My Irish Channel inspiration—The world needs more real life CeCe’s

index14The summer after my sophomore year in college (1980s), I had the privilege of living and working in the Irish Channel district of New Orleans with a Baptist mission project and several full time Baptist home missionaries.

This working class neighborhood is bordered on the south by the Mississippi River and on the north by the fabulously wealthy mansions of the historic Garden District. Initially settled by emigrant Irish Americans in the 19th century, the area is now largely populated by African-Americans and Latinos.images15

It’s a tough place to live, to grow up, and attempt to survive, much less thrive. Kailyn’s multiple obstacles to traverse before entering CeCe’s mission house/clinic accurately describe the mission house I lived in that summer. My bedroom overlooked a park across the street where drugs and flesh were bought and sold on a regular basis. Sexual assaults were not uncommon.

images13The most common type of home is called a shotgun house—you can guess why. This was a place law enforcement—at least in those days—preferred not to frequent. I once personally witnessed a police car chasing a suspect who was on foot. When the suspect crossed the invisible boundary separating the Garden District from the Irish Channel, the police car screeched to a halt  and reversed as the suspect continued running into the “sanctuary” of the Irish Channel.

images14Because the Irish Channel was built on the city’s old high ground, it largely escaped the catastrophic devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The mission house which provided invaluable after school and summer opportunities for neighborhood youth as well as essential food pantry items for the populace closed in 2010. The Irish Channel Neighborhood Association is making a valiant attempt to rehabilitate their corner of the world.

For more behind-the-scene photos from Under a Turquoise Sky, visit http://www.pinterest.com/lisacoxcarter/under-a-turquoise-sky/.

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