Healing Center Grew to New Heights with Increased Focus on Community Health, Local Arts/Culture and Diversity/Inclusion
by: Brandon Curran: NOHC Marketing and Events Manager
The New Orleans Healing Center reached new heights in 2017. First and foremost, The Healing Center was excited to become fully occupied with all its leasable spaces. The Healing Center selects only silos (tenants) that fit into the vision and mission of The Healing Center and operates with a focus on healing that promotes the physical, nutritional, emotional, intellectual, environmental, economic or spiritual well-being. These exciting new silos include:
- Spotted Cat Food & Spirits– The “go-to” community hangout spot that serves all day breakfast that critics cannot stop raving about
- The Moe Joe Gallery– A multicultural, creative arts and wellness space that is the main home front for Bounce Fitness dance classes
- Girl Twirl– A youth education studio to inspire New Orleans’ youth with dance and music
- New Orleans Animal Health (NOAH)– An affordable and accessible vet who focuses on animal’s healing on all levels through education and high-quality care
These silos grew The Healing Center to foster an environment that supports over 28 different businesses and organizations. We came together through 2017 to foster various programs and initiatives to bring the community together. In general, we focused our attention on three main community pillars including; community health, local arts and culture, and diversity and inclusion. These pillars are explored below.
The Healing Center utilized incredible partner programs to educate and engage the community with various public health initiatives. We were pleased to partner with 504Healthnet to bring Certified Application Counselors to The Healing Center Grand Hall to inform the public about the Affordable Care Act and sign people up for health insurance throughout the Open Enrollment Period. We also were excited to host a ‘Healing Hookup’ health fare with 504Healthnet to allow various public health organizations to table and give out information to the community. One of these organizations, Odyssey House, came out to the Healing Center on many occasions to administer free and confidential HIV and Hepatitis C screenings.
We were also excited to offer a vibrant and safe place for people to gather for multiple types of services. For example, The Healing Center assisted the New Orleans Sheriff’s Department to install a Tiger Deposit System to allow community members to pay for commissary for incarcerated family and friends. We currently serve as the only place for people to pay commissary outside of the jail system. Additionally, we continued to grow the amount of support groups and Twelve-Step Programs that utilize our classroom space for an extremely affordable rate. These groups include: Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, WIRED (woman-focused Narcotics Anonymous), Sexual Recovery Action, Debtors Anonymous and Slogans of Serenity. Many of them have noted how they are glad to be in a welcoming and inclusive space.
Additionally, The Healing Center was excited to continue to promote various public health programs operated by our individual silos. We continuously collaborated with NOHC silo Downtown Fitness Center to promote the Silver Sneaker Program and People’s Health Program. Both programs reduce or eliminate the costs of gym memberships to individuals enrolled in Medicaid or Medicare. Moreover, The Healing Center silo The New Orleans Food Coop continued to enact their discount program to allow a 5 percent additional discount for people shopping with SNAP or EBT. Finally, The Healing Center furthered collaboration with Healing Center silo AHA! (Affordable Healing Arts) to offer the public mental and physical therapy at a reduced cost through various initiatives including: sliding scale fees, introduction classes and group classes.
Throughout the year, the surrounding community expressed concerns with a lack of public health access for many of its community members. The Healing Center listened and continued fill gaps to help heal the physical and emotional health of the area.
Local Arts and Culture
The Healing Center continued to serve as the main cultural cornerstone for local and international arts for the St. Claude/St. Roch community. Throughout 2017, The Healing Center was proud to collaborate with various arts and culture initiatives to highlight New Orleans’ unique lifestyle.
Prospect 4 is citywide collaboration of contemporary art; demonstrating New Orleans as a destination art spot by showcasing collaborative and modern artists. One of these local artists, Kristin Meyers, decided to use The Healing Center as her ‘Sacred Space’ to showcase her show, SANCTITY, which dramatic sculptures and wall panels currently welcome the community into The Healing Center. Thanks to her project, The Healing Center could cultivate a dynamic atmosphere and position The Healing Center as a community center unlike any other.
