Can The Faith Community Save New Orleans?

Can The Faith Community Save New Orleans

Faith Leaders and Media Discuss Topics around New Orleans Sacred Music Festival
by: Orissa Arend; Media Representative


That was the question posed to a group of 15 or so mostly Black religious leaders and a few media representatives at the Spotted Cat Food and Spirits in the New Orleans Healing Center on March 1, 2017. The Healing Center was a brainchild after Katrina of developer Pres Kabacoff and Vodou Priestess Sallie Ann Glassman, an only-in-New-Orleans kind of a coupling that works on the personal as well as the business level. The Healing Center is a riot of color, a spiritual space for performance, art, commerce and celebration on St. Claude Avenue. What better place for the question to be posed and the discussion launched?

This Media Dinner was an exploration on the topics explored at The New Orleans Sacred Music Festival. Now in its 6th year, The 2017 New Orleans Sacred Music Festival is entirely FREE and open to anyone and everyone. Sacred music is powerful. It can heal and uplift us and awaken the profound connections that runs through our diverse cultures and communities. The Sacred Music Festival brings together over 20 different performers of all different faiths, background, cultures and beliefs. Anticipated acts include; Mantra Rock with Sean Johnson and The Wild Lotus Band, Reggae with Ben Hunter, Poetry with Chuck Perkins and the Spiritual Deacon John. The event will be on March 11, 2017 from 10:30am-10:00pm at The New Orleans Healing Center. A Peace Rally and Walk will kick off the event at 8:30am and meets at St. Roch Park. The media dinner explored the concept of if ‘Faith Communities Can Saves New Orleans’?

The dinner discussion was illuminating. John Johnson, High Councilor of the Latter Day Saints, noted that his church bridges the gap between despair and optimism. He said, “Many young people in New Orleans feel disrespected and have no place at the table. Our youth are deeply involved in the music culture and see music as a key means to transmit their message.” At the festival that message will be carried through mediums both ancient and cutting-edge.  Where else will you see Tibetan monks and Mormon elders rocking out to hip-hop and medieval chant? In New Orleans, the sacred is funky!

Sacred music, Johnson says, “can penetrate pain, give peace, provide vision, and organize people.”

Several around the table pointed out the need to address and confront political leaders. Joe Givens, Executive Director of The Isaiah Institute, said “Political leaders need to recognize the people’s right to have a vision.” Most of the dinner guests agreed that citizen engagement is not what it was in the 90’s. Former city councilperson and talk show host Oliver Thomas pointed out that in the 90’s an organized inter-faith community and a committed City Hall leadership brought the murder rate down significantly and cleaned up blighted houses through programs like the Nehemiah Project, Weed and Seed, and All Congregations Together. “The poor and disenfranchised,” he said, “felt respected and heard.”

Reverend J. C. Dyson, the chairperson of  Baptist Association Churches said, “Faith communities are engaged, but not working together enough.”

“We can learn from each other, said Muslim Imam Rafeeq Numan. “It gives us strength. We can’t be afraid to come together.”

There were several testimonies about the humanitarian efforts of churches. A central question around that dinner table was posed by the only white clergyman, William Barnwell who is an author and prison reformer: “What will bring us together? We need to come together to hear each other’s stories. . . Much of our community does not know what is really going on in the Black community.” When the dinner ended, William and Sallie Ann put their heads together to see how stories could be collected and recorded at the festival.

Another key question: “In what do you put your faith?” asks Sallie Ann Glassman, reminding us of how broad the concept of faith really is. “What is sacred to you?” Each of us dinner guests would probably answer that question in a slightly different or a very different way. The meal and discussion, therefore, were the perfect precursor to the Sacred Music Festival. Priestess Sallie Ann declared, “Music touches us. The Sacred Music Festival helps people connect to humanity, see the gift of life, lift it up, celebrate it.”

To learn more about The Sacred Music Festival, please visit