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With black-owned bars disappearing in New Orleans, local photographer makes it his mission to preserve their legacy

"When they are no longer with us, who's to tell that story?" Harris said.

NEW ORLEANS — As this Black History Month draws to a close, a local writer and photographer has made it his mission to preserve a part of life in New Orleans he says is vanishing: Black-owned bars.

L. Kasimu Harris is a writer, photographer and artist based in New Orleans. He believes these bars are more than just a place to get a drink: They're a community gathering spot, and one that he's worked to chronicle.

Harris started the "Vanishing black bars and lounges" project in 2018 after he noticed many longtime African American bars were closing in New Orleans. 

"I felt I had to document what was going on because I was wondering: What would happen to culture when it's displaced?" Harris told WWL-TV photojournalist Mike Millon. 

The area that started Harris' project was St. Bernard Avenue between Claiborne Avenue and Rampart Street. Harris said there had always been six historically black bars on that stretch. But in 2017, he noticed there was only one left. 

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In an attempt to document this shift in culture, Harris spent time photographing and writing in black bars, not only about the places but        

Harris said it's vital that these bars remain. 

"Culture is what drives New Orleans, particular black culture. Be it the food, the music, the dance... When that bar closes, what happens to that culture that was practiced there?" Harris said.

Harris said as neighborhoods continue to change, he wants people to see what happens at these bars. 

"If these bars go undocumented, the stories that happened, the history that happened, it just goes with the people who carry them. When they are no longer with us, who's to tell that story?" Harris said. 

Harris will open an exhibit of his photos at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art on March 14. Visit his website here

Story shot by WWL-TV photographer Mike Millon

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