Title: Oral History Interview with Kalamu ya Salaam, June 5, 2006. Interview U-0264.
Interviewer: Guild, Joshua
Interviewee: Salaam, Kalamu ya
Abstract: Journalist Kalamu ya Salaam has lived in New Orleans all of his life and has long been a part of the cultural life of the city. Currently, he works at The Center, a writing program in the public schools. He describes the lower Ninth Ward he grew up in. During high school, he became active in the civil rights movement. He briefly attended college in Minnesota, but when he dropped out, he enlisted in the army and was trained to work on nuclear missiles. He and his wife did not stay in New Orleans for the storm. Instead, they went to Houston and then on to Nashville. When they returned they discovered that they did not have much water damage. Salaam remembers what it was like to watch the news and see New Orleans flooding, and while watching one of those reports, he decided to document the eyewitness accounts of blacks in the city. He does not yet see any rebuilding occurring, and he blames that on government. He hopes that through his work, he can help young people take control of their own futures, and he is very concerned about the state of the public schools. Though some people have come back, he believes the entire black social structure of New Orleans was erased by the storm because black professionals have not returned. He describes how dark and silent the city was even several months after the storm. He believes that New Orleans will never be the same city, and he expects that most of the young people will leave.