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USA, New Orleans - En uge efter Katrina
Katrina and the State
Kate, 8. september 2005
An autonomous take on the state's response to Katrina, including overviews of the Looting, Police, Jails, the Superdome and Evacuation from personal accounts, independent media and relevant news sources.
Today is Wednesday, Sept. 7th, 2005, exactly one week after the intense flooding of New Orleans began. Like the toxic waters, the horrific pictures of tragedy in New Orleans have begun to subside, being replaced with ’reassuring’ images of police in control and displaced residents finding temporary homes in sports arenas across the land. The eyes of the nation are being managed away from what those of us from New Orleans cannot ignore - the state of our city. That state is now a police state. While I am safe, nourished and extremely fortunate in Arizona, I am heartbroken and horrified by what is happening to my city and neighbors.
Independent media and first-hand accounts are very important to my understanding of world events. Every day, it seems more and more like the state is attempting to evacuate the city and spread its residents across the country for long enough to set up new lives. Many poor and black folks were given free rides OUT of New Orleans after Katrina, but how many will be given rides back in? How will their city be rebuilt?
Who will be awarded contracts to rebuild it? Who will do the awarding? What kind of rebuilding will happen? What will be the character of the neighborhoods after it is rebuilt? Who will populate this new metropolis? These questions and many more need to be continually asked of the government and of ourselves because New Orleans without the people is a body without a soul. Dead.
I have compiled what I believe are some excellent personal stories, personal emails and important information about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. At the end, I offer a few suggestions about local organizing that people where conscious people can contribute their support. I welcome feedback at Kate_EP@hotmail.com
RESCUE FROM HOUSES
Far from being the ‘anarchy’ described by the mainstream media, New Orleans’ biggest problems began when the city stopped auto and boating traffic from coming into the city. There are many first-hand reports of various relief organizations being refused entry into the city by bus and boat. In fact, there are so many that they are being collected at a website, http://amsam.org/2005/09/refused-help-why.html
The Red Cross’ official website explains “The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.” http://www.redcross.org/faq/0,1096,0_682_4524,00.html#4524 The Red Cross is very calmly stating a horrific fact - Homeland Security would rather starve and/or drown people than allow them to remain in their own city.
Sensational reports of gunfire directed at rescue helicopters have been a stock feature of media coverage. I don't intend to trivialize violence, but come on - gunfire is a daily fact of life in any city - and New Orleans is the murder capital of the nation. Due to this gunfire, the state continued to try and disallow voluntary rescuers. If you read the personal accounts of displaced residents, you will find at least as many as were rescued from homes by volunteer efforts as by state officials, probably more. Despite all of the state’s attempts, regular, everyday folk persisted and illegally entered the city and helped save thousands of people.
Carmaine Neville, local jazz and funk singer, described her experience of evacuating her 9th Ward home, rescuing neighbors to a school in a flatboat, finding food and feeding people, seeing many, many dead bodies, boating people to the Quarter and eventually ’stealing’ a bus to drive these folks out of town. In reference to the helicopters, she says, “A lot of those young men lost their minds because the helicopters would fly over us and they wouldn’t stop. We’d do SOS on the flashlight and everything. We kept seeing ‘em, but they never would stop and help. It came to a point. It really did come to a point where these young men were so frustrated that they did start shooting. They weren’t trying to hit the helicopters, but they figured they weren’t seeing. Maybe if they hear the gunfire, they will stop then, but that didn’t help us.” Video of this important first-hand account can be found at http://www.wafb.com/ under “CharmaineNeville: New Orleans Evacuee.”
The Washington Post reported that “More than 50 countries and a number of international organizations have offered aid and technical assistance. In Washington, the State Department has not accepted the help, but said it was analyzing needs. Some nations have made contributions directly to the American Red Cross.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/03/AR2005090301433.html?sub=new
But even as of today, WEDNESDAY, SEPT 7th, there are still many posts listing missing persons at http://www.nola.com/weblogs/nola/index.ssf?/mtlogs/nola_nolaview/archives/2005_09.html While the people of New Orleans and the rest of the country desperately tried to organize and save New Orleans residents from drowning, the government stepped in to force order on the situation. Absolute control of the situation, an impossibility, was more important to the state than the lives and misery of thousands of stranded New Orleans residents.
The government could have evacuated thousands of people by rail or with commercially chartered, municipal or school busses from within the region. Major rail lines services the Port of New Orleans. I can hear their screeching brakes from my home on any evening. None of these rail lines were used to provide a safe exit for a population that relies on mass transportation every day.
