Essence Music Fest, Pig feet, Walmart, and My Love for the people of New Orleans

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It was the summer of 2018, and I was in NOLA for my annual cousin’s trip with over 300,000 black people who converge on the city for the annual ESSENCE Music Fest. It’s a Black cultural experience. It’s music, shows, parties and a lot of love. 

It all began with a quick run to Walmart for some items for the Airbnb. “They” were strategically placed on the endcaps to capture the attention of the customer. “They” were pig feet. Pig feet is a common dish in Black families. 

“Slaves were forced to eat the animal parts their masters threw away. They cleaned and cooked pig intestines and called them “chitterlings.” They took the butts of oxen and christened them “ox tails.” Same thing for pigs’ tails, pigs’ feet, chicken necks, smoked neck bones, hog jowls and gizzards.”

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

When I returned to Atlanta, I began to research the health outcomes in New Orleans. I knew if pig feet were being sold in Walmart there must a customer demand. 

Chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease are common in Black communities (Source cdc.gov). To my surprise the health stats for Black people in New Orleans were startling: 

  • Black residents in New Orleans are 2x more likely to die from HIV, kidney disease, cancer, and diabetes
  • Life expectancy for residents in Zip code 70112 (Treme community- oldest African American neighborhood in the US) is 54.5 years. 
  • Black mothers

In a city that is 66% Black these stats are not acceptable. 

This was my awakening. We launched Beyond the Divide New Orleans in 2019 during Essence Music Fest in partnership with the City of New Orleans Department of Health and Xavier University. Beyond the Divide New Orleans was a one health symposium where innovative health companies presented their innovations to community leaders. The goal was to understand ways to localize their innovations to meet the needs of the city’s most vulnerable populations.

TECHPLUG has relocated to New Orleans to help bring equitable health tech solutions to the people who needs it most.

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