The first week in New Orleans went by very quickly. Working all day five days a week makes the hours pass slowly, but the days have flown by. I am working at CrescentCare and the New Orleans AIDS task force as an intern in the development department. The office for CrescentCare is located in the mid-city area on the corner of Tulane and Broad. This is a notoriously rough area due to the close proximity to the prison and court house. The difference between the location of my job and the location of our residence hall is striking as we travel a streetcar and bus ride away from the mansions on Saint Charles each morning. I have realized over the past three years that growing up in Durham and going to a large public high school has exposed me to a lot more wealth disparity, racial and socioeconomic diversity than a lot of my peers at Duke. Even though I have technically encountered wealth disparity in my life, it is a different experience to be taking the bus across town and working in the same building as a clinic, a public defense office and family court. I think it is a valuable experience to be pushed further in this area because having grown up seeing economic disparity could potentially lead to being desensitized to it.
Another thing that I have been contemplating this week is how to stay safe while also not being judgmental. I feel as though particularly in my high school experience when I went from a small private school to a large public high school in Durham, I spent a lot of time considering societal stereotypes and being aware of how people, myself included, fall into them in daily interactions. I have always considered these kind of assumptions to be a bad thing, that I personally try to avoid and also encourage other people to avoid. It was surprising to me to hear our program director say that if we have a gut feeling that someone seems sketchy or dangerous, we should trust it and if they are walking towards you its okay to cross to the other side of the street or wait for the next elevator. I think that a difficult, but important theme of this summer will be navigating what it means to stay safe and be cautious while also remaining open minded and non-judgmental of people I encounter in New Orleans.