Charmaine Neville didn’t commandeer the only bus in New Orleans - eighteen-year-old Jabbor Gibson "jumped aboard the bus as it sat abandoned on a street in New Orleans and took control.” stated Houston NewsChannel 5, “The teen packed it full of complete strangers and drove to Houston.” The young man declared “"I dont care if I get blamed for it, as long as I saved my people." http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1476351/posts
The Port of New Orleans is the centerpiece of the world‘s busiest port complex - the lower Mississippi River. According to the Port of New Orleans, it is the only deepwater port in the US served by six class one railroads. “This gives port users direct and economical rail service to or from anywhere in the country.” http://www.portno.com/facts.htmI used to watch gigantic cruise ships and even larger barges full of train cars float in and out of the port on an hourly basis. Satellite photographs of the bridges of the Industrial Canal show them as up. These bridges link the Lower 9th Ward, the area now twenty feet under water, to the rest of the city and higher ground. With the future of electricity and power uncertain, were these left up so that industry could continue? Satellite photographs at located at http://www.spaceimaging.com/gallery/hurricanes2005/katrina/default.htm The Port of New Orleans announced today that it is set to resume commercial operations to load and unload vessels as early as Friday. http://today.reuters.com/investing/financeArticle.aspx?type=bondsNews&storyID=2005-09-07T204405Z_01_N07166197_RTRIDST_0_FOOD-KATRINA-PORT-UPDATE-2.XML
Not only did the government refuse to use all of these methods of transport themselves, they refused those who independently tried to evacuate the city. In their personal account, locals Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky describe Grenta police shooting at them as they tried to walk across the Crescent City Connection, from New Orleans to Gretna, and later, at dusk, “a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, ‘Get off the fucking freeway‘.” http://neworleans.indymedia.org/news/2005/09/4683.phpSuperdome evacuees were also prevented from crossing this same bridge, according to Fox news, as described below.
The Superdome, the well-publicized location where remaining residents could weather the storm in safety, failed on almost every count. First, the ceiling broke open, sun streaming in, as Hurricane winds tore off the roof. Then, sufficient water and food were also lacking. Eventually, even toilets were unusable. According to Malik Rahim, “People were told to go to the Superdome, but they have no food, no water there. And before they could get in, people had to stand in line for 4-5 hours in the rain because everybody was being searched one by one at the entrance.” http://neworleans.indymedia.org/news/2005/09/4209.php My friends, Jordan and Christina wrote a diary of their stay after the hurricane and went to a refugee camp. “Everyone has a story to tell, of a home destroyed, of swimming across town, of bodies and fights and gunshots and looting and fear. The worst stories come from the Superdome.” http://neworleans.indymedia.org/news/2005/09/4559.php
The arena was not a safe shelter, but a new city jail. People were seduced with promises of food and water and shelter at the Superdome, but when they arrived, they were treated to the most miserable of conditions. Even Shepard Smith and Geraldo Rivera went on FOX News, reporting live from the Superdome, simply asking the government to allow the residents of New Orleans OUT of the Superdome, to walk to water and food across the bridge in Gretna. You can view the video here http://www.crooksandliars.com/2005/09/02.html#a4763
Local organizer Curtis Mohhamad described the Superdome situation on Democracy Now: “the Mayor at one point goes into the Superdome and goes into the Convention Center, and says, ‘Just go walk. Don't wait for help. Just get on the highway and walk out of here.’ That actually happened. And they stopped them. They set up checkpoints and would not let the people leave the city for fear they were going to loot the dry towns, white towns, Kenner, Metairie up the road. And they started locking these shelters at night so people could not sneak away. And no help was still coming.” http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=05/09/07/1415225
Directnic.com is a large domain registration provider located in the Central Business District of New Orleans. They have managed to stay high and dry throughout the storm, never having lost connection once. These folks have posted hundreds of photographs on their website since the Hurricane. They posted pictures of two men who’d left the Superdome to escape to New Orleans. http://www.nola-intel.org/pictures3/Both men were very unhappy enough with the conditions there that they escaped to try their luck in a flooded city.
WATER AND FIRE
Governor Blanco shut off the water on Wednesday. This was due not to a health problem, but because of a potential contamination. New Orleans resident Claudia Copeland wrote, “They have shut off the tap water. They want to stem disease from drinking contaminated water, but at least if they gave us contaminated water, we could boil it.” Tap water in New Orleans comes from the Mississippi River, not any more polluted than it normally is. One poster on Indymedia wrote that while the water was shut off in the city, the natural gas was still functioning as of Thursday evening. Shutting off the water also contributed to one of the most obvious and immediate problems in the city - the lack of toilets and the over-flowing sewage.
