Sunday, March 27, 2011

In Living Green

Posted by Deirdre Oakley, NEW ORLEANS, LA – My family is Irish – my father ‘off the boat’ via Liverpool. But for whatever reason when I was growing up we never really did that much for Saint Patrick's Day (Lá Fhéile Pádraig) except go to church. Now I routinely forget to wear green. I also hate green beer and green-dyed food.  This year I even forgot the holiday, although I was quickly reminded when I exited my New Orleans hotel for a jog only to be bombarded with a sea of green. Canal Street was packed with people of all ages wearing green -- including entire families. Celebrations had gotten off to an early start and would continue well into the late evening. The green crowd had green tie shirts, green dresses, green socks, green hats, green scarves, green masks, green beads, and painted green faces. Some were carrying green Gatorade, or those hard-to-miss green drinks called Hurricanes and Grenades. Fortunately no one was drinking green water.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig commerates Saint Patrick (c. Ad 387-461), a patron saint of Ireland known for bringing Christainity to the country. It's a religious holiday celebrated by the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. It’s also an official public holiday in Ireland and celebrated in other countries with large populations of Irish descent. Many major cities in the United States have held Saint Patrick's Day parades since the early 19th Century including Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, and San Fransisco. Chicago even dyes its river green for the occasion.

During the 19th Century New Orleans was the largest southern port of entry for Irish Immigrants. The mix of this history with the city’s Creole heritage means Saint Patrick's Day celebrations have a unique flare and spirit about them. The holiday comes on the heals of Mardi Gras celebrations and unlike other cities the parade happens in the late evening. It is a major tourist event and there is a lot of green alcohol involved. However, celebrations typically remain peaceful so the police presence is rather minimal. 

Two days after the city’s Saint Patrick's celebrations come those for Saint Joseph’s Day where everybody wears red.

Deirdre Oakley is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Georgia State University and the Editor of Social Shutter. You can contact her at To view more photographs from Saint Patrick’s Day in New Orleans check out Social Shutter’s Facebook page

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Crowd Control

Posted by Angie Luvara, CARRBORO, NC -- As a photographer, one of my favorite things to do is shoot concerts. Partly because I love music, but even more because I find beauty in passion, and music performances just ooze passion. Since I can’t really ever turn off the sociologist inside me, I constantly find myself noting sociological nuances at the shows I’m shooting. There are lots of different occurrences that catch my attention at concerts.  However, one consistently interesting occurrence is the artists’ ability to control the crowd. For example, simple things such as “put your hand up!” are met with an entire crowd shoving hands into the air. Well, that might not be  too eyebrow raising, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve seen artists have entire crowds yelling expletives, thrusting middle fingers into the air, and even trusting their fellow crowd members enough to hold them up as they crowd surf! It fascinates me to think about the members of the crowd and how they behave in their normal, everyday lives. I wonder if any of them would yell expletives, give someone the middle finger, or attempt to crowd surf in any other public place! The power that artists exhibit over their fans just shows how truly powerful music really is.
Angie Luvara is a photographer and Managing Editor of Social Shutter. You can view more of her photography at To see more of her photos of concert crowds, check out Social Shutter's facebook page.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

R.I.P. Roosevelt House: 1973-2011

Posted by Deirdre Oakley, ATLANTA, GA – Traditional public housing came to a dramatic end in Atlanta when Roosevelt House was imploded at precisely 7:30am on Sunday, February 27, 2011. The implosion was the culmination of the Atlanta Housing Authority's (AHA) 16-year effort to eliminate project-based public housing.  But unlike the stereotypical discourse surrounding “The Projects”, Roosevelt House was not crime-infested, run by violent gangs, nor located in a high poverty, racially segregated area.

As a matter of fact it was right across the street from the Georgia Institute of Technology campus, not far from recently built luxury condominiums for convenient “in-town” living. And the 17-story, 150 unit-building with spectacular views from its upper floors was a place low income seniors and disabled citizens called home over its 38-year life span. Many of the seniors retired to Roosevelt from their jobs as railroad workers, cooks, maids, janitors, and Licensed Practitioner Nurses (LPNs) because it made for a nice home that they could afford on their meager pensions.

Roosevelt was coming down simply because it was old. In 2009 it was deemed beyond repair by the housing authority and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). “It needed to come down, I got tired of all those cockroaches coming over for dinner every night, but I still miss it,” one former resident told me.

All of this seemed lost on the surprisingly large crowd that showed up to watch its implosion even though the AHA had circulated some history about Roosevelt House prior to the event, and had flyers (along with refreshments) at the staging area. The crowd was there merely to watch a building go KA-BOOM. Parents brought their sleepy kids along with blankets and lawn chairs, Georgia Tech architecture students came with their fancy camera equipment; and the media with microphones, tape recorders, television cameras, and notebooks.  There was even an engineering group holding a big banner demanding to know the truth about the 9/11 World Trade Center collapse. The fact that this group would equate the implosion of a low income senior high rise many people once called home with 9/11 seemed particularly callous. The subsequent media accounts were equally as shallow -- but footage of the implosion did make the national news. I guess TV audiences like to watch buildings go KA-BOOM as well.

The “show” did not disappoint. Although most of the spectators were oblivious to this, as part of the official ceremony a group of former residents hit a symbolic detonator while the demolition experts set off the real one. Almost immediately there was a series of deafening KA-BOOMS that prompted me to scream right along with the kids while others ewed and awed. Within seconds smoke started to appear and the building began to collapse. It was over less than a minute later with a huge cloud of lingering smoke rising from the rubble. As the audience continued to cheer loudly I quietly cried. I wasn’t crying so much for the residents who were moved out – while the relocation process was very stressful on them most found nice apartments and say they are happy now. I was crying more because the history and life of this important building was seemingly obliterated by a clueless crowd who could have cared less about what Roosevelt House meant to so many people over the years. Without the promise of KA-BOOM most of them wouldn’t have even shown up.

The following pictures show the one-minute sequence of Roosevelt’s implosion -- rest in peace Roosevelt House.

Deirdre Oakley is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Georgia State University and the Editor of Social Shutter. Along with her colleagues Drs Lesley Reid  and Erin Ruel she is part of the GSU Urban Health Initiative, a research project following about 350 former public housing residents who were relocated in Atlanta, including 70 from Roosevelt House. You can contact her at To view more photographs of the Roosevelt House implosion event, log on to Social Shutter's Facebook page.