Monday, November 28, 2005

Indian Communities STILL Left Behind

Hurricane Relief Needed in Native American Communities of Southern Louisiana

November 28, 2005 - The Native American tribes of the Biloxi Chitimacha, Houma, and Pointe-au-Chien of the southern Louisiana bayous continue to face a monumental struggle in channeling relief efforts to their tribal members devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

For many communities, grassroots donations and volunteers are the only consistent assistance, and government aid is still not meeting the people's housing and rebuilding needs which will run into the millions of dollars.

Immediate assistance is needed in the form of skilled and unskilled volunteers, trades-people, contractors, builders, roofers, framers, landscapers, organizers, health and community-care workers, computer/communications techs, and others who can work in solidarity, mutual aid with these communities.

Mobile kitchen resources are needed to help feed large work camps - particularly during the upcoming holiday seasons and spring break 2006.

The following donations are requested:
  • Gift cards from Lowes or Home Depot to buy building materials and tools.
  • Mattresses, sheets, towels, pillows and blankets.
  • Appliances, space heaters, shelves, dressers and other basic home items.
  • Cribs, diapers, wipes, clothes and other baby items.
  • Clothes suitable for work and school.
  • Healthy, easily prepared food is still needed in moderate quantities.
  • Monetary donations are always appreciated and assist with the day-to-day needs of volunteers and community members.

    With great respect for the pride and good humor displayed by the bayou communities, assistance is still needed in this area. Decades of government neglect continue to leave these strong people vulnerable to natural disasters, and some community members are living in damaged and moldy buildings unrepaired from hurricanes years ago. Elder care and cultural preservation are deep concerns. Please act in solidarity with these Native American communities as they work to rebuild their homes and way of life. Make whatever donations you can. Come to Louisiana and make a difference.

    For more information visit Four Directions Relief Project online at You can also email Fourdirections (at)
  • Saturday, October 08, 2005

    Support Native American Communities

    Hurricane Relief Needed in Native American Communities of Southern Louisiana

    October 7, 2005 - The Native American tribes of the Houma, Pointe-au-Chien, and Biloxi Chitimacha of southern Louisiana have faced a monumental struggle in channeling relief efforts to their tribal members devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. For many communities, government aid has been virtually absent and supplies are only coming in from grassroots relief efforts.

    Though hope and humor persist, the challenge continues to grow. The more populous indian communities in Terrebonne Parish such as Dulac, DuLarge, Grand Caillou, Montegut, Pointe-au-Chien and Isle de Jean Charles escaped extensive damage from Hurricane Katrina but became victims to the storm surge of Hurricane Rita. Another 4000 people were forced from their homes by eight feet of flood waters and a four inch layer of mud.

    The rising tides from Hurricane Rita also breeched recently repaired levees in Plaquemines, St. Bernard and lower Jefferson Parishes, re-flooding communities that were beginning to dry out from the 150 mph winds and storm surge caused by Hurricane Katrina. There is concern, that without immediate assistance in the form of elder care, cleaning, and rebuilding of damaged homes, community members may move away from the area fragmenting traditions and culture.

    Despite the compassionate aid that has flowed into the these communities, STORM RELIEF IS STILL AN URGENT NEED. Supplies needed include:

    1) Cleaning materials like bleach, soap, mops, squeegees, brushes, sponges, rubber gloves, and mold-rated respirators.
    2) Sheets, linens, towels and other basic household items.
    3) Construction materials including tools, saws, hammer/nails/screws, plywood, roofing materials, paneling, etc.
    4) Toiletry items like tooth-brush/toothpaste, tampons/pads, brushes, soap, and other hygeine products.
    5) Baby items such as diapers, formula, clothes, cribs/bedding, personal items.
    6) Children's needs like reading and coloring books, school supplies, packpacks, bedding.
    7) Campers, RVs, trailers and other forms of temporary housing, especially for elders.
    8) Gas and gift cards for stores like Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart and gas stations.

    In addition to supplies, VOLUNTEER WORK TEAMS ARE URGENTLY NEEDED including:

    1) Household cleaning teams to help clean and scrub houses of mud and mold.
    2) Construction teams to help rebuild homes, businesses and provide temporary housing.
    3) Educators and child-care assistants to help with child-care needs for those who have lost their homes.

    Long term FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE is also needed. Many of the those affected make thier living as commercial fishermen. Due to the damage to boats and ports, clogged waterways, pollution impacts, and a lack of processing facilities, a Fishery Resource Disaster has been declared for the