Follow Megan Braden-Perry on social media and she’ll take you on a ride through her motherhood journey. Is it a perfect journey? No. (Is it ever?) Is it vulnerable? Yes. Is it funny? Hell, yes!
Megan and I talked motherhood, gentrification and the future of New Orleans.
Megan, you do a great job of documenting your motherhood in New Orleans. You’re a native of New Orleans. Do you think your New Orleans childhood experiences will play a role in raising your son?
In maybe 1995, my mom and I were walking down Canal Street downtown and she started crying because everything had changed: stores were now hotels, people had long since stopped getting dressed up go to there, things were for tourists and not locals. Back then I thought it was weird, but I get it now. My New Orleans childhood included things Franklin’s never will: dancing on bars for jukebox money, grocery store employees giving treats, walking from house to house in the 7th Ward visiting relatives. So I try to focus on the things he can still do — like eat crawfish, snowballs, po’boys and gumbo — and make sure to document them.
You wrote a children’s book, Allen the Alligator Counts Through New Orleans. What inspired you to write the book? What challenges did you face in getting it published?
I love children’s books and always wanted to write one. At Gambit, I’d interviewed authors for the “40 Under 40” feature and they all said their book ideas came to them randomly and that they couldn’t get the ideas out their heads. The night before my baby shower, I kept waking up with bits of it in my mind. I sat up with a pen in the dark and scribbled it down right then, the whole thing.
Getting it published was easy, thankfully, since I know a bit about design and since I had such wonderful Kickstarter backers to fully fund it. The hard part now is getting it in stores. I’m blessed to have it at Octavia Books, but I’m trying to get it in more places. It really beats me down a bit to have so many other stores just never contact me after giving them sample copies and sell sheets. I know it would sell well, especially in gift shops and other touristy places. When it cools off, Franklin and I are taking sample copies to some downtown stores.
You’re a former journalist. Do you miss it? Any advice to journalism majors?
There are parts of journalism I miss. Getting a scoop and trying to get it online before anyone else is thrilling. Sharing people’s stories and promoting their businesses is rewarding. Having people constantly “tell [me] what [I] need to write about” is awful and I don’t miss that at all. Being forced to write about higher ups’ friends is also so New Orleans and so frustrating. Having my brain picked over coffee is something I’m never agreeing to again. Now over tacos or cocktails, that’s another story.
The best thing I did was take an unpaid internship, four years after the year I should have graduated. I was blessed to have a fiance who helped with the bills, so I could work for free. Paid internships are great, I just don’t think they exist in New Orleans. During my internship, I learned so much more than I ever learned in school and I built a huge collection of clips. Find a way to save enough money to live for six months so you can commit fully to an unpaid internship.
You’ve documented the challenges of public transportation in New Orleans with your Public Transit Tuesdays series. How do you think New Orleans public transportation impacts mothers of color?
East coast transplant friends often mention how there’s no correllation, perceived or actual, between socioeconomic status and using public transportation there like there is here. That, along with “southern hospitality,” makes many other black bus riders think they can “help” black mothers with their annoying, outdated advice. I only rode the bus a few times with Franklin and wanted to scream every time. Aside from that, there aren’t many good places to wait with a child for the bus: spit on the ground, people fussing, folks who want to touch your child.
Four words to describe public transportation in New Orleans.
Sometimey, gauche, touristy, unsupervised.
What do you love about New Orleans?
Eating and drinking in New Orleans is the reason I came back after Katrina. I went to Baton Rouge, thinking it was close enough, but cried when served a po’boy-like sandwich on Italian bread. My favorite thing, though, something I really missed during Katrina, is always knowing someone everywhere I go. Surely I could make friends and perhaps find better food and drink somewhere else, but why?
What must New Orleans do better?
People are whining now that the crime that’s been here for almost my entire life is “too close” to them, but I think we can all agree that we need more cops. My neighbors and I did everything we could to warn NOPD about a family that moved in, alerting the cops to their every misstep, but most of our calls were later reported as unfounded or gone on arrival. Thankfully for us, one of them was charged with a felony so the family lost their section eight voucher and was evicted. But we could have prevented that. I’ve actually given up on calling the police for anything, since they seem to only have time to go to murder scenes.
And I’m very worried about finding a good school for my son, when the time comes. Most of the great veteran teachers are gone and have been replaced by people who are just feeling their way around the city and “trying the whole teaching thing out” until something cooler comes along. What ever happened to passion?
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Kelly Harris is the founder of BrassyBrown.com