Hi, my name is Shawna Beasely and I am a Partner Family with New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity. In January of 2011, I was 22 and living in Memphis, Tennessee. I was disillusioned with art school, depressed with what adulthood had presented and ready for an adventure. I bought a 40 dollar train ticket to New Orleans, and decided to try my luck. I had a velvet jacket my mother had given me, a green suitcase from the 60’s I had found at an abandoned midtown mansion, a few art supplies, some sandwiches I had made at a friend’s house, and a heart full of expectation.
In the 8 years since, I have moved, rented, fallen in and out of love, had magical Mardi Gras days, worked Christmases, been a street poet, semi-vagrant in the wilds of California, crossed oceans and back, been robbed twice, been gifted, been a waitress, pedicab driver, barista, bartender, walked to work in a tropical storm, sweated out my sheets after hurricane Isaac, lived in a shack, and have never, not for one day, stopped loving this city. I wish I could point to one thing. The music, the art, the culture, the weather, the houses looking more like looming pastel petit-fours, but I couldn’t say directly. Some things are just because they are, and more likely the culmination of innumerable miracles that we could never imagine, yet feel a kinship with because real can recognize real.
My mother is from upstate New York and my father is from Mississippi, where I was born. Although I have always lived in the south, I did not feel tied to either region. Like New Orleans, I am an amalgamation of southern expectations. It wasn’t until the age of 22 when I set foot on this ground that I ever felt ready to carry a legacy. I had visions of my children and grandchildren on white rocking chairs on the porch. I was stunned by the overwhelming sensation of familiarity. The sign when entering Mississippi says “Feels like coming home” –it’s the state motto. And for me it is my origin, but it wasn’t until New Orleans that I felt truly at home.
Much like falling in love, I made a commitment to my new home of New Orleans and have trusted and followed that first intuition. And that bond has been a gift to me. It has given me a path and a ballast to form my choices and energies around. So, when a friend of a friend asked to meet on election night of 2017, at Lost Love lounge to go over a mock application for this housing program, I was eager to meet. I had two great shocks that night. The first a happy one, that I was mostly likely eligible for this program, and the second the unfolding reality of the national election.
I am so grateful that there is a blessing like this program that will offer a single woman the opportunity to work for her own home. A century ago women who were single or single mothers would have trouble even being eligible for work, or to live alone at all in society.
This year is New Orleans 300th anniversary and I am so proud to be part of a continuation of a spirit of people coming together to build against odds, pioneering women and men who pushed for what they wanted and believed in their dreams.