The Jefferson ballroom at the Hilton Riverside hotel buzzed with chatter and excitement about the R&B recording artist that was soon to enter the room. Security was forced to bring Usher through an alternate entrance as he came to visit the Dillard community, June 12.
Entertainer, Usher Raymond IV arrived to a room of eagerly awaiting students packed with fans and inquiring minds alike.
Freshmen accounting major, Reondra Hughes, from Dallas is a huge fan but knew he was here for other reasons that just to visit his fans. Although he’s probably here to encourage us to participate in the rebuilding efforts, “I’m just happy and so excited and I’ve been a fan for a long time.”
Juan LaFonta, who brought the star to Dillard, as an incentive, explained how important the student body of Dillard has helped in the rebuilding of New Orleans. Usher helped begin Project Restart, a non-profit organization to help families find housing in the GulfCoast area.
Usher’s reason for visiting was to hear the stories of those affected by hurricane Katrina. He felt for the students and their experiences. “I couldn’t fathom the reality of loosing family members, but I do have a heart that feels for each and every person.”
Several students shared their experiences with him, some traumatic and some encouraging. He told the audience that they were prime examples of what this city needs to rebuild. Project Restart was formed in October to help restart the lives of people in the path of Katrina and Rita.
Usher expressed that he felt it was important to be here.”I want to offer my time, my heart and voice so that this tragedy is not forgotten. It’s very hard to imagine what you had to endure. The least I could do is offer my time.” He continued to say, “I want to encourage you to follow behind. I also congratulate each and every one of you. You are all amazing individuals.” He says he felt as if he was acting as a mediator to the media to tell the issues that New Orleans is still dealing with.
Many of the students who got the chance to personally tell Usher what they went through shared testimonials of their return to Dillard and support those who came back. Senior, DeAundra Moon, congratulated the class of 2006. “I want to commend you for coming back and to stay strong and encouraged.”
Usher physically gave his time because he believes that there are still outstanding issues. “Part of fixing the problem is understanding it. I know that there is somewhat a disconnect between the governor and mayor.” The five- time Grammy award winner uses his talent as a mechanism for change.
The session ended in applause as Rance Johnson gave his views about the aftermath of the hurricane. It seems like “Anderson Cooper is the only person on a world wide level who still knows and cares” about the real situation after the hurricanes. The audience seemed to agree. In response Usher had this to say.
“I give my celebrity friends the same charge because the story is not being told the right way.”The following day student volunteers joined Usher at the International School of Louisiana to aid in clean-up efforts.
For more information about how you can help, visit www.handsonnetwork.org