Sept. 14, 2013, 9 a.m.
Conference Venue:
Xavier University, 1 Drexel Drive
Lunch: Juan's Flying Burrito Taco Bar
Ashley Award: TBA

9 a.m.: Breakfast and Registration

10 a.m.
Panel: Creating Community for Writers of Color: MelaNated Writers Collective

Far too often writers of color are unheard, under-represented, and undervalued in the literary world. MelaNated Writers Collective was established in 2010 to create a network of support and resources for writers of color in New Orleans.

MelaNated Writers is a contemporary incarnation of previous black artist collectives in New Orleans such as: Negro Writers Project, a BLKARTSOUTH, the Congo Square Writers’ Union, and more recently, NOMMO Literary Society.

While some of the MelaNated writers are originally from cities like Memphis, Chicago and San Francisco all currently call New Orleans home.  While the group is predominantly composed of Black writers, it includes members who have roots in the Philippines and India. MelaNated Writers are journalists, prize-winning playwrights, fiction authors, poets, and even one Pulitzer winner.

MWC has hosted a number of successful literary events: A MelaNated Summer (2012), a series of public readings held at locations around the city like the New Orleans Museum of Art and JuJu Bag attracted more than 300 literature lovers; MWC’s signature event, The Literary Jook Joint (December 2012) featured nationally-renowned poet and photographer Thomas Sayers Ellis as well as local legends Dr. Jerry Ward, Dr. Mona Lisa Saloy and Kalaamu ya Salaam; The Literary Jook Joint (March 2013) held in conjunction with the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival. MWC also engages a local and national audience on Facebook and Twitter.

Despite changes in the publishing world and local dismal literacy rates, MWC works to create opportunities for writers that grow the audience for literary artists of color.

Members of MWC will discuss its struggles and success as a collective and why New Orleans is a ripe city for literary rebirth. Panelists will discuss how the group’s mission, vision, writers workshop, and how it engages community and partners with other locals.

Moderator: Jarvis Q. DeBerry, an editorial writer and columnist, has written for The Times-Picayune since 1997. He was on the team awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. In 2007, 2011 and 2013, his column was given first prize by the Louisiana/Mississippi Associated Press Managing Editors Association. DeBerry has had poetry published in several anthologies, most recently The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South.


jewel bush is a writer whose work has appeared in The Courier, The Washington Post and The Times-Picayune among other publications. bush has participated in the Voices summer workshop for writers of color at the University of San Francisco as well as Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop at Texas A&M University. In July 2010, she founded MelaNated Writers, a multi-genre collective for writers of color in New Orleans. jewel writes a weekly opinion column on politics, literature and women's issues for the Uptown Messenger, a news/media website.

David Thaddeus Baker is a media coordinator and journalist based in New Orleans, LA. He is a native of the city and works as an associate and web editor for The Louisiana Weekly newspaper – the oldest African-American newspaper in the Southeast Louisiana region – where he has been employed since 2004. Baker earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Dillard University in 2004 and has studied Public Relations at Tulane University’s University College. Baker began writing in the early years of high school where he wrote creative fiction and essays. It wasn’t until college that he expanded his literary portfolio to include poetry, script- and play-writing.

Kelly Harris Poet and founder of Poems & Pink Ribbons, a writing workshop for breast cancer survivors and their loved ones.  Her poems have appeared in Say it Loud: Poems for James Brown, Pluck Journal, and Yale University’s Caduceus. She also serves on the board of STAIRNola (Star the Adventure in Reading).

Gian Smith is a New Orleans based artist. His craft spans over several media including writing, acting, and video production, but he is probably most notably recognized as a spoken word poet. Gian has made several television appearances, some on local New Orleans stations, some international including VH1 and HBO. His poem ‘O Beautiful Storm’ was featured in a preview for season 2 of HBO’s Treme, which resulted in an interview on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition. Smith is also well known locally for his community organization including NOYOpresents: Pass It On open mic. He and his partners have co-hosted the event since November of 2008. Smith can often be found at local high schools and middle schools when asked to speak to children and aspiring poets.

