Monday, August 28, 2006

Can't Stay Quiet: One Year After Katrina

I know I said I'd take a break but as people all around the country remember and commemorate (a strange word, I think, but that's what people are calling it) the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I find myself unable to stay silent in this very public space. A few things...

...I've added a banner for the Katrina Information Network, through which you can sign up for email alerts about Katrina-related events and actions.

...One year later, I wonder, what has changed? There is a still-unresolved human toll that Katrina took on the people of the Gulf Coast. I went to a great panel the other night organized by the Center for Third World Organizing and TIGRA of women leaders from the US, Philippines and Bolivia. One of the women, Latosha Brown from Saving Our Selves, an organization of Katrina survivors, who spoke of how this anniversary is triggering people's trauma of having lived through such horror and violence, and how two of the organizers she worked with had been killed by their partners, who then killed themselves, in recent weeks. She spoke of how people in the region are having 'meltdowns', as she called them, many finding it difficult if not impossible to cope with the memories of this terrible time last year.

...And although it's frustrating to feel helpless in the face of chronic racism (especially directed at Black Americans) and the systemic causes of poverty and suffering in this country, I know that the little and not-so-little things I do everyday are making a difference, step by small step. From challenging subtle and not-so-subtle anti-Black racism within the predominantly people of color organizations I work within, to challenging this racism within myself and my circles, to giving money to key groups that are doing work to rebuild the Katrina-devastated south, to writing this blog post, there are many things I (and all of us) can do to help change things.

One way I'm trying to contribute is by devoting my time as a board member/fundraiser to help coordinate the Asian Pacific Environmental Network event on Friday, Oct. 13, which will feature Father Vien from New Orleans, who has been working with the Viet community in solidarity with African-Americans there to stop the locating of a toxic dump of Katrina-related waste into their neighborhood.

Of course, I want to do more. I am glad that Project South and other groups are pulling together the first-ever United States Social Forum for next year. Modeled on the World Social Forums that have been taking place in the Global South (the new, more accurate term for the 'Third' or 'developing' world) over the past several years, which have brought together thousands of activists from all over the world to network, educate each other and strategize about how to fight the onslaught of global capital and imperialism, this Forum will be a landmark event for US-based organizations.

I can't wait to watch Spike Lee's new documentary, "When the Levees Broke". I've heard it's powerful. You should watch it too. It's the least anyone can do to 'commemorate' the Katrina anniversary. Color of Change is trying to help people organize viewings of it tomorrow night.

Two key pieces of media/culture during this time: The Legendary KO's 'George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People' Radio mix and Eric Mann's recently released book, Katrina's Legacy: White Racism and Black Reconstruction in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

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