multimedia art performance during the day and became a political rally point at night. “Music and politics have so many intersections,” Gabriela says, “without this experience, I don’t think I would have seen all these connections.”
The trip also challenged the friends. Suddenly housing policies, racism, media representation, and even Civil War monument controversies were no longer theoretical class discussions but stark realities. Experiencing the sights and hearing firsthand about the smells and the heat impacted Sarah, Gabriela, and Khuaten in ways they couldn’t have imagined when Katrina hit 10 years ago. “There’s a lot that can be said about learning outside the classroom,” Sarah says. “This has shaped our lives in ways that can’t be captured with words.”