Big Easy Magazine’s 10 Most Engaging Stories of 2019

Photo by Gerd Altmann

This year has been filled with a lot of interesting, engaging, and frustrating news stories here in New Orleans. From Drew Brees and the Saints to charter schools and gun buybacks, 2019 has kept us on our toes. But which stories did our readers find most interesting this year? Here is our round-up of the top 10 most engaging stories from 2019:

Photo Credit: Desiree Bezuidenhout

#10 – Pothole Farms

Potholes are rampant throughout New Orleans – they’re the first thing that many visitors to the city notice. In Uptown, New Orleans residents Desiree Bezuidenhout and Ronnie Mackay decided to turn one large pothole near their homes into something special – a farm. Instead of being a useless car-killer, the mini-sinkhole is now used to grow watermelon, corn, and other vegetables, complete with its own scarecrow.

Photo courtesy of Enroll NOLA

#9 – The Rampant Inequity of the Charter School System

Officials are quick to tout the New Orleans all-charter school system as a success, but the data we covered in this report showed otherwise. Inequity is rampant throughout the school system, largely along racial lines. Students with disabilities are incredibly underserved, with 31 percent of New Orleans schools failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Discipline standards fail to serve Black students equitably, and in general, overall outcomes aren’t being achieved across the board for all students.

Photo credit: Chris Taylor, JRNOLA

#8 – Everyone’s Gunning for the Saints

It’s no secret that the Saints are the team that everyone loves to hate right now. In April, Chicago Bears Pro Bowl defensive lineman and former 2012 third-round draft pick Akiem Hicks turned on his former team, taking a shot at the Saints organization. Hicks took to Twitter saying that the Saints’ had been “whining” over their now-infamous loss to the Rams at the end of the 2018 season, and claiming the Bears’ defense would help the team beat the Saints in 2019. Of course, the Saints proved which team was better in October, handing the Bears a solid defeat, 36-25.

#7 – New Orleans Rap Artist Arrested for Sending Her Child to School in a Rideshare

In a case of “darned if you do, darned if you don’t” New Orleans rap artist Reiona Oliver (aka GameOva Ready) tried to send her child to school in a rideshare vehicle. Oliver’s license was suspended, and she was trying to get her child to school. The Lyft driver charged her for the ride, but instead of taking the rap artist’s child to school, instead drove them to the police station. This story was quite polarizing on social media, with some shaming the driver for not simply driving the child safely to school, and others criticizing Oliver for not riding along (she was ill) or finding another way to get the child to school.

Photo courtesy of SurferGirl30, Pixabay

#6 – The ATC Crack Down on CBD Sales

In a move that put the pinch on small businesses across Louisiana, the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) cracked down on businesses selling CBD oil products. Although the Agriculture Act of 2018 legalized hemp products containing less than 0.3 percent THC, the ATC stated that law conflicted with Louisiana state law and began issuing citations to any retail permit holder selling CBD products.

New Orleans Shotgun House

#5 – New Orleans’ Demographic Changes

New Orleans now has fewer Black residents, fewer families with children, and less affordable housing than ever before. Even more concerning, although New Orleans residents are more educated than they were in 2000, with 30 percent now holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, overall household incomes in the city are down – from 39,034/yr on average to 36,999/yr. When contrasted with a dramatic 30 percent rise in housing costs in the same time period, many long-time New Orleans residents feel they are being pushed out of their homes.

Photo by Anthony Quintano, Wikimedia Creative Commons

#4 – Sports Writer Barry Hirstius Predicted a Worsening Relationship Between the NFL and the Saints

After the NFL’s Competition Committee decided not to make any changes to its instant replay rules and non-calls made by NFL referees in February, Big Easy Magazine Saints writer Barry Hirstius predicted that the already somewhat sour relationship between the NFL and the Saints would become even worse. Instead of addressing what’s become known as the “NOLA No-Call,” the Committee instead decided to look at banning players from leaving the bench to celebrate touchdowns.

Mayor Cantrell Facebook

#3 – Mayor Cantrell’s Gun Buyback Day

In January of this year, Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced a gun buyback day, offering $500 “in cash” for working firearms with no questions asked. The mayor’s Facebook post quickly gained traction around social media and the internet, as well as in local media. Unfortunately, many residents were disappointed when they turned up to be given a voucher or gift card instead of cash. Making matters worse, the buyback hit its capacity of only 200 residents in only an hour – leaving many residents lined up around the block in the rain for nothing.

Photo courtesy of NOPD

#2 – 13-Year-Old Lynell Reynolds Sentenced to Juvenile Life

In August, 13-year-old Lynell Reynolds was given a juvenile life sentence – something that the child’s teachers, family, and local juvenile justice advocates had argued against. Reynolds had been found guilty of attempted second-degree murder. But teachers testified on his behalf at his sentencing, painting a portrait of a young man who had faced unimaginable trauma and violence, and who was in desperate need of treatment rather than jail. Dr. Denese Servington, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Tulane University said that Reynold’s past placed him in the top one percent of trauma victims.

Photo Credit: Seatacular

#1 – Drew Brees’ Focus on the Family Flap

New Orleans Saints’ star quarterback has been known as a friend to the local LGBTQ+ community, even appearing on Ellen. So it was somewhat shocking to discover that the sports icon chose to associate himself with one of the country’s top anti-LGBT religious organizations. Furthermore, the event Brees chose to promote was also co-sponsored by The Alliance Defending Freedom, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as a hate group. Many of the quarterback’s fans and the New Orleans LGBTQ+ community were confused and hurt by his choice to support these two organizations.

Jenn Bentley is a freelance writer whose work has also been featured in publications such as Wander No More, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News,, and others.

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