11:30: Panel: Charter School Access & Accountability

The panel on Charter School Access & Accountability will focus on the following question:

Are charter schools in New Orleans more or less responsive to democratic principles than our old School Boards, and how can we address the access and accountability issues for the present and future of New Orleans?

As 80% of our public schools are now Charter Schools, the business of covering charter schools has moved from weekly Parish-wide school board meetings to a variable number of meetings by a much larger number of Boards, which leaves the coverage up to more flexible news organizations like The Lens and Uptown Messenger.  Charter schools and these  reporters often tussle over the exceptions to open meetings laws, public records requests and other access issues.  Do parents have similar issues? What is the parent’s recourse if they are not happy with how their charter school is run?


Scott Sternberg is an attorney at the firm of Baldwin, Haspel, Burke & Mayer. Among many other clients he works for The Lens and Uptown Messenger, and represents clients before the Louisiana Board of Ethics and other governmental entities. Sternberg has worked with the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, among  other good government groups.  Sternberg is married to an educator and consequently holds some teacher-oriented views on education policy.


Steve Beattyis the editor of The Lens news website. He originated the Lens’ Charter School Reporting Corps, which covers boards that govern over 75 schools in Orleans Parish. This year the Corps won The New Orleans Press Club’s first place award for Community News.  Beatty has three children who attend charter schools.

Jaimme Collinsis an attorney at Adams & Reese who regularly represents charter schools. In 2013, Collins received the National Diversity Council's Glass Ceiling Award for her diversity efforts and leadership in the workplace. In 2011, she received "Women of the Year" honors from New Orleans CityBusiness. Collins is a member of the Board of Directors for the Children’s Bureau of New Orleans— an agency which is dedicated to offering free mental health services exclusively to children.

Marta Jewsonis a freelance journalist who covers charter schools for The Lens and Uptown Messenger. From 2010 to 2012 she served as an AmeriCorps member with Project Homecoming while working as a freelance reporter. After interning at Gambit, Marta began reporting for The Lens’ Charter School Reporting Corps in the fall of 2011. She began reporting for Uptown Messenger in the fall of 2012, and Mid-City Messenger in January 2013.

Aesha Rasheedis a consultant and researcher who formerly reported on education for the Times Picayune. In 2007 Rasheed created the  “New Orleans Parents Guide,” an essential resource for information on public and charter schools in New Orleans. She also founded the New Orleans Parent Organizing Network, which supports parents in their effort to organize for quality public schools. This summer Rasheed was recognized with a Point of Light award for her work to improve education in the city.

Noon: Lunch - Juan's Flying Burrito Taco Bar

1:45 p.m.: Presentation of the Ashley Award

2 p.m. Keynote: LT. General Russel Honore

Honore commanded the Joint Task Force responsible for coordinating military relief efforts in areas effected by Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans. His leadership in 2005 provided a stark contrast to failures by FEMA and other government entities. Currently Honore is a Senior Scientist with The Gallup Organization and a CNN Preparedness Contributor. 

His latest book is "Leadership in the New Normal."

This year Honore has spoken on preparedness topics related to the Bayou Corne sinkhole disaster as well as the Flood Authority's coastal erosion lawsuit against oil and gas companies.

3 p.m. PANEL: Beyond Tourism Beyond Recovery

In a recent editorial, Governor Bobby Jindal became the latest in a growing string of commenters to call New Orleans “America’s Comeback City.”   Since 2007, its population has grown faster than that of any other American city. And over the course of its long recovery from disaster it has largely bucked the trend of national economic downturn.

