As we reached the 5th anniversary of the man made disaster that Katrina became, there have been two narratives about what the state of things are in New Orleans and the Gulf. The lives and conditions of Black people get some attention in the main story being told but this is overshadowed by the main story. Much of it commemorates the tragedy, the loss of lives and the epic nature of the event and aftermath. It then goes on to highlight the tremendous progress that has been made in bringing the City back to a level that tourism is booming again.
Music is back, there are more restaurants, the Saints won the Superbowl. Yet there remain 100,000 New Orleanians spread across the country but cannot come back because there is not enough affordable housing, schools, health care and more, to meet their needs if they came back to their beloved city. Journalist Jordan Flaherty, author of “Floodlines” has laid out what the state of things really is as seen through the eyes of a Black spoken word artist. The Institute for Southern Studies reports that while community action has flourished, the President and the Congress have yet to deliver on the promises made by the Bush Administration and have not created a disaster and recovery policy that is adequate for protecting the area.
While CNN was rehabilitating former FEMA Director Michael Brown and President Obama was speaking to a group at Xavier University, local activists were in the streets protesting the lack of progress in providing affordable housing for thousands of low income African American residents who have not been able to return to their neighborhoods. Survivors Village went to the site of a the new Columbia Park development in the St. Bernard Community to educate the President about the corrupt nature of the property managers and how former residents are being kept out. The protestors said that “the community has been purged of poor people, turned over to Warren Buffet and his investor friends, and is being promoted as the future of public housing around the country.”
While the courageous residents and survivors in New Orleans continue their fight we can held them. Here is what Advocates for Environmental Human Rights asks us to do.
TAKE FIVE ACTIONS FOR CHANGE
- Tell President Obama and Congress to protect the right of U.S. residents to recover from a disaster and displacement by adopting the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.
- Demand that no more federal tax dollars be used to fund post-Katrina development projects that result in racial disparities in housing,healthcare, education, employment, and environmental protection.
- Tell the Obama Administration to aggressively pursue a determination that the outrageous actions taken by BP leading up to the April 20th oil rig explosion or involving the oil cleanup meet one or more of the five exceptions in the Oil Pollution Act that remove the liability limit and require BP to pay the full cost
of recovery for the people and the environment it has harmed.
- Tell President Obama and Congress to support the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act to create jobs for people in the Gulf Region and improve communities.
- Call on Congress to not retreat from climate change: set curbs on atmospheric carbon dioxide to below 350 part per million and support the resiliency of indigenous and poor communities who are vulnerable to climate change effects.