Panel: Making Civic Sexy

The focus of this panel is on how any inhabitant of an area, especially one such as post-Katrina/Flood New Orleans, can become a Citizen with enough love, perseverance, legwork and access to the right information, and the influence of online research, social networks and dialogue on such an endeavour. Again, the emphasis is on the effort of the average citizen — with his or her share of day job, family, personal responsibilities and other community obligations — who also takes on a larger civic responsibility. To that end, the panel presents a spectrum of people and their work — Karen Gadbois and Bart Everson who are "established" activists, Sarah Elise Lewis who works with community networks but whose current social project is still relatively new (to the audience, at least) and Dr. Eban Walters, who is the local emerging “focal point” in the Mental Health area. See bios below.

The panel will be a combination of talk and presentation. After intros, each panelist will spend 5-10 minutes presenting their work, and request volunteers/interested parties to step forward, if necessary. The remaining time will be devoted to all four talking with us about how to get the layperson to participate like they do, what are good motivators and the next steps for New Orleans civic activism.

By showcasing these people and their work, it is our hope to honor them, support and hearten existing community activists, moralize and instigate new ones and continue to push the civic work of New Orleans onwards and upwards.

Panelist Bios

Bart Everson works at Xavier's Center for the Advancement of Teaching as a Multimedia Artist. He also works on a volunteer basis with the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization, the Urban Conservancy, Friends of Lafitte Corridor, Think New Orleans, the Green Party of Louisiana and Silence Is Violence. In his spare time he enjoys collapsing in a heap. Bart moved to New Orleans in 1999 with his wife Christy Paxson who is teaching in the public schools.

Karen Gadbois manages Common Knowledge's Squandered Heritage project, through which she documents the City's changing architectural landscape. Before moving to New Orleans in 2003, she helped to create the "Retablo Project" working with indigenous women in rural Mexico to create embroidered narratives, as well as working in the Mexican Penal System with Artist/prisoners.

Sarah Elise Lewis manages the Common Knowledge Social Network Map and the new Citizen's Guide to City Hall. She is pursuing a PhD in Urban Studies at the University of New Orleans, where she has taught classes on urban studies and the New Orleans metropolitan region and serves as a part time consultant to the Louisiana Regional Folklife Program. Sarah's research focuses on the nexus of heritage preservation, community power, and disaster recovery.

Eban J. Walters, Ph.D., was born and raised on the Westbank of New Orleans, received his doctorate in child clinical psychology from Vanderbilt University, with sub-specialty training from the National Institutes of Health developmental psychopathology program and from the Putting Children First fellowship (Columbia University) in child and family public policy. Seeing an opportunity to contribute to a city he could never really escape anyway, he again confused and unnerved advisors and colleagues with his latest unorthodox career choice to leave Chicago for New Orleans in August 2006, mere moments before the peak of hurricane season. He has most recently worked as Postdoctoral Fellow in infant mental health services by day. After serving as an audience member at the first Rising Tide conference, he is most honored to be on the "Making Civic Sexy" panel (because it is indeed sexy) at Rising Tide II.

Panel moderator, Maitri Venkat-Ramani, works as a geophysicist at Shell Oil Company. Hailing from Kuwait, India and the American Upper Midwest, Maitri has lived in New Orleans since 2003. Maitri is also a representative of Project Gutenberg and Think New Orleans, bean counter with the Krewe du Vieux, president of the local chapter of the Wisconsin Alumni Association and a Green Bay Packer fan. In her ample spare time, Maitri pretends to make jewelry, cook Indian food and sleep.

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