I suspected—wrongly—that I was the only one drawing connections between the ordinances and enforcment measures that inhibit culture in New Orleans with those of New York and other cities.
I was wrong.
There’s an interesting piece by Alexis Stephens on the Next City website titled “Policing Sound: Lessons From the Crackdowns on Performers in New Orleans and New York City.”
In it, Hannah Kreiger-Benson of the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans (MACCNO) points out that sometimes a dispute about noise is not always jsut a dispute about noise:
“The ways these issues are presented is residents versus musicians or businesses versus neighbors rather than talking about space that is shared and sounds that are audible and sounds that travel in different ways,” Kreiger-Benson continues. “Sometimes it’s really something entirely different. Sometimes it’s people who really don’t like each other or some issue dating back years. Sound can become a low-hanging fruit to get people in trouble for.”
And Stephens alerted my attention to some tensions surrounding the current wave of acrobatic dancers on New York City subways:
In New York, acrobatic subway dancers have become the target of a well-publicized campaign against subterranean disorder. Arrests of subway performers have quadrupled this year. With social control tactics like “broken windows policing” and stop-and-frisk being hotly contested this summer, the crackdowns on subway dancers feels especially poignant — unwieldy limbs confined and pushed even farther underground.
“It’s sad because dancers are starving artists just like anyone else trying to make money off their talent,” says Chrybaby Cozie, founder of Lite Feet Nation, a youth outreach initiative that organizes young dancers into what he calls an “army of harmony.” Lite Feet is a style of dancing that was cultivated in New York hip-hop circles in the mid-2000s after the popularity of the “Chicken Noodle Soup,” “Toe Wop,” and the (original) “Harlem Shake.” Many Lite Feet dancers perform in the New York City subway system to earn an income for doing what they love. Cozie comments, “We aren’t all able to study or perform at Peridance or Broadway Dance Center. There are over 1,000 of us who have nowhere to go and there needs to be a safe haven for us.”
BuskNY, an advocacy group for subway performers, held a press conference on the steps of New York’s City Hall on August 12th to protest for their rights to perform under the Rules of Conduct under the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). Zenon Laguerre, a subway performer for more than 20 years, was quoted at the rally as saying, “We dance because we love doing it — it pays the bills and keeps us out of trouble. We dance. We sing. We’re not criminals.”
(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)