The Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies is organizing a two-day conference to centralize the ongoing struggles and resiliency of communities of color in post-Katrina New Orleans. This conference coincides with the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and brings together international, national and local thought leaders to discuss recovery, community resilience and place. This concept of resilience will be problematized within the context of disaster in communities that struggle with chronic and toxic stress. A key component will be exploring the role of culture as a protective factor against chronic stress; and the potential for transformation through resilience.


Hurricane Katrina caused traumatic disorientation of communities of color, the impact of which continues today – a full ten years later. Building on the existing everyday stressors /adversity of racism and classism, this disorientation contributes to high rates of violent crime, unemployment, chronic food desserts, stark health inequalities, and increased stress levels. Additionally, the mass evacuation and inequitable recovery and re-housing opportunities undermined historical protective factors within African American communities such as strong family ties, cultural identity and close relationships.
The lived experience of New Orleanians of color continues to be one of lost community, unemployment, incarceration, and exhaustion. Despite inequitable redevelopment of the city, individuals, families and communities have survived, primarily utilizing familial and social networks, and the culture of music and dance to begin to the journey of reorientation to new landscapes.
This conference and evening cultural performance, will highlight strength in the face of chronic stress and adversity and develop strategies at multiple levels of the social ecological model (intra-psychic, interpersonal, community and societal) to support the continued reorientation of New Orleanians. The conference will also highlight similar stories of survival from developing nations e.g. Jamaica, Haiti which have faced similar acute and chronic stressors.


Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies (IWES) Staff & Board

For a full list of IWES Staff & Board please visit iwesnola.org.
Linda Usdin, Dr.PH

Linda Usdin, Dr.PH

Disaster / Resilience scholar and President of swamplily llc. Dr. Usdin is a recent recipient of a Bellagio fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation. Her most recent peer reviewed article — “Building resiliency and supporting distributive leadership post-disaster.”
Michele Jean-Pierre MSPH

Michele Jean-Pierre MSPH

Executive Director of The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, a performance, education, and recording space in Musicians Village in the 9th Ward. The Center conducts music education utilizing a positive youth development approach to provide a safe space for youth to grow musically, as well as academically and socially.


Dr. Mindy Fullilove, Columbia University, New York

Dr. Mindy Fullilove
Columbia University, New York

Dr. Nadia Ellis, University of California, Berkeley

Dr. Nadia Ellis
University of California, Berkeley

Dr. Carolyn Cooper University of the West Indies, Jamaica

Dr. Carolyn Cooper
University of the West Indies, Jamaica

Dr. Courtney Bryan, Princeton University, New Jersey

Dr. Courtney Bryan
Princeton University, New Jersey

Melanie Powers, Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies, New Orleans, LA

Melanie Powers
Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies, New Orleans, LA


Essential Questions:

1. What investments are needed to assist individuals and groups (who are members of communities that face ongoing adversity) negotiate and access the supports necessary to regain personal identity and social capital, and build resilience?
2. What is the role of culture in assisting marginalized communities regain reorientation so as to renegotiate a new and enhanced group and collective identity?

Expected Outcomes:

1. A more nuanced and problematized approach to solution building that addresses the psychology of place and the investments needed for the development of social capital, i.e. community resilience.
2. Creating a blueprint for recovery equity at the structural, community and interpersonal levels.