Charm Taylor, 32
“My house has been dubbed ‘the House of Joy’: It’s full of colorful art, the scent of magnolia flower, blue sage, sweetgrass, and frankincense. New Orleans feels like an island in climate and culture. At my house, I have a small chime tree and old porch swing perfect for day playtime with my friends and family. The doorway is surrounded by glass windows draped by bamboo. The porch is brimming with passion flower; iris; and herbs, peppers, and okra in small pots. The eggplant is taking a while, and lavender doesn’t grow very well on this island.”
Denisio Truitt, 34
“I was born in the U.S.A., but my household was very West African — my mom is originally from Liberia — so I think the first time I came to New Orleans I was shocked how similar it felt to like my home culture. The way people talk, even the way they pronounce certain vowels, is very familiar. It was déjà vu, and I felt a connection to the city that I have never experienced before.
“I’ve come to accept that probably nowhere will ever truly feel like home, but New Orleans is the closest I’ve felt. But I’m very aware of the past — from Katrina to the rapid gentrification of the city and all of the black people who have been displaced. I still need to be very mindful of my status as a transplant.”
Kenetha Lanée, 35
“I teach theater and speech in the Jefferson Parish public system. I want to reach disadvantaged students, and — I’ll cut to the chase — I really want to help uplift my people. As an African-American female teacher, I think my presence in a classroom is important. I can’t imagine what it was like to be a teacher back when I was growing up, and I’m not even that old! And you know, as a black teacher, I still feel like I have to prove myself.
“I have family from Louisiana who migrated to the North in the 1950s. So, even though I grew up in Chicago, I always had this affinity for Louisiana, but New Orleans was just something different. I can list all the things everybody does — the food, the people, the culture, the heat, the dialect, the music — but really, I feel free here. If you love her, she will love you back tenfold, but you have to love her all — the good and the bad. It’s like how you love a person.”