Kate Ellis and Stephen Smith completed two documentaries for American Radioworks, Rebuilding Biloxi: One Year After Katrina and Routes to Recovery.
Hurricane Katrina swept through the lives of thousands of Mississippi Gulf Coast residents, with devastating results. The first radio documentary project, Rebuilding Biloxi: One Year After Katrina, tells the stories of several families in one coastal community—Biloxi, Mississippi—struggling to survive and then recover from the storm. Biloxi is an ethnically diverse community, with deeply rooted African American, Vietnamese, and Caucasian populations. Rebuilding Biloxi gives listeners a deeply personal look at how racial and economic inequality plays out in the daily struggle to rebuild after Katrina. Unlike in New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast, casinos are driving redevelopment in Biloxi. The question there is not whether the city rebuilds, but how quickly. In Biloxi, it's not a question of whether historically poor and working-class neighborhoods will be repopulated, but by whom.
On the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Ellis and Smith teamed up with Nick Spitzer, host of American Routes, on Routes to Recovery, which explores the cultural recovery of New Orleans. Could the preservation and restoration of the city's cultural life provide the most enduring path to its rebuilding? Spitzer and Smith offer a provocative cultural tour of the city's road to renewal. From its brass bands and Mardi Gras Indians on the back streets to its renowned headliners at Jazzfest—from its legendary craftsmen and architecture to its world famous chefs and cuisine, the Creole culture of New Orleans is the soul of the city. It was also one of its most powerful economic engines before Katrina. Could culture save the city?