One year after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf coast, New Orleans still lies in ruins with rebuilding efforts moving at a snail's pace that serves a few while leaving out most. The question is who is getting left out and why? This is my second time in the city and I immediately hit the ground running hearing the stories not captured by the media. There's alot of them.
August 29th, the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, was a time to mourn, reflect and memorializing the dead. For me, it was important to be in solidarity with allies from Common Ground Lower Ninth Ward Project, People’s Hurricane Relief Fund, Labor Community Strategy Center, People’s Institute, and others around New Orleans. We marched from the Lower Ninth Ward to Congo Square. The sounds of big brass instruments, drums banging, stilt walkers in bright outfits, and singing flooded the air with dancers headed down to the square. As I walked along this parade route, the traditional route for Martin Luther King, Jr. parades, I couldn’t help but consider how racial politics has played a role in the recovery process.
Recovery and rebuilding has been painfully slow, similarly to local, state and federal government response to the storm itself. Neighborhoods that are low-income and predominately African-American were the most devastated by the failed levee system and continue to be the most disenfranchised in the rebuilding process. One year later there is no comprehensive rebuilding plan for New Orleans, rent has increased 50%, there are still neighborhoods without electricity, public housing is still closed, hospitals remain in shambles, collapsed houses and tons of debris clutter the streets. Neighborhoods in the lower ninth ward appear to be in a time warp, like Katrina happened yesterday.
As I consider the devastating impacts of Katrina, I can’t help to be reminded how petrochemical plants and oil corporations have been warming up the Gulf Coast for decades. The results are the sad impacts of increased storm activity, longer storm seasons and more violent storms. To me it’s like a combination of watching Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth”
and Spike Lee’s HBO documentary “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts”
at the same time. One of these films show the important reaseach and science that impact our environment and the other shows the painful underbelly of global climate change impacting the most vulnerable communities. Together, they paint an impecable picture and remind us that we must continue to keep connecting the ongoing impacts of global climate change
to the cost of human lives.