Directnic.com posted a photograph of the first water distribution they’d seen on Canal Street (a major road) at http://www.nola-intel.org/pictures3/Picture074.jpg They wrote “People were happy to see water available,” that “Ironically the water is labeled “Nirvana’” and that “Everyone I asked said that this was the first time they noticed water dropped off.” http://www.nola-intel.org/pictures3/
Fires now ravage the city because the Fire Department cannot get water pressure to put out the fires. One fire at the Governor Nichols' Wharf, raging near my home, was extinguished only because it was next to the river and fireboats put it out with river water. http://www.nola.com/cgi-bin/prxy/photogalleries/nph-cache.cgi/cache=3000;/nola/images/3804/07_Fireworld1.jpg
The 1,600-member New Orleans Police Department has fallen to about 1,000 by Tuesday, said Warren J. Riley, NOPD assistant superintendent. http://2theadvocate.com/stories/090605/new_holdouts001.shtml There is widespread distrust of the police department in New Orleans with good reason. Not only is it well-known for its long history of corruption, but it maintained miserable policies and behavior through the recent years, as well. There have been ten killings of residents by police officers so far in 2005, including not one, but two separate indictments of police raping women while in uniform this year. Since moving to New Orleans in late 2004, my partner and I were frequently harassed by the cops and let's face it - we're white and have a place to sleep/food to eat. Not the biggest targets. We have been screamed at and threatened with arrest - once for sitting on a street curb during Mardi Gras and another time for sitting next to Lake Pontchartrain, having a quiet date eating biscuits and corn.
The NOPD dropped its veneer as a neutral law-enforcement organization and is revealed in all its renegade posse racist glory as this disaster struck. Police officers are now riding high in pick-up trucks, guns held high with a newly-designed NOPD/Pirate logo, complete with skull and cross-bones. http://www.nola.com/cgi-bin/prxy/photogalleries/nph-cache.cgi/cache=3000;/nola/images/3775/05_NOPD.jpg While the National Guard jokes with white French Quarter residents, http://www.nola.com/cgi-bin/prxy/photogalleries/nph-cache.cgi/cache=3000;/nola/images/3788/2088123.jpg , SWAT teams are invading black homes - “Leonard Thomas, 23, cries after a SWAT team burst into the flooded home he and his family were living in on Monday, Sept. 5, 2005” http://www.nola.com/cgi-bin/prxy/photogalleries/nph-cache.cgi/cache=3000;/nola/images/3785/08.jpg and shooting and arresting blacks.
In a striking show of the difference between New Orleans residents and government associates, the New Zealand Herald reported at 9:30am that “New Orleans police shot and killed four men and wounded one other after looters fired on officers.” Just half an hour later, the Herald Sun reported that “Associated Press reports that at least five people shot dead by police as they walked across a New Orleans bridge yesterday were contractors working for the US Defense department.” http://neworleans.indymedia.org/news/2005/09/4459.phpResidents have just as much right, if not more right, to walk on their bridges. This city does not belong to the government. It belongs to its residents.
One of the most horrifying possibilities is the very strong chance that imprisoned people have drowned in their cells while in jail. I received an email from a personal friend detailing one man’s escape - “do you know that (name omitted) and many others had to break themselves free from the prison cells, he said that hundreds in there did not make it, that they were left there to die. I hope to be going there myself next week, and (name omitted) will be coming back here with me and our son.” In one news report, News Day reported that New Orleans correction officer Shantia Barnes believes that many inmates may have drowned, including inmates housed on the first floor of the Templeman 3 building, where in the chaos, some inmates may have remained locked inside. http://www.newsday.com/news/local/longisland/ny-lioff05,0,4856723.story?coll=ny-linews-headlines
I also received an email from Xochitl Bervera of Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children who has contacted two separate grandmothers who lost their 16 year old grandsons as they were evacuating. After sitting on the causeway or in the convention center for 4 or 5 days, buses came. As they were boarding the buses, these youth were pulled out by cops for "pushing" and handcuffed there. That was the last time their grandmothers saw them. The lines between unruly and criminal are becoming increasing blurred, as politicians call for “zero tolerance” on looting in a resource-scarce area.
