From the Midday Messenger to the Voice of the Morning, Loretta Petit has charmed, soothed and inspired her listeners with music and words of inspiration for over 18 years. In addition, this Stellar Award nominee is also the music and program director for WYLD radio station and the author of two books, “Making It Through” and “Get a Grip: Saved, Single and Sensible.” At the time of the storm, Petit says she was living in a New Orleans East two-story townhouse, just past Bullard Avenue. “I lost everything on the lower level,” she recalls.
However, after the storm, Petit didn’t relocate very far, so it was easy for her to return. Unlike many others who did not have the help of a job to make the transition, Petit only traveled as far as Baton Rouge. “My job asked me to travel to Baton Rouge where we created a partnership (Clear Channel and WWL radio) called United Radio Broadcasters,” she explains. “We kept the people who had scattered from the different places where they had scattered throughout the states informed.”
It was important to many who returned to have some familiar voice, newspaper or television announcer who could help them sort out the overwhelming mess that the storm created. Petit’s first plan was to come back for whatever belongings she could collect and then move on to another area. However, she says, “I returned to New Orleans ten weeks later.” Upon her return, Petit found that people were “very nice and helpful to each other. People were always congregating, sharing their stories, still seeking loved ones and avenues of assistance,” she says.
Since here return, Petit sees a lot of changes in the city. She is concerned about the increase in reported cases of mental illness. “People still struggle for their sanity though, get along just fine, for the most part.” However Petit feels that the despondency could be largely attributed to the lack of employment and competitive salaries. Also, “The crime elements are back and busy,” she says. “The police department is trying to stay on top of the negatives on the street and seems to be succeeding at certain times, and miserably failing at others,” she tells.
A Diva with Street Smarts and Beauty to Match Dionne “DaDiva” Character returned home three years after Hurricane Katrina. “I evacuated to Atlanta and later moved to Vienna, VA and was fortunate enough to be able to work in Washington, DC,” she tells. Like many of the other evacuees, there was more than one move before her return to her beloved city. At the time of the storm, Character was living in the Treme area of the city; she now lives in Mid City.
Upon first returning home, Character says her she focused on getting her son back into the Creative Arts School that he had attended before Katrina. “I was unsuccessful in doing that. He has a 4.0 average, plays chess, is on the debate team, writes, plays the trumpet and the upright bass, and was class president, yet he was not accepted into Lusher because of 1 point on his entrance exam and there was no room in the Creative Arts School for him in the French Quarter.” Her son now resides in Atlanta with his father where she feels he will get a better education. Says Character, “I love New Orleans but New Orleans is not the place to raise kids at this time.”
But New Orleans is the place for this Diva. “New Orleans is a place of creation. There is no place in the universe where I am more creative,” she says. “It is my duty to share my talents and give back to the children of New Orleans who have been forgotten.” Her talents are also shared with those of us who have gone through the profound pain of Hurricane Katrina. In her book “Twisted Straps and a Sapphire Moon,” Character explodes with a powerful raw emotion that gives everyone a glimpse of the city she loves and the people who suffered so much.
Now, five years later, Character says, “I see a takeover of the city as Blacks are being forced to live other places because there are no jobs and no homes for many people to return to.” She concludes with a thought shared upon thought by many, “The world seems to be capitalizing from our loss, even five years later.”
From a Distance, a New Orleans Screenwriter/Playwright and Poet Speak
Screenwriter Clara Washington aka Sky wrote her first play at the young age of 16; however, it was in front students and teachers of the Orleans Parish Schools that she first produced and acted in a play.
After seeing the disappointments of the community, school officials and parents regarding the students’ performance on LEAP tests, Washington produced the play that showcased the teachers’ hard work and the efforts they made preparing students for the test. Aptly entitled, “I’ve Done My Share and Then Some,” the play was a huge success. She was asked to perform the play at McDonogh 35 High School for then-Mayor Marc Morial and UTNO, the teacher’s union. Says Washington, “The kids stood up at the end and kept clapping; they were so appreciative to see a teacher’s point of view.”
Washington has written scripts for movies, such as “Slippery Glass,” “A Diamond in a Milestone,” “Blue Skies,” and “Free,” as well as having authored several books and poetry. She has had spots in television commercials and was an extra in the movie "Déjà Vu," starring Denzel Washington.
Presently, Washington is living in Lafayette, longing for the day that she can return home even though she has some reservations. Early on, she worked with several clean-up efforts in the city. She moved to Plano, TX for a few months, and then returned to Lafayette, hoping that moving closer home would help in her attempts to return to the city she loves. “It’s been hard and I don’t think people understand what we’ve been through,” she says. “Five years later, and I am still dealing with some “resentment issues” that my oldest daughter, Diamond, is facing. Washington says her daughter, who was nine at the time, lost her German Shepherd dog in the storm. “She grieved so heavily for that dog, Princess. It has been difficult on the children as well as the adults. Washington says she “misses the city life, the people, and the culture of New Orleans;” and vows she will return to New Orleans some day soon.