Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston

Project Calendar

Since August 2005, the Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston [SKRH] project has mounted six field schools, trained more than 50 individuals, and recorded more than 400 interviews. The survivors’ stories and reflections can be found in two archives. The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress maintains a partial collection; all of the interviews are deposited at the University of Houston. Below is a partial chronology of SKRH's activities.

Early September, 2005: Project co-directors, Carl Lindahl and Pat Jasper, formulated SKRH's basic goals and secured the collaboration of three institutions: the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, the University of Houston, and the Texas Commission on the Arts.

Late September 2005: Discussion with the Houston Endowment resulted in the development of a proposal to support SKRH that was funded in early November 2005. The Houston Endowment funds made it possible to plan, staff, and purchase recording equipment for the project's field schools.

January 23-29, 2006: First field school mounted, in collaboration with folklife specialists from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. In the school Katrina and Rita survivors received training in interviewing, logging, transcribing, dealing with emotional and ethical factors associated with their interviews, and the use of recording equipment. Additional field school training was provided by FotoFest Houston and the Mental Health Association of Greater Houston [MHAGH]. Angela Grace, of FotoFest's Literacy Through Photography Program, taught a special unit on photographing interviewees. Deborah Sorensen of the MHAGH taught a special unit on mental health awareness.

February 10, 2006: Presentation on the project at Harvard University.

March 20-27, 2006: Second field school mounted.

April 23, 2006: Survivors' musical tour of Houston created by SKRH in collaboration with the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art Foundation. The event focused on two great musical traditions — blues and zydeco — long shared by Louisianans and Houstonians-as well as on New Orleans jazz, an art form brought to city by the most recent arrivals.

April 30, 2006: Presentation on the project at University of Louisiana Lafayette.

June 16, 2006: HOUSTON CHRONICLE ran a feature article on the project by Allan Turner.

June 18, 2006: The project presented, at Miller Outdoor Theater, a musical program titled A GULF COAST JUNETEENTH, focusing on musical traditions that Houston shares with the Gulf Coast neighborhoods devastated by Katrina and Rita. Houston Mayor Bill White opened the program.

June 14 - 25, 2006: A third field school was taught, this one focusing on documenting the stories of the Vietnamese community.

June 2006: SKRH began working with University of Houston professor Mary Armsworth, a leading authority on trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, in an effort to expand the project to assess and further apply the healing uses of storytelling.

August 19, 2006: The Texas Commission on the Arts hosted a presentation on the project for its biennial conference, TEXAS ARTS EXCHANGE: TOOLS FOR SUCCESS. The presentation, "After Katrina and Rita: Next Steps," featured survivor-interviewers Glenda Harris and Vincent Trotter, talking about their experiences in the hurricanes and in the fields schools and demonstrating the interviewing techniques developed in our field schools. Then Vincent, an accomplished saxophonist, joined the Soul Rebels Brass Band (originally from New Orleans but based now in Houston) in a live performance.

August 22, 2006: SKRH co-directors Carl Lindahl and Pat Jasper appeared as guests on NPR's TALK OF THE NATION to discuss how folklorists and oral historians record stories, the special nature of a situation in which hurricane survivors interview each other, and the healing properties of storytelling.

August-December 2006: The project was represented in two courses taught at the University of Houston: ENGL 3396, for undergraduates, and ENGL 7396, for graduates, both titled SURVIVING KATRINA AND RITA IN HOUSTON. Both courses share the founding premise of the project: representing the survivors on their own terms. Course work included archiving and studying the interviews recorded to date, as well as term projects centered on comparative research, public programming, and archiving.

August 25, 2006: INTIMATE STRANGERS, a 10-minute program produced by the project, aired on NPR's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. The program, narrated by project interviewer Johna Reiss, incorporated the voices of six other survivors interviewed by SKRH.

August 28, 2006: NPR program TALK OF THE NATION featured SKRH interviewer Vincent Trotter and interviewee Sonja Salvant.