Lisa Kung of the Southern Center for Human Rights emailed information today stating that “FFLIC has not confirmed that all youths have been accounted for,” and “The NYTimes today reports that Sheriff Gusman claims the prisoners have all been moved outside the city. As of this morning, however, it seems the OPP computer system was still down, so it is hard to fathom how the Sheriff could credibly make such a claim. We have heard disturbing accounts of the evacuation of OPP. If you have any first or second person accounts, please send/forward here to my email firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com.” http://neworleans.indymedia.org/news/2005/09/4761.php
One glance at the makeshift Bus Station Jail shows that the New Orleans Injustice System is continuing arrest and lock-up folks with the same racist, unjust methods as before Katrina. Pictures show almost all black folks arrested, while every jailer is white. The color line is the same one I saw while sitting in a New Orleans court this summer - almost every prisoner was black, while the judge, lawyers and court clerks were white. It would take a several heaping spoonfuls of color-blindness to ignore this situation. It is not pretty, but this is unacceptable. From the rescue efforts to the racist prison system, this must stop now.
In the minds of the locals I’ve spoken with since departing New Orleans, looting had become a necessary evil in a city with little to no incoming distribution of resources like food and water. If you speak with locals, you will find out that the majority of the looting was done to share resources.
‘But what about the shoes and diapers?’ Well, if you can’t figure out the necessity of shoes and diapers in a situation like this, then I can’t help you here. ‘But a plasma TV?’ One must understand that New Orleans residents just had all of their belongings soaked by a flood. In a situation where there has been very little distributed food and water and no reliable information on how to get out of the city, illegal bargaining and plasma TVs can be very important for getting your family a bus ride. Resident Claudia Copeland, wrote an account of her departure from the city. She and her friends were driven out on a pirated bus which demanded $50.00 a ride, but the driver bargained down to get everyone out. This may sound callous, but this bus driver was helping people through the night when the government and relief agencies would not or could not. http://neworleans.indymedia.org/news/2005/09/4048.php
Instead of focusing on the vast need for transportation and food, Governor Kathleen Blanco sent in 300 National Guard troops who landed in New Orleans fresh from duty in Iraq, stating "They have M-16s and they're locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill, and they are more than willing to do so, and I expect they will.“ As with the Kent State massacre and Tien'amin Square, she hoped to send in troops from afar when the local troops just won’t shoot their fellow residents. Thus far, it seems that the National Guard has done less killing than the local SWATs, but this situation still needs attention.
In an illustration of just how rampant illegal resource-gathering became, even the New Orleans Police Department were ‘caught’ on videotape while looting a Wal-Mart. http://www.zippyvideos.com/8911023771013466/countdown-looting-in-walmart/ The Arizona Republic reported that its local sheriffs “watched New Orleans police officers loading their patrol cars with items taken from various businesses, including a Wal-Mart, a couple of pharmacies, a hardware store, an auto-parts store and a grocery store.” This was quickly explained away by their chief, who said "The worst thing we could do is judge what happened. They were besieged." http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0907katrina-looting07.html If looting is explainable and acceptable for police, who have all the state’s support, it is certainly acceptable for New Orleans residents to meet their desperate needs during the crisis.
One might think that hospitals would be at the top of the list to be evacuated. I received two separate emails illustrating that this is not the case in New Orleans. One nurse writes “I was working at Charity Sun. Aug. 28 to Fri. Sept. 2 during the storm. It was a nightmare. We, all staff and patients were evacuated from the roof of Charity on Friday. . . The truth of this whole thing must see the day of light!” Another email was a frantic plea for help on Thursday, Sept. 1st from a friend of Kim Keene, in charge of Touro Infirmary. “Yesterday they had 4 hours of generator time left, were stranded on the 2nd floor and above, and had 1200 people (patients and staff). Looters were banging at the door and they only had a handful of security guards. She is trying to find a way to get the people out as they had no water, limited supplies and with no electricity there is no life support and people will start dying. Trouro, an independent Jewish hospital in the garden district, has been completely ignored- it has not been put on the emergency evacuation plan and no news stations or papers have covered what is happening there. She called desperate to get someone to notice them.”
