For the first time since the devastating storm hit in 2005, leaving 80 percent of New Orleans under water, the city's population has now surpassed 300,000, according to numbers from the Census Bureau released last week.
"This reinforces what those of us who have been here working toward our recovery have known all along - that new Orleanians are strong, resilient, and committed to our city," the mayor's director of policy, Maggie Merrill said, reports The Associated Press.
Before the hurricane hit, the city's population was 455,000, the AP reports. Writer Deborah Cotton, whose love for New Orleans' music and culture inspired her to pick up and move to the Big Easy four years ago from California, points at a few more reasons behind the population surge and sheds light on some of the city's changing attitudes.
"More and more residents are coming back to the New Orleans after finally being able to get rebuilding grants from contractors," Cotton told BET.com. In addition, volunteers from the city's recovery efforts fell in love with the area and wanted to stay and contribute to its rebuilding.
But there has also been a shift in the city's demographics; “Blacks still hold the majority,” but not as much as in pre-Katrina days, she says, and the mood around the city is mixed.
"Quite honestly, this is a really hard time for us," Cotton said. There is a lot of racial tension, and certain city leaders are responsible for "stoking the fires of racial unrest," she said.
In 2006, on Martin Luther King Day, Mayor Roy Nagin famously stated that New Orleans would "be chocolate at the end of the day. This city will be a majority-African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be."
The underlying fear that "Whites don't want poor Blacks" to move back to New Orleans is still here, she said.
The political climate has also shifted since the storm, Cotton added. Citizens got online, became more active, found out information and started pressuring local government to be more accountable. Nagin's term ends next year.
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