September 17, 2006: an article on the project authored by Miguel Bustillo was published in the LOS ANGELES TIMES.

October 2, 2006: TIME magazine featured SKRH in a feature article on innovations in storytelling.

October 8-9, 2006: SKRH presented its research to a special Katrina task force convened by the Social Science Research Council in New Orleans.

October 19, 2006: Three survivor-interviewers took part in a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society [October 18-23] in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Gerald Davis Fund for Minority Scholars awarded $500 each to Nicole Eugene and Vincent Trotter, and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress awarded $500 to Shari Smothers, to take part in the presentation.

October, 2006: Houston Arts Alliance awarded SKRH $25,000 toward developing a radio series based on the project's interviews; the application was made through the University of Houston's English Department.

November 2006: The fall issue of CALLALOO, the pre-eminent African American literary journal, devoted more than 50 pages to interviews and articles generated by the Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston Project. Authors featured in the issue include survivor interviewer Nicole Eugene and project co-directors Carl Lindahl and Pat Jasper. Nicole Eugene's interview of survivors Henry Armstrong Jr. and Dorothy Griffin appears in the section. The same issue of CALLALOO features an interview of project participant Vincent Trotter.

November 2006: The National Endowment on the Arts awarded Houston Institute for Culture a grant in the amount of $35,000 to fund a folks arts specialist to mount public programming based on SKRH interviews and field research. Houston Institute for Culture becomes a major SKRH partner.

November 20-21, 2006: SKRH featured in presentations on "Tales and Trauma" at Ohio State University.

November 28, 2006: SKRH featured by the UH Women's Studies Program Living Archives presentation at the Menil Museum, Houston, focusing on "Mothers and Daughters Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston."

January 8-15, 2007: SKRH conducts its fourth field school.

January 2007: SKRH awarded a Grant for Enhancing and Advancing Research ($25,000) by the University of Houston. The grant has allowed for full development of the project's database and for the development of grant proposals to ensure continued funding of the archive.

April 2007: SKRH awarded funding from the United Way Hurricane Response Fund to conduct field schools and for community coordinator positions.

April 9 - 26: With support from United Way funding, SKRH mounts its fifth field school on the campus of the University of Houston.

April 19, 2007: PARENTS' AND CHILDREN'S STORIES: panel, slide show, and Mardi Gras Indian performance, Law Center, University of Houston.

April 20, 2007: SKRH presents its first research paper, "Archiving the Voices and Needs of Katrina's Children: The Uses and Importance of Stories Narrated Survivor-to-Survivor,"
by Carl Lindahl, Jenna Baddeley, Sue Nash, Shari Smothers, Nicole Eugene, and Victoria Mcfadden. The paper will be published in the book, CHILDREN, LAW, AND DISASTERS: WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED FROM THE HURRICANES OF 2005? edited by Laura Oren.

April - June, 2007: The Audio-Photo Installation, WHO WE ARE, presented at the Art League Houston, with 18 photographs by project interviewer Alice McNamara accompanied by recorded excerpts of the interviews of the 17 survivors photographed.

May 8, 2007: Opening reception, WHO WE ARE, with musical performances presented at the Art League Houston.

June 14, 2007: DO STORIES HEAL? Panel and musical performance presented at Art League Houston.

June 18 - 25: SKRH mounts its sixth field school on the campus of the University of Houston.

July 2007: the American Folklore Society joins SKRH as a working partner.

August 2007: Initial airing of four radio programs created by SKRH and featuring excerpts from project interviews: BRIDGES TO NOWHERE, CELL PHONE, INTIMATE STRANGERS, and WHY? were broadcast on KTRU, KPFT, KUHF, and through other venues.

Fall 2007: SKRH begins its community coordinator training, with survivor interviewer Natasha Morgan Parker selected to coordinate community activities in a northeast Houston Habitat for Humanity neighborhood and survivor interviewer Pat O'Neal coordinating activities with parents of children enrolled in the Alief Independent School District.