As the recovery period draws to a close, how is the city preparing to maintain this momentum? According to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, “the New Orleans area has experienced notable growth in knowledge–based industries, including higher education and insurance services, while maintaining older industrial strengths.”  In 2012 New Orleans led the nation in business startups per capita.  The New Orleans Business Alliance has completed a strategic plan to take advantage of these assets and build a stronger more diverse economy as the city moves forward.

But even with these developments in progress, New Orleans remains as reliant as ever on tourism.

Tourism has been the city’s traditional calling card and remains so through the recovery.  But its dominance is not without consequences. Tourism wields tremendous influence on the city’s business community, on its politics, and ultimately on the day to day life of its residents.

Residents often complain that the city prioritizes the needs of the tourism business over those of neighborhoods with regard to streets, lighting, transit and other basic infrastructure.   Meanwhile, within those neighborhoods, businesses dedicated to fostering New Orleans’s trademark cultural cache can create livability issues for nearby residents who have to deal with the noise, litter, and other inconveniences associated with city’s famous amusements.

Finally, the very act of turning the city’s unique cultural heritage into a set of mass produced touring experiences can diminish the authenticity of that very culture.  Is it worth it? According to a recent Loyola University study, the average salary in tourism and hospitality is only $26,000.

Can we do better by the waiters, cooks, musicians, artists, tour guides and the like who support the “cultural economy”? Does the industry  have too heavy and influence on the city’s major land use and infrastructure decisions?  How do we balance the demands of the tourism industry with the needs of neighborhoods and those of us who just like to live here?  And is the city doing enough to diversify its economy beyond tourism as it moves beyond recovery?

Moderated by Charles Maldonado: Staff Writer at The Lens

Charles Maldonado is The Lens’ government accountability reporter, covering the city of New Orleans and other local government bodies. He previously worked for Gambit, New Orleans’ alternative newsweekly, where he covered city hall, criminal justice and public health. Before moving to New Orleans, he covered state and local government for weekly papers in Nashville. In Knoxville, Tenn., Maldonado received numerous awards for his reporting of a billion-gallon coal ash spill at a Tennessee Valley Authority power plant. A native of Detroit, Maldonado and his wife are expecting their first child.

Kevin Fox GothamPh.D. is a professor of sociology and associate dean of academic affairs in the School of Liberal Arts at Tulane University in New Orleans. He has research interests in urban redevelopment, real estate and housing policy, tourism, and post-disaster recovery and rebuilding, and sustainability studies.

He is the author of several books including: Race, Real Estate and Uneven Development (2014 SUNY Press), Authentic New Orleans: Race and Culture in the Big Easy (2007, New York University Press), and Critical Perspectives on Urban Redevelopment (2001, Elsevier). His new book (co-authored with Miriam Greenberg), Crisis Cities: Disaster and Redevelopment in New York and New Orleans (Oxford University Press) will be released in early 2014.

Brice Miller is a New Orleans jazz trumpeter and cultural engagement and public humanities specialist. For many years he taught jazz education for New Orleans Public Schools and created K-16 music and art education programs.He is presently a research assistant for the division of student affairs at The University of Alabama where he is a PhD candidate graduating in December 2013. His research is ethnographic study on brass bands in post-Katrina New Orleans. He is the former assistant director for Crossroads Community Center and the Division of Community Affairs at The University of Alabama (2007-2012).

As a jazz artist and performer, Miller has enjoyed a phenomenal career as a musician and entrepreneur, traveling internationally since age 17. He is also the leader of Mahogany Brass Band, one of New Orleans’ only young brass bands maintaining the legacy of the tradition while still pushing the genre forward. Miller has performed at Carnegie Hall on three separate occasions, Kennedy Center, festivals throughout Europe including Umbria and North Sea jazz festivals, and Tivoli Gardens in Denmark to name a few.

Miller is a two-time graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans, where he earned a Bachelor’s in Music Education and a Master’s in Educational Administration and Leadership. Miller works for The University of Alabama Crossroads Community Center, an initiative of the Office of Community Affairs.  He is an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. candidate at The University of Alabama with a concentration in community and scholarly engagement using the arts and public humanities.