In addition to Prospect 4, The Healing Center teamed up with PhotoNOLA to showcase 3 different community photography shows throughout our space. PhotoNOLA allows New Orleans to shine as a premier hub for the photography arts by partnering with different galleries and community spaces. One of our premier PhotoNOLA artists, Charles Lovell, exhibited his work in our Second Story Gallery Space. His photographs showed the similarities between the cultural landscape of Venice and New Orleans. Located on the second floor, The Second Story Gallery continues to allow local artists to showcase their artwork to the community. The gallery runs in a cooperative manner and changes once a month. The Healing Center was continuously excited to utilize these visual art components to create a dynamic, thought-provoking and spiritual space for all.
The Healing Center continued to produce premier cultural celebrations and festivals with record turnout. The New Orleans Sacred Music Festival blasted into its sixth year. This entirely free festival grew to new heights by bringing together twenty different musical acts on both a global and local scale. Everything from local Hip Hop to Vodou to Tibetan Monks inspired the community to come together and understand each other’s culture and spirituality better during this country’s divisive times. Besides Sacred Music Festival, The Healing Center brought in The Fet Gede-Day of the Dead Celebration through its doors for the first time. This thirty-seven-year-old Vodou tradition was founded by world-renowned Vodou Mambo, Sallie Ann Glassman, to honor the dead and create spiritual space for future generations. The Healing Center was thrilled to continue to showcase Vodou as a spiritual and cultural important element of New Orleans.
Diversity and Inclusion
The New Orleans Healing Center lives in a unique community comprised of people of all backgrounds. No other building welcomes in people from so many different backgrounds comprised of all genders, races, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexualities, religions or beliefs. In 2017, The Healing Center realized that we needed to take this welcoming environment one step further and engage the community in needed workshops, classes and events.
Many of these workshops worked with the very generous support of local organizations focused on antiracism work in the community. The Healing Center was thrilled to team up with The New Orleans Boulder Lounge and the St. Roch Improvement Association to sponsor a racial equity workshop from Overcoming Racism with Matthew Kincaid that centered around business owners in the surrounding community on how their organizations can adopt antiracist practices. It was humbling to see so many business and community leaders come out to engage in honest conversation about how race plays out in the changing local business landscape. In addition to Overcoming Racism, The Healing Center partnered up with The Renaissance Project and Café Istanbul to host a free racial equity workshop to help the public understand New Orleans’ historic ties to racial justice and create pragmatic approaches to living an antiracist lifestyle.
To expand the topic of conversation to include how race can also intersect with other identities including gender, sexuality, class and religion, The Healing Center started a monthly Daring Discussion Potluck and Community Gathering. Originating from the Woman’s March, the Healing Center Daring Discussion Potluck is a place for people of all backgrounds and beliefs to come together to discuss issues facing our community. Too often we are stuck ‘preaching to the choir’ and too worried to have honest or inclusive conversations with those with opposing political views. Daring Discussions breaks down those walls and allows challenging yet important conversations to occur with people of all political beliefs and socio-economic backgrounds to occur. Even in politically divisive times, members of the community of all political backgrounds and beliefs beautifully come out to engage in honest and frank conversations of issues facing our community.
Finally, we ended the year on a high and friendly note and teamed up with many different restaurants and chefs to host a free ‘Holiday Meal’ to feed over 250 members of our community. Many of the Healing Center tenants teamed up to give everyone who walked through the doors, no matter their background, a delicious hot and catered meal. Everyone felt the warm and festive energy.
All these programs continued to position The Healing Center as a space that is ready to discuss and engage the community in pressing social issues. This dedication to racial and gender equity and continued focus on keeping rents affordable allowed business/ nonprofit owners and managers who may be barred from normal rental space to utilize space at The Healing Center. This focus allowed more woman and people of color to own businesses/nonprofits at The Healing Center well above New Orleans’ citywide average. During an end of the year poll, we learned that, within The Healing Center, 44 percent of businesses/nonprofits are woman-owned or managed and 44 percent of businesses/nonprofits are owned or managed by a person of color. We are dedicated to keep these trends growing in 2018.
It was a busy year for all folks involved with The Healing Center. As we move into 2018 we hope to continue to work with surrounding community groups to raise The Healing Center to new heights and serve the community in ways like never before. We are forever appreciative of all our silos, community members, staff and patrons for shaping The Healing Center into the place we are in today! With your help, we can continue to heal New Orleans.