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Our Guide To Living It Up In New Orleans

Travel

New Orleans is one of my favorite cities. Like Miami, it's one of the places that feel like you've stepped into an area outside of the United States (at least for me) due to the culture, the history, and let's not forget that NOLA accent that has some of us swooning. New Orleans is a tourist hot spot, so it can be challenging to find authentic gems if you're only using travel sites as your guide.


With my eight years of experience attending ESSENCE Festival, I've found tried and true places I love from hotels to breakfast spots I have to try every time I'm in town. Check them out below.

Where To Stay

The Pontchartrain Hotel

I stumbled upon the Pontchartrain Hotel thanks to HotelTonight because my hotel plans fell through just before the ESSENCE weekend started, but I am so glad they did. From the service, the decor, the beautifully decorated rooms, and their rooftop bar — the Garden District property is worth every penny.

The Inn On Ursulines 

Finding a hotel in the middle of the action in the French Quarter during peak times isn't easy, but the fifteen-room inn gives you access to the hustle and bustle at a reasonable price point.

What To Eat

Willa Jean

Willa Jean's owner and chef is known for her baked goods, but the Central Business District restaurant has made it clear that Chef Kelly Fields can do it all — especially breakfast. The Hangover Bowl was one of my favorite items on the menu, along with the milk and cookies.

Majoria's Commerce Restaurant

Located just a few blocks from Canal Street, this local favorite is the only place I have breakfast, well at least until the weekend as the eatery is closed. If you get a chance to swing by during the week, don't miss out on the "CBB" Commerce Breakfast Biscuit. Oh, and tell Ms. Cassandra I said hi!

Loretta's Authentic Pralines

Loretta's Pralines has been around 35 years and was the first praline company in New Orleans to be successfully owned and operated by a black woman. You can pick up sweet treats like cookies, pralines, and brownies from their North Rampart or French Market locations. But, don't miss out on Ms. Loretta's Crab or Praline Beignets. We hear they're the best in beignets in the city!

Willie Mae's Scotch House

Willie Mae's has been serving up crispy, golden fried chicken since 1947. The James Beard Foundation awarded the late Willie Mae Seaton, who passed away in 2015 at 99, even calling her fried chicken the best in the world.

Cafe Dauphine

Offering creole fare for brunch (Sundays only) and dinner, this Lower Ninth Ward black-owned restaurant is one not the miss by review standards on Yelp and TripAdvisor. The Lizardi egg rolls, seafood, and the bread pudding with rum sauce should be at the top of mind when you place your order.

Dooky Chase's Restaurant

Like Willie Mae's Scotch House, Dooky Chase has long served the New Orleans community, opening its doors as a sandwich shop. It later grew into a family restaurant thanks to the vision of Leah Lange Chase, who is known to many as the "Queen of Creole Cuisine." Mrs. Chase may have left us at the age of 96, but her legacy and contribution to NOLA's food history will live on.

Po-Boys

Even after eight years of trying out po boys in the Big Easy, I wouldn't dare give one recommendation on where to go to get one. But, I will say that black-owned establishments like Gene's have a special place in my heart. While Killer Poboys is also one of go-to's because the menu offers sandwiches, you'd expect like the seared gulf shrimp po boy, they also provide options for vegetarians like their roasted sweet potato that comes loaded with black-eyed peas, pecan spread, and braised greens.

The Food Halls

There are two food halls in New Orleans. First up is, Pythian Market Food Hall where 14 Parishes offers authentic Jamaican cuisine like Jerk Chicken, Curry Goat, and Callaloo. Next up is St. Roch Market which provides a little more variety with twelve vendors. If you need to do a little morning juice cleanse before your next indulgent meal, have a smoothie at The Daily Beet or if you're ready for a bit of flavor, try Frita where chef Charly Pierre serves Haitian street food. The seared fish, crab mac and cheese, and fried plantains with creole sauce sounds like a movie. One more thing, don't pass up a chance to try a cocktail from The Mayhaw.

Things To Do

Bacchanal Wine

Bacchanal Wine is another NOLA spot that comes highly rated. Open seven days a week, the outdoor "wine laboratory" has live jazz, craft cocktails, cheese plates, and hundreds of wines from around the world.

Café Du Monde

This cafe isn't just a place to grab a powdery beignet —it's an experience. After all these years, I still love stopping by Café Du Monde, especially to have their Frozen Café Au Lait and take a moment to take the city in. If you're planning to stop by, be sure to carry cash as plastic still isn't accepted.

Hot Tin

If you want to see a beautiful view of New Orleans with a well-crafted cocktail (my personal favorite is the "Some Like It Hot"), Hot Tin is your spot. Since this rooftop bar can get a bit crowded, go just before sunset to get a good spot and take in the scenic view.

Frenchmen Street

After my first trip to New Orleans, I gave up Bourbon Street for Frenchmen. Last year, I stopped by the Spotted Cat to hear a little jazz and later made my way to Artists Alley, where I bought photographs and artwork created by local artists.

Featured image by Getty Images

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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