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Tuesday, August 21, 2018
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Louisiana Public Square
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Panelist Bio


Martha J. Kegel
Executive Director of UNITY of Greater New Orleans

Martha J. Kegel is an attorney and Executive Director of UNITY of Greater New Orleans, an award-winning collaborative of 60 agencies providing housing and services to end and prevent homelessness in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana.

Since Katrina, UNITY has worked to rebuild its member organizations and homeless housing, launched a landmark initiative to create 3000 new units of Permanent Supportive Housing as part of the state hurricane recovery programs, partnered with Common Ground Community to develop supportive housing for the chronically homeless, and developed http://www.unityhousinglink.org to assist New Orleanians in finding affordable housing despite widespread destruction of rental units.

Ms. Kegel is an adjunct professor at Loyola University School of Law and has taught disability law at Tulane University’s School of Social Work. She was the 2002 recipient of the Louisiana State Bar Association’s Career Public Interest Award.

Ms. Kegel holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Drake University and a juris doctorate degree from Stanford Law School, where she was an editor of the Stanford Law Review. She clerked for the Hon. Henry A. Politz, the late Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Ms. Kegel is a past recipient of a Skadden Fellowship from the law firm of Skadden, Arps, for legal assistance to the poor.

She formerly directed the Homeless Legal Advocacy Project at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services/New Orleans Legal Assistance, where she focused on disability, employment, and civil rights law.

She was Executive Director and Staff Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, and served as Associate Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. Ms. Kegel formerly was a reporter and editorial writer.

Current Topic


     08/18 - The Power of Reading

How can we make inroads to improve adult literacy in Louisiana and champion a joy of reading from pre-school into adulthood?
The ability to read sets the foundation of who we are and what we can be. Through reading we expand our world, learn new things and increase our base of knowledge. In fact, a parent’s reading level is the greatest factor in a child’s academic success. Children who can’t read proficiently by the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

In Louisiana, 20 percent of adults are illiterate – five points higher than the national rate. How is Louisiana combatting its illiteracy problem across generational lines? How can we make inroads to improve adult literacy in Louisiana and champion a joy of reading from pre-school into adulthood?

Louisiana Public Square: The Power of Reading looks for answers and explores the value of lifelong reading through the lens of the PBS series The Great American Read Wednesday, August 22 at 7pm on LPB and in New Orleans on WLAE. (Recorded Tuesday, August 14 in the Magnolia Performing Arts Pavilion at Baton Rouge Community College.)

Our panelists are:
- Linda-Marie Barrett, Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA)
- Rebecca Hamilton, MLIS; Louisiana State Librarian
- Danny Heitman; Journalist and Louisiana author
- Miranda Restovic, Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (LEH).
- Gary Robertson; Adult Literacy Advocates

The program features interviews with John Cavalier, owner of Cavalier House Books; Gary Robertson, Executive Director of Adult Literacy Advocates; representatives from the LEH PRIME TIME intergenerational reading program, and Superintendent John White with the Louisiana Department of Education.

LPB CEO Beth Courtney and Robyn Merrick, Southern University VP of External Affairs, host the show.

Louisiana Public Square can also be heard on public radio stations WRKF in Baton Rouge; Red River Radio in Shreveport and Monroe; and WWNO in New Orleans. Check their station websites for schedule.

This episode of Louisiana Public Square is underwritten by Community Coffee’s Cash for Schools Program, the Louisiana Forestry Association, LSU Press and the Southern Independent Booksellers’ Authors Round the South.

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Special Presentation


     05/16 - Louisiana Veterans Coming Home

What challenges do our returning veterans face?

Coming Soon!


     09/18 - Revisiting Reform

Are the criminal justice reforms working as intended?

Recent Topics


     07/18 - Preventing Suicide

How is Louisiana addressing its suicide problem?

     06/18 - Louisiana: Sportsman’s Paradise or Problem?  (ENCORE)

Is Louisiana a Sportsman’s Paradise or Problem?

     05/18 - News About the News

How can viewers distinguish between fact and fake news and is social media blurring the difference?

     04/18 - Balancing Eldercare

How much does Louisiana spend on nursing homes versus home and community-based care?
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