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Publication: The Times-Picayune
Author: Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis
We wanted to express our appreciation for the very important home-building project that Brad Pitt and his Make It Right Foundation have launched in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward.
As native New Orleanians who retain deep ties through family and friends, we know that our gratitude mirrors that of countless residents, both those who have already returned and those still hoping to return to this beautiful and unique city.
It became clear in the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina that not only a community but also a culture was placed at risk, and that the provision of housing and other long-term solutions would be the top priority in providing relief. The hurricane and the flooding that followed destroyed entire neighborhoods filled with residents who, even before Katrina, were in need of safer and more affordable housing. The overwhelming amount of work to be done, the delays and failures we have seen in the response to this disaster, and the loss of focus as the public’s attention shifted to other concerns also threatened to frustrate relief efforts in the absence of effective initiatives that could attract broad public support.
Our answer was to join with the New Orleans Area Habitat and build a Musicians’ Village in the Upper 9th Ward. And while the Village has brought many families back home, there are thousands more in need of help.
In the more than two years since the initial catastrophe, we have seen a level of commitment on the part of folks such as NOAH and its volunteers that is truly inspirational. At the same time, despite the tremendous amount of work that remains to be done, the situation on the Gulf Coast has inevitably been eclipsed in the public’s mind by subsequent events.
Continued progress requires that every opportunity be taken to keep public attention focused upon the needs of New Orleans and its residents. Brad Pitt’s stature in this country and the world cannot help but renew that attention and commitment, and will no doubt inspire others to take a similar stand.
The positive effect that Brad Pitt’s efforts will have on the lives of so many people is the greatest gift he could hope to receive, and he has our deepest thanks.
Harry Connick Jr.