Meg Lousteauis the executive director of the Vieux Carré Property Owners, Residents and Associates (VCPORA), a non-profit neighborhood advocacy group formed in the 1930s to protect and preserve the French Quarter. Lousteau also serves on the board of the Historic Faubourg Tremé Association, and on the PRC’s Property Advisory Committee.

Lousteau earned a Masters degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of New Orleans’ College of Urban and Public Affairs. She worked as assistant director of the Preservation Resource Center’s Operation Comeback program, and later became founding executive director of the Louisiana Landmarks Society. After Katrina, Lousteau became involved in real estate and renovations. However, her love of preservation and advocacy lured her back to the non-profit world, and in November of 2008, she accepted a position as the first executive director of VCPORA.

Robin Keegan is a professional planner at GCR Inc. with over 18 years of experience in housing, economic development, community planning and housing program design. She is currently managing the New Orleans Economic Development Plan for the Business Alliance and spearheading housing recovery efforts in New York post-Hurricane Sandy. Before joining GCR, Keegan served as Director of Real Estate Planning for the Housing Authority of New Orleans and Executive Director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, overseeing $14 billion in funds for housing, infrastructure and economic development initiatives.

Keegan earned an M.S. in Planning and Preservation from Columbia University and a B.A. from Macalester College. Before moving to Louisiana, Keegan provided economic development consulting services in New York, serving as Deputy Director for the Center for an Urban Future and Project Manager for the New York Industrial Retention Network. She has served as Adjunct Professor in Economic Development at Columbia, instructing on economic development through the arts.

Mark Romig serves as President and CEO of the New Orleans TourismMarketing Corporation (NOTMC), the city’s official leisure travel promotion agency. He is an established public relations and marketing professional and is accredited (APR) by the Public Relations Society of America. Romig has been involved in a variety of historic and milestone events throughout his career, including the development of the Hotel Inter-Continental New Orleans, the 1984 Louisiana World’s Fair, and the wildly successful Idea Village New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. Romig was recently tapped by the Saints to succeed his father Jerry as the Stadium Announcer for the home games in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. He was Co-Chair of the Media & PR Committee for the New Orleans Super Bowl XLVII Host Committee.

Romig is a member of the Board of Trustees and Board Secretary for Xavier University of Louisiana and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation. He currently serves as a member of the New Orleans City Park Board of Commissioners and on the board of directors for Covenant House New Orleans. Romig taught public relations courses at Tulane’s University College for several years.

Romig graduated from Brother Martin High School and attended the University of New Orleans, where he received his B.S. from the School of Business Administration (School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration). He was named the school’s outstanding alumnus in 2012.


Want to learn more about using social media? Katy Monnot, author of Bird on the Street, hosts Tech School at Rising Tide 8 

10 a.m.

Working With Bloggers –Join Bridgette Duplantis from Experimental Mommy; Maria Sinclair from Babies, Blogging, and the Bayou; and Shercole King from and Minoritywierdos.comfor a discussion on how small, local businesses can leverage the power of blogs to help with promotions. Moderated by Victoria Adams, Director of Content Strategy at the Idea Village.

11:30 a.m.

Using Visual Tools in Online Promotion 

Addie K Martin of and Jess Leigh of Jess Leigh Jewels answer questions about selecting the right images, when to share, and how to maximize marketing potential.

Moderated by Cara Jougelard of Peanuts are Evil Photography.

12:15 p.m.

Content Marketing – presented by Steve Maloney of Search Influence.

3 p.m.

Personal Branding: When You are What You’re Selling – Megan (Braden-Perry) Capone, Celeste “Metry Chick” Haar, and Marielle “NOLA Chick” Songy talk about how to promote yourself and present your work.

3 p.m.:

For Fasion and Llifestyle Bloggers