Baton Rouge has changed in the past few years. It has become vibrant in small corners and neighborhoods. These pockets of vibrancy will soon radiate and grow rhizomatically, like runners of grass, until we have a healthy and sustainable garden of urban life here. Maybe I’m just leaving the house more. Bloom where you’re planted, they say; so my list is blooming.

Remember the Rules (from Part I):

* The list cannot include restaurants, because otherwise it would be page after page of eateries. There are two exceptions, with explanations under each entry.

* The list cannot include people. There are too many good people here to include. Town is filled with wonderful folk, though.

February 2013

17. The Baton Rouge Entrepreneur Community

The entrepreneurial community, which is heavily “startup” focused, is young, tech oriented, and more urban and open minded than Baton Rouge old guard. Consequently, it’s responsible for bringing some life to the city. Ok, so the entire startup thing is fundamentally counter to everything I believe. Yet, it’s phenomenal for teaching things about communication, particularly regarding public speaking, group communication, and how people work in the “real world.” It has also introduced me to some great people in town. So the project offers fun and excitement on a different and surprising level. There are many groups and organizations that participate in this community, but SeNSE is the primary group since it is responsible for Pitch Night.

February 2013

16. Family Dinner Improv

The Family Dinner Improv troupe is a secret and it shouldn’t be. They perform free shows at Laser Tag on Sherwood every Friday night at 9:00 PM. Since it’s improv, the show is uneven, but even on slow nights, they’re very funny. They have a small but loyal following. Several of the performers also do standup around town. Free comedy, free good comedy. I keep looking for the catch, but there isn’t one. They don’t try to sell you a time-share condo or anything.

February 2013

15. Baton Rouge Progressive Network and Baton Rouge Community Radio WHYR 96.9 FM.

The little community radio station that could. BRPN  has been around for a while, and the radio station has been licensed for a while, but due to some political Machiavellianism by a local church who stole the airwave, the station couldn’t broadcast. Although community radio is valuable to building community in general, the stalwart efforts of BRPN in creating a progressive community in Baton Rouge is impressive. It’s a difficult task, exhausting just to think about, and yet they have persisted enough to create a small oasis in this political desert.

February 2013

14. BR Walls Project

The BR Walls Project creates public art in Baton Rouge by painting murals on the side of buildings. Murals are a common sight in urban settings, and the Walls Project brings color and life to our lifeless cityscape. Equally important, the entire process of making Walls itself –  fundraising, painting, and the reveal – entails community involvement. The whole thing is a giant celebration. It’s one grand block party that proves the value of art through enactment. It’s quite clever and inspired.

February 2013

13. The Red Stick Roller Derby

Women’s Roller Derby is on the rise nationally, and Baton Rouge has its own team. Roller Derby is wondrous; it’s brash, frilly, ballsy, rough and tumble, girl fun. There are boys’ teams too, but this is really all about the girls. Drew Barrymore’s 2009 movie, Whip It, has contributed to popularizing the sport. RSRD does flat track skating, not banked track like in the film. Also, in the sport, violence is not acceptable; instead, sportsmanship is valued. Still, there’s a good bit of rough-housing going on. It can be hard to follow because there’s so much to keep track of, it’s too fast, and there are too many arms and elbows in the way. The local team has just earned an apprenticeship with the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.

September 18, 2010

12. Ninja Snowballs and food trucks

Gourmet food trucks are a trend in urban areas, and some folks have decided to bring the trend here. Two faves are Ninja Snowballs and Taco de Paco (owned by the same folks). Now, a snowball is something uniquely Louisiana. People ask what a snowball is, thinking, “Oh, you mean an icie, like an Italian ice?” No. “Oh, you mean like a snow cone?” No. Snowballs are made of shaved ice, with the ice so thin that it resembles snow. It’s not crunchy like snow cones are. Italian Ices are heavier than snowballs. There’s no comparison. Snowballs, like snow cones, come in a variety of flavors, many of which are bizarre and fun: Wedding cake, king cake, orchid, tiger’s blood. Even more fun, you can add condensed milk to your snowball to make it insulin-shock-level sweet. The marketing for Ninja Snowballs is really catchy and cute. The only way you know how to find the truck is if you fan/like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter(ninjasnowballs), thus capturing the Ninja spirit.

September 18, 2010

11. Dialogue on Race Louisiana

Once part of the YWCA, a task force of Dialogue alum, including people who had been with the program since before its YW days, gathered to ensure it stayed strong after its director retired. The task force/community group morphed into an association and the number of Dialogues has multiplied and branched out to included Advanced Dialogues, Featured Topic Dialogues, practice dialogues, happy hours, and ongoing facilitator trainings and breakfasts. It’s Dialogue all the time.

The Dialogues make a difference in the community. People change their thinking as a result of participating and then leave the Dialogues to spread the message of anti-racism through their circles of influence. This can only be good. The work of anti-racism must being with where the community is emotionally, spiritually, and politically. Baton Rouge, located in the deep south, is in a unique and difficult place.