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The American Dream Denied

Uptown Campus
Woldenberg Art Center
Newcomb Art Museum

The American Dream Denied: The New Orleans Residents of Gordon Plaza Seek Relocation –organized by Tulane’s environmental studies students– explores the lived experiences of communities impacted by pollution, and its concomitant effects on health and environment.

Students from the Critical Visualization and Media Lab (CVML) led by Tulane sociology and environmental studies professor Christopher Oliver, PhD collaborated with New Orleans’ Residents of Gordon Plaza –Shannon Rainey, Lydwina Hurst, Jesse Perkins, Sam Egana, Marilyn Amar, Lionel Youngblood, Sheena Dedmond– and representatives from the New Orleans People’s Assembly to showcase the impact of living among life-threatening pollution with limited access to resources and raise awareness of the environmental crisis facing contemporary Louisianans and New Orleanians. As Rainey describes it, “we feel enslaved in our own homes.”

In 1981, the City of New Orleans utilized funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to build the residential neighborhood Gordon Plaza in the Upper Ninth Ward on top of the Agriculture Street Landfill–a toxic waste dump that serviced the entire city for more than half a century.

“What was initially branded as a way for working class Black and African American New Orleanians to access the American Dream of homeownership turned into a nightmare as the residual outcomes of living on top of a landfill began to effect the residents in real and adverse ways – often having deadly conquences for those living there,” says Oliver. The exhibition – equal parts art show, social history, and critical visualization project – presents, in a myriad of ways, a chronological and visually engaging look at the residents’ fight for a fully funded relocation with an emphasis on the role of women in activism, the effect on day-to-day living, and the frustrations of the “promised” American Dream.


Newcomb Art Museum