Sassafras LA (Olivia Bourgeois, Ronnie Collins, Alex Naquin, & Caroline Guidry) Born 1994-1995, Galliano, Larose, & Cut Off, Louisiana

CG:  There was just kind of this feeling in the air... we could just look left and right and we’d have neighbors who were shrimpers and we’d have friends who were affected, whether their parents’ business were shut down or whether their parents were helping to clean up.  It was a weird feeling.  Because like Alex said, it was our way of life.  It’s not just about jobs or anything, you know, this is who we are.

I know we all kind of felt like we weren’t getting help and we felt innocent.  Because for a state that contributes so much to the U.S. economy, we felt like we deserved more, more help, more response, quicker response.

The thing is, we called a lot of people, we said, “Can we volunteer?” at the time of the oil spill. “Can we volunteer for beach clean-ups? Can we do this?  Can we do that?” We volunteered to do anything and we were shut down every time.

AN: We had a lot of students that could have gone out.  They said, “No. You 18?”  And they said, “No, we don’t want you.” I think it should be rewritten, say if you have parent consent and you’re working with like a school or organization, it should be allowed.  Because we could have done a lot of things, something simple. 

CG: So Alex and I were sitting in that world geography class, watching the oil spewing from the well. We were angry, we knew we had to do something so we just kind of put our heads together and came up with Sassafras.  We met at the library. We came up with a mission: bringing the youth together in the restoration and preservation of Louisiana.

CG: We’ve always been a resilient people, you know, the Cajuns.

RC: We’re not going to put our tail between our legs and hide at the first sign of trouble.

AN: No.  We’re going to get in your face and tell you.

RC: We’re going to come head butt you.

CG: And Sassafras, the name kind of comes from the fact that sassafras is the tree which file comes from.  File is a Cajun Creole spice. We use it in gumbo, and like gumbo brings food together, we wanted to bring the youth together.  So it just all kind of made sense to us. 

OB: Especially when something bad will happen or something good will happen, you’ll have people from the community, your close friends and your family and just people in the community itself will just support everybody.

CG: And a big theme in Sassafras is that we were born here, we grew up here, and we plan to grow old here.  And so the oil spill just opened our eyes to the fact that Louisiana isn’t in good shape.  Our coast is disappearing.

Full Interview with Sassafras LA