In a third story about another hospital, the Raw Story interviewed Bill Quigley, who was volunteering at Memorial Hospital, where his wife, Debbie, works as a doctor. They write, “The power went out early Monday. The sickest patients, roughly seventy or so, were evacuated by helicopter Sunday. Not until Wednesday morning did more helicopters appear. Quigley and other volunteers tried to get the attention of the numerous helicopters they could see hovering over the city.” Furthermore, “As the hours and days wore on and no help came, floodwaters continued to rise. Medication and supplies ran out. Quigley says he saw no National Guard, local or state police or security forces of any kind. Around midday on Thursday, air boats operated by private volunteers began arriving and taking four or five persons at a time. The remaining hospital patients and staff – approximately 2000 people -- were evacuated by citizen volunteers.” http://rawstory.com/news/2005/Lethal_chaos_Law_professor_describes_scene_at_New_Orleans_ho_0905.html
These are three different personal stories from three different hospitals indicating, yet once again, the massive failure of the government to help those most needy during Hurricane Katrina.
Even the state senator, Mary Landrieu, said “But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment. The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast - black and white, rich and poor, young and old - deserve far better from their national government.” http://www.fromtheroots.org/story/2005/9/3/19542/97952
U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon’s chief of staff, Casey O’Shea told the Times-Picayune that three tons of food ready for delivery by air to refugees in St. Bernard Parish and on Algiers Point sat on the Crescent City Connection bridge Friday afternoon as air traffic was halted because of President Bush’s visit to New Orleans. “We had arrangements to airlift food by helicopter to these folks, and now the food is sitting in trucks because they won’t let helicopters fly,” O’Shea said Friday afternoon. It was not reported whether the supplies ever actually made it to those who most needed it. http://www.nola.com/weblogs/print.ssf?/mtlogs/nola_Times-Picayune/archives/print076556.html
Across the Atlantic, two German news stations were aghast at the level of grandstanding by the President. ZDF News’ correspondent Claudia Rueggeberg stated, “Along his [Bush] travel route aid units removed debris and recovered corpses. Then Bush left and along with him, all aid troops left too. The situation in Biloxi remains unchanged, nothing has arrived, everything is still needed." http://www.warandpiece.com/blogdirs/002504.htmlThen, Christine Adelhardt, of ARD Video, said “But what has happened in Biloxi all day long is truly unbelievable. Suddenly recovery units appeared, suddenly bulldozers were there, those hadn't been seen here all the days before, and this in an area, in which it really wouldn't be necessary to do a big clean up, because far and wide nobody lives here anymore, the people are more inland in the city. The President travels with a press baggage [big crew]. This press baggage got very beautiful pictures which are supposed to say, that the President was here and help is on the way, too. The extent of the natural disaster shocked me, but the extent of the staging is shocking me at least the same way.” http://www.dailykos.com/comments/2005/9/3/22494/85287/77#77
What was the president doing here, other than bolstering his position in the polls? For any presidential visit to any city at the best of times, large areas of the city along the president's route are blockaded and air traffic over certain areas is halted for security reasons. Unless the President dares to walk the streets unguarded, something this man apparently knows not to risk, he should be devoting his time and efforts to delivering support to the region. These stories speak for themselves. The mission is, apparently, not accomplished. New Orleans and other affected by the storm need real, on the ground support. We expect more when it comes to rebuilding the city.
The disaster will definitely go down in history as one of the worst in this country. It brings Pompeii to mind. Atlantis is frequently mentioned. I would much prefer the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake or the 1871 The Great Fire in Chicago, IL or even Dresden, Germany. These cities rebuilt. The government is attempting to evacuate this city, quite possibly in order to drown it or burn it for good. Pundits from the US and other nations suggest that it should be allowed to die. However, this was one of the strongest cities in the nation. No other city matches New Orleans for the culture and music and resistance and community that I heard from regular, everyday folks in that city.
This hurricane and flood are much much worse than Sept. 11th. As a volunteer EMT wrote, “I was in New York during September 11 and the weeks that followed and I say the following with complete certainty: this disaster is so much worse than September 11 that they are not even comparable.” http://neworleans.indymedia.org/news/2005/09/4046.php The death toll will be much higher and those affected will not be stock-brokers - it will be the black and poor. For those who lose a loved one, it is not just one person dead, but entire families and communities who lose their loved ones, then their houses, then their jobs and finally their entire community and city. The first two days of this disaster was a natural disaster - the days since have been purely man-made.
The first thing on many New Orleans’ residents minds is when we can return. Some outsiders characterize this as naive and foolish. I wonder, how would they react if someone told them to simply walk away from their entire lives? New Orleans is our home and even days away, many of us already miss our community and neighborhoods. While the mayor has called for complete evacuation of the city, the feds have refused to evacuate people from their homes. This contradiction in authority and chain of command has left many still in the city. The biggest concern for myself right now is the contamination levels in the city from nearby petrochemical plants and the flooded city. Again, the only thing to do is wait.
