All Souls Community Forum to Focus on New Orleans

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Local author to discuss reconstruction and social responsibility after Hurricane Katrina

The next All Souls Community Forum will feature a presentation by the Rev. Dr. Robert R.N. Ross, co-author of "Walking to New Orleans: Ethics and the Concept of Participatory Design in Post-Disaster Reconstruction." The forum will be held on Saturday, March 21, 2009, from 2-4 PM at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, 196 Elm Street, Braintree. The All Souls Community Forum is a lecture/film series that informs and educates the general public about vital social and environmental issues.

Three years after the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, New Orleans and south Louisiana continue to struggle in an unsettled gumbo of environmental, social, and rebuilding chaos. Citizens await the fruition of four successive recovery and reconstruction planning processes and the realization of essential infrastructure repairs. Repopulation in New Orleans Parish has slowed considerably; the parish remains at best two-thirds of its former size; thousands of former residents who wish to return face barriers of many kinds. Heroic efforts at rebuilding have occurred through the efforts of individual neighborhood associations and voluntary groups from across the country. The author will share both extensive research and personal accounts, and view it through the lens of the question: To what extent should we as a society take responsibility for the plight of those whose lives are irrevocably disrupted by disaster?

The authors, Rev. Dr. Robert R.N. Ross and Deanne E.B. Ross reside in Mansfield, Massachusetts. Deanne is a civil rights attorney who is a member of the bar in Massachusetts, Louisiana, the District of Columbia, and the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Rob is interim minister at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church of Braintree and currently teaches courses in philosophy and religion at Starr King School for the Ministry/Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.

Professor Mark C. Taylor, Chair of the Department of Religion and Co-Director of the Institute of Religion, Culture and Public Life at Columbia University writes about their book, "Walking to New Orleans is an astonishingly informed and informative account of one of the major human, natural, and political disasters in recent memory. Having personally suffered the furor of Katrina, part-time New Orleans residents and longtime students of Louisiana history and Cajun culture, Robert and Deanne Ross have written a book that is must reading for anyone concerned about the implications of the interplay between our natural environment and political process for questions of social justice. Weaving together historical, theological, scientific, political and economic analysis, they create a compelling narrative about pressing issues whose significance extends far beyond this particular event. Not content with criticizing the mistakes of the past, the Rosses develop a richly suggestive notion of "Participatory Design," which can serve as a model for future development. Issuing an ethical challenge that we ignore at our own peril, this book is social criticism at its best." Donald Norman, author of "The Design of Future Things, and Things That Make Us Smart", Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Science, University of California, San Diego writes, ". . . a fascinating and important review of how society might unwittingly set itself up for failure. It is a powerful book."

More information about the book can be viewed on and on the publisher's website,

The All Souls Community Forum aims to broaden public awareness of issues involving social justice and environmental responsibility. The program resulted from successful workshops on economic justice that were presented last year by Jeannette Huezo of United for a Fair Economy. All Souls Church co-sponsored these programs with Unitarian Universalist churches in Quincy and Milton.    

The All Souls Community Forum featuring a co-author of "Walking to New Orleans," will be held at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, 196 Elm Street, Braintree 02184. For directions, visit

All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church of Braintree, MA: Open Hearts - Open Minds - Open Doors - A Welcoming Congregation - A Green Sanctuary.


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