Last week, we spoke with Deborah Freda and Koggie M. Hakenjos, two members of our 2013 convention’s Host Committee, about why they’re excited to host the 47th AAUW National Convention in New Orleans. They shared what their hometown means to them and some of their favorite memories from past conventions. Today, we continue that conversation with Barbara Harris, who is helping coordinate our volunteers, and Jan Koellen, who is our public relations and hospitality chair.
What is your favorite place in New Orleans?
Koellen: I love the river because it’s had such a profound impact on the lives of the people there. You don’t usually see the river unless you’re walking on the levee, but you always feel it. From the Riverwalk, you can see everything that makes New Orleans: the beignets, café au lait, pralines, voodoo gris-gris, and farmers market art, along with jewelry and food and jazz clubs. Just down Decatur Street, St. Louis Cathedral is the backdrop for Jackson Square with all the artists, tarot card readers, and street performers who surround it. Turn around and there’s the river filled with barges, tankers, ships, and paddle wheelers. At the ferry access, there’s a free ride across and back to see the river as it flows past the city.
Harris: I’m a docent at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Friday nights we have entertainment with great musicians and lectures by famous artists. I hosted a group of students from Denmark last spring and took them to hear the New Orleans Gospel Choir and see Thornton Dial, an extraordinary artist whose work was being displayed.
What is your favorite memory from a past AAUW convention?
Koellen: I’ve loved the big gatherings where everyone was inspired by the panel discussions and speeches. I also enjoyed getting to know individual members in the smaller workshops, between sessions, and at the cocktail event. I’d also have to include the tour of AAUW HQ in 2011, where I learned so much about the history and women that I hadn’t known about and also met current staff and interns.
Why is the convention’s focus on Leading across Generations important to you?
Koellen: We had a dinner to celebrate the 130th anniversary of AAUW, and I met many of the older members of our branch who were crucial to the branch’s vitality. I love working with our older members and the experience they bring but also want to find things to bring in new members. It’s clear that younger women are becoming aware of the need to speak for their own equality, and I believe we are a more powerful force for change together rather than alone.
What would you tell friends who are on the fence about coming to inspire them to register for convention?
Harris: I would tell them that they would be missing the opportunity of a lifetime. I would give them a description of the last convention I attended. Most importantly, I’d tell them of the differences we have made in society — both in the past and what we are doing now, with laws that have been passed in Washington.
Describe New Orleans in one word.
Harris: The New Orleans Museum of Art has a fabulous wall mural where the artist was asked to paint New Orleans, and he entitled it Forever. It’s a very vibrant piece, and I think “vibrant” would be the best word to describe the city’s combination of food, music, culture, races, literature, art, and a passion for all.
Koellen: I’d say a gumbo, because New Orleans is a mix of so many cultures, flavors, music, and architecture that has developed into a unique blend only found in this one place. Also, it represents enjoyment in all things because there is such rich sensation in all the experiences there, and it’s a place that knows how to relax and have a good time.
Join Barbara, Jan, Deborah, and Koggie to hear Lilly Ledbetter, Melissa Harris-Perry, and more exciting speakers at the 2013 National Convention in New Orleans! Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, 125 years of AAUW fellowships and grants, and 131 years of AAUW Leading across Generations June 9–12 in the New Orleans Sheraton Hotel.
Register for convention today to take advantage of our best-value rates!
This post was written by AAUW Member Leadership Programs Associate Ryan Burwinkel.