While the National Guard and New Orleans Police Department keep New Orleans’ residents from their homes, people from other areas of the Gulf South, including nearby Jefferson Parish, are allowed to return to collect belongings and board up homes. http://www.nola.com/cgi-bin/prxy/photogalleries/nph-cache.cgi/cache=3000;/nola/images/3792/9.jpg One might think that this is due to flooding or some electricity, but many areas of Jefferson Parish are still flooded and without electricity. This, again, is an issue of class and race and control.
The Mayor declared a mandatory, forced evacuation yesterday, http://www.nola.com/cityofno/ but active-military troops said they had no plans to use force, according to this story at the Arizona Republic. http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0907KatrinaNewOrleans07-ON.html However, as his troops prepared for a massive citywide security mission on Friday, Brig. Gen. Gary Jones told the Army Times “This place is going to look like Little Somalia. We’re going to go out and take this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control.” http://www.armytimes.com/story.php?f=1-292925-1077495.php
These contradictions in bureaucracy are allowing some New Orleans residents to remain in the city. Their presence there is vital to the city’s survival - if they leave, then those who believe New Orleans should go the way of Atlantis have a far greater chance of succeeding. Personal stories and information will not go in and out of the city. Consciously or not, they act as both witnesses and obstructions to government oppression. Wherever non-governmental New Orleans residents reside, the government will not succeed in a complete police state.
There are several very real ways that you can begin to support displaced New Orleans residents. We are not refugees. We are displaced residents. Our city may be underwater, but the community is the heart of the New Orleans. The community is the reason I moved there and the key to rebuilding a flourishing city, not a sanitized Theme Park.
New Orleans residents open our city to thousands of visitors each year, but there is much much more to the city than Bourbon Street and Café du Monde. There are the neighborhoods, which provide the basis for the community. One of the first things a new resident must learn upon moving to New Orleans are all the different neighborhoods - “the Treme (the first free black neighborhood in the entire US), Uptown, Mid-city, the Marigny, Central City, the 9th Ward, the Lower 9th Ward, Gentilly, to name just a few. The flavor and heart of each neighborhood are its people.
There are the people. Some of these people now lie underwater and their lives must be remembered and cherished as much as their deaths. These people are not statistics - they are sons and daughters, parents and grandparents. They are community.
Some of these people remain in the city, acting as eyes and ears to the rest of the nation about the real story of Katrina. They are the resilient community. Continuing independent operations to distribute food and water to New Orleans residents appears as necessary now as over the past week.
The remaining displaced New Orleans residents have been spread across the country. In the words of my friend, Glenn, “I feel like I am not going to see any of my friends again for a really long time, like all the crazy stuff that randomly went into people being in New Orleans has unraveled and we are all spread across the country. I am pretty sad about the whole thing. I'm at least 5th generation New Orleanian, so I want to go back no matter what. I fear for the future, when everything gets torn down and property speculators come in and buy it all up. What a fucking mess.“ Jobs for rebuilding New Orleans and help with homes should go first to New Orleans residents, especially those who need it most. We deserve and will need a chance to participate in fixing our city.
If you would like to financially or personally support some local, class- and race-conscious organizers to do on the ground support for displaced New Orleans residents, I recommend the three following organizations. I do not work for any of these groups, although I have supported them in the past, because they did good work in New Orleans prior to Katrina and they are continuing this after she left.
Friends and Families of Louisiana Incarcerated Children has called for volunteers to help them with getting families in touch with theirimprisoned or arrested children. You can also donate money to “FFLIC Hurricane Relief Fund” at 920 Platt Street, Sulphur, Louisiana, 70663. You can contact them by writing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting http://www.fflic.org
Community Labor United, a coalition of the progressive organizations throughout New Orleans, has brought community members together for eight years to discuss socio-economic issues. They have set up a People's Hurricane Fund that will be directed and administered by New Orleanian evacuees and you can find more info about donating at http://www.qecr.org/index.html
Critical Resistance is a national prison abolition organization that has a chapter in New Orleans. They are also organizing to provide local support in to help folks recover and rebuild. You can donate to them at http://www.criticalresistance.org/index.php?name=Support-CR
New Orleans Indymedia needs help with original stories and coverage. It is one of the best resources for local, personal accounts of the hurricane. http://nola.indymedia.org Especially in times of crisis like that currently raging, we need current coverage and New Orleans residents’ stories.