University welcomes Katrina summit in efforts to learn from tragedy’s mistakes

This week the University welcomes the Katrina: After the Storm – Civic Engagement Through Arts, Humanities and Technology summit on campus. The summit runs from today to Saturday.

It will feature the work and performances of teachers, community members and artists, and will include everything from hip-hop emcees to local artists and academics.

The summit opens at the Virginia Theater in downtown Champaign with the Cajun Fais Do-Do, a traditional New Orleans folk festival. This will feature a screening of the film “Perseverance” and will be followed by a panel discussion and a hip-hop performance. Thursday’s talks will be located at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications auditorium, and feature discussions on medicinal preparedness, the use of computers in an effort to prevent fallout, the rebuilding of New Orleans and the use of technology to create connections between peoples.

Thursday closes with a New Orleans jazz performance at the Krannert Center. Friday includes panels on social entrepreneurship, race and class issues, and social justice. The summit concludes on Saturday with a town hall meeting.

“Everyone is invited, everyone can come – students, faculty, members of the community,” said Tricia Barker, National Center for Supercomputing Applications spokeswoman and member of the Katrina Planning Committee. “Everyone has something to contribute and everyone can get something out of it. This will be more on the light-hearted side: music, art, food – it’s about drawing people together.”

Eric Schulz, sophomore in LAS, said that he hopes the summit can help people prepare better and learn from earlier mistakes.

“As a community, as a university, as a scholarly community, we can learn from the failures and successes of repairing a community,” he said. “We have to learn to work with others, every aspect of our community, for when trouble arrives.”

The summit’s aim is to inspire discussion, Barker said, and to inspire conversation about working together to improve local and national cohesion.

“What can we learn, what should we learn? Not just in New Orleans, not just in Louisiana, but here in Urbana-Champaign,” Barker said.