2020 “Writing the City” Winner: Cheree Franco

Left: Claiborne Avenue overpass, Treme, New Orleans, 2019, by Annie Flanagan for Places Journal; right: Cheree Franco.

We’re pleased to announce that Cheree Franco has been selected as the second recipient of our Writing the City award. Franco’s project, on the appropriated and “abandoned” landscapes of New Orleans, will explore displacement, gentrification, and spaces of resistance; “spaces that, on paper, are owned by the city or the state, but in practice have come to belong to the people who use them.”

Writing the City is a collaboration with Columbia Journalism School. Launched in 2017 with seed funding from Elise Jaffe + Jeffrey Brown, the project is continuing this year thanks to a generous grant from the Cravens Foundation. The award offers graduates of the Arts and Culture M.A. program at CJS, which is co-directed by David Hajdu and Alisa Solomon, the opportunity to participate in a limited competition to produce an original work of longform narrative journalism on a topic that might otherwise receive scant attention. In 2020, the award has a special emphasis on racial justice and social equity.

Cheree Franco is a New Orleans-based writer and a graduate of Columbia University and the University of Mississippi. She has reported from New York, Pakistan, the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, and around the deep south. Her writing has appeared in Huck, Juxtapoz, Vinyl Me Please, BOMB, Brooklyn Rail, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Arkansas Times, and VICE.

The first installment of Writing the City, “Shade,” by Sam Bloch, set a high standard. In a powerful and wide-ranging portrait of Los Angeles, Bloch argued that shade is a civic resource, a requirement for public health, an index of inequality, and a new mandate for urban designers. He is now under contract with Random House to expand his Places¬†essay into a book.

To learn more about the collaboration, read our conversation with David Hajdu, published last year.