Stories of loss, triumph, and recovery for those in New Orleans and Mississippi have become a distant memory for many Americans living outside the remnant reality of reconstruction that families in the Gulf Coast region face. As donations decrease and the mainstream media turns its attention to other news, those who have been displaced from their homes prepare for Thanksgiving.
Ashantae Johnson, a New Orleans native and senior print journalism major at Howard University, will not be spending Thanksgiving in New Orleans this year as she has done in years past. Her family’s residence in Gentilly (a suburb of New Orleans) was destroyed by the flooding from the storm. As a result, Johnson will spend Thanksgiving in Jonesville, La. the city that Johnson’s family relocated to after Hurricane Katrina.
During Thanksgiving, the people of New Orleans become the embodiment of southern hospitality. No one can share too much. "Thanksgiving in New Orleans is a family affair," says Johnson as she reminisces on Thanksgivings of years’ past. "Everybody, and I mean everybody, invites you to their house for dinner."
In Jonesville, the Johnson’s table will be decorated with a feast fit for a kind. Stuffed bell peppers, seafood gumbo, macaroni and cheese, ham, turkey,candied yams, corn bread, dressing, and string beans are just a few of the dishes that will lace the Johnson’s table on Thanksgiving day.
"To me, Thanksgiving is seeing my family having fun and talking about old times. It is looking at old pictures and telling jokes and measuring how ‘big’ your little cousins have grown. Thanksgiving is the assurance that God’s love is real."
For many, Thanksgiving is simply an opportunity to celebrate the material possessions one has accrued since the previous Thanksgiving, however this year Johnson and her family are celebrating life and survival.