October 2007 - March 2008: A second modified showing of the Audio-Photo Installation, WHO WE ARE, at Project Row Houses.

October 13, 2007: MUSIC SINCE THE STORM, a panel and presentation featuring survivor Al "Carnival Time" Johnson and the New Orleans - Houston Blue Bonnet Brass Band, Project Row Houses.

October 21, 2007: Three survivor-interviewers took part in a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society in Quebec City, Canada. The American Folklore Society helped to fund the travel and lodging of the project participants, Nicole Eugene, Darrel Holnes, and LaToya Allen.

November 16, 2007: Co-Director Carl Lindahl with project advisor Sue Nash (Baylor College of Medicine), present findings at the annual conference of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, Baltimore. The presentation, titled "Narrating Collective Trauma: Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston," is solicited for publication.

December 7, 2007: A GULF COAST CHRISTMAS was mounted at the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, featuring the Soul Rebels and Corey "Lil Pop" Ledet and His Zydeco Band and including many other activities.

February 25 - 28, 2008: Survivor interviewer Glenda Harris and project co-director Carl Lindahl among the featured speakers in the series HOUSTON AND KATRINA, at Rice University. SKRH interviewer-photographer Alice McNamara's photographs of fellow survivors were featured concurrently at the Rice Media Center, along with audio excerpts of the survivors' stories.

March 2008: "Survivor-to-Survivor Storytelling and Trauma Recovery," by project personnel Carl Lindahl and Sue Nash, published in THE DIALOGUE, "A quarterly technical assistance bulletin on disaster behavioral health" published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

April 5, 2008: SKRH Archivists Shari Smothers and Nicole Eugene are invited present at the Louisiana Folklore Society conference, "Where is Home: Reconstructing Louisiana Material and Psychological Landscapes" along with a panel discussion moderated by Susan Roach of the Louisiana Tech Regional Folklife program. New Orleans

May 23, 2008: SKRH photographs and audio recording featured in the exhibit NATURE UNLEASHED, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago. Exhibit ran from May 2008 to January 2009 and is currently on tour.

June 19, 2008: A GULF COAST JUNETEENTH produced at Miller Outdoor Theatre by the Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston project and the Houston Institute for Culture as a tribute to the rich and complex musical traditions of the region that have been forefronted as a result of the demographic changes associated with the hurricanes.

August 2008: The radio program, THANK YOU, HOUSTON, premieres on Houston area stations to commemorate the third anniversary of Houston's generous response to Katrina survivors.

September 26, 2008: "Thank You, Houston", Discovery Green, downtown Houston: a celebration of thanks by Katrina survivors. The program featured the music of Al "Carnival Time" Johnson, jambalaya, red beans and rice, and services marshaled by the community to assist local survivors of Hurricane Ike, which struck the Houston area on September 13.

October 2008: The play KATRINA: THE BRIDGE premieres at the University of Houston's Wortham Theatre. The stories and personal input of SKRH narrators helped shape the play, which was written by Nathaniel Freeman.

ONGOING: It has been a special mission with us to strive not only to help survivor-interviewers find temporary employment with our project, but also to give them access to skills that will serve them in pursuing their lives' work. We are honored that Glenda Harris, a trainee in our first field school, has gone on to find employment with the Children's Defense Fund representing the children displaced by Katrina. The Defense fund has published a booklet titled KATRINA'S CHILDREN: A CALL TO CONSCIENCE AND ACTION, which features the stories of nine child survivors. Glenda has told us that this booklet would not have existed had she not participated in our project. The project has received no higher honor than this. In our career-building efforts, SKRH has funded a part-time position of Project Archivist, first staffed by survivor interviewer Shari Smothers and currently held by survivor interviewer Nicole Eugene. With more modest funds, we have also been able to support the creative work of several other survivors, including Darrel Holnes, Chantell Jones, Pat O'Neal, Natasha Morgan Parker, and Johnna Reiss, who have developed professional skills in their work on public programs.