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The Neighborhood Story Project is a nonprofit collaborative ethnography organization in partnership with the Department of Anthropology & Sociology at the University of New Orleans. Since 2004, we have produced books, exhibits, events, and courses that share the complex stories of South Louisiana with each other and the world. Visit our virtual book store here!


Kenni Khalil Phillips knew that growing up gay in the St. Bernard Public Housing Development of New Orleans wasn’t going to be easy. But family silences and tragedy, as well as the wide scale destruction of Hurricane Katrina, sometimes made him feel like he was going crazy. Displaced from his home after the storm, from 2007-2009, Kenni chronicled his family’s history and day-to-day lives through creative nonfiction, interviews, and photographs. In these explorations, he retraces the impact of the murder of his uncle, DJ Irv—a legendary founder of New Orleans bounce music—and the groundbreaking hip hop journalism of his Aunt Loren. Confronting the stereotypes of Black masculinity, he also begins to embrace his own identity. 


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Books, Events, Classes


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Honoring Our Loved Ones

On March 20, 2020,, we were deeply saddened to lose one of our long term partners, Ronald W. Lewis of the House of Dance & Feathers. Please see his New York Times obituary.

In August, the Big Queen of Fi Yi Yi and the Mandingo Warriors, Kim Boutte, was the unintended victim of gun violence. We were devastated by this loss, and ask for everyone's prayers for her family and our extended Fi Yi Yi community. 

On September 11th, Sylvester Francis, the founder and the director of the Backstreet Cultural Museum died of appendicitis. We wrote a story about his jazz funeral here:

Artwork in honor of Kim Boutte, Sylvester Francis, and Ronald W. Lewis by Jonathan Mayers


How is traditional jazz connected to social justice and education in New Orleans? A six-minute documentary by Elephant Quilt on  our book, Talk That Music Talk, features civil rights leader and co-founder of Tambourine & Fan, Jerome Smith, musicians who worked on the book, and the co-editors, Bruce Sunpie Barnes and Rachel Breunlin. 

 LISTEN HERE! Our collaborative musical ethnography about Creole language and music in Louisiana and in other parts of the Caribbean. Listen to a radio interview on The Reading Life with Susan Larson to hear some of the songs written and arranged by Bruce Sunpie Barnes and Leroy Etienne, and the stories behind the making of the book. A companion exhibit is up at the Arsenal I gallery at the Louisiana Stat Musueum's Cabildo through the spring. 


On Remembering" a talk in honor of Indigenous People's Day with Monique Verdin and Rachel Breunlin at Tulane University's Newcomb Art Museum. The discussion was inspired by a passage from "Site of Memory," by Toni Morrison: "'Floods' is the word they use, but in fact it is not flooding; it is remembering. Remembering where it used to be. All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was. ... And a rush of imagination is our 'flooding.'" 


WWNO's The Reading Life with Victor Harris, Rachel Breunlin, and Jeffrey David Ehrenreich. Hosted by Susan Larson, the episode is dedicated to the creation of Fire in the Hole.

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"The Last Brass Band? Musical Mentorship and Social Justice Organizing," an article by Bruce Sunpie Barnes and Rachel Breunlin about the NSP ethnography Talk That Music Talk published in Smithsonian Folkways Magazine Image from Tambourine & Fan's parading curriculum. 

A collection of images from Bruce Sunpie Barnes and other photographers included in the NSP's Talk That Music Talk was featured in "The Beat Goes On: The Ongoing Legacy of Brass Band Music in New Orleans," a photo essay curated by Nicole Crowder for The Washington Post's "In Sight."  [Photograph of Benny Jones Sr. by Bruce Sunpie Barnes]

In Memory of Royce Osborn, Way Downtown, a short film the Neighborhood Story Project produced with Spyboy Productions and Nine Times Social and Pleasure Club in 2010 celebrating second line dancing. 


The New York Times article, "At the Track: Before the Starting Gate and After the Finish," by Campbell Robertson, tells the story of "Letters from the Backside," the NSP exhibition with letters written home by people who work at the New Orleans Fair Grounds during the horse racing season. 


Eve Troeh's beautiful radio documentary of members of Nine Times reading stories from their book, Coming Out the Door for the Ninth Ward, to jazz music on NPR's All Things Considered


"Our Stories Told By Us": The Neighborhood Story Project in New Orleans, a chapter in Telling Stories to Change the World by Rachel Breunlin, Abram Himelstein, and Ashley Nelson. 


Neda Ulaby's two-part series on National Public Radio's All Things Considered explores our book with the Tulane City Center, Cornerstones: Celebrating the Everyday Monuments and Gathering Places of New Orleans' Neighborhoods. The first (top image), "Charting New Orleans' Everyday Landmarks takes us to Liuzza's By the Tracks and the Sportsman's Corner in Central City. The second (bottom image), "New Orleans Vacant Lot Brings Neighbors Together," takes place on the corner of N. Roman and Columbus in the Seventh Ward. 


Publisher's Weekly article,"Looking Beyond the Hood," about the first year of the Neighborhood Story Project in 2005. Photograph by Rachel Breunlin of Ashley Nelson working on her book, The Combination, about the Lafitte Public Housing Development. 

CORRECTION: In community-based publishing, we strive to make sure that we are crediting all of the photographs we use from archives properly. We regret that the photograph appearing on page 14 of our book, Fire in the Hole: The Spirit Work of Fi Yi Yi and the Mandingo Warriors, by the Committee Members of Fi Yi Yi was reproduced backwards. The image should be credited to Girard Mouton,III. Copyright 1984. Girard Mouton,III, All Rights Reserved. The Neighborhood Story Project regrets the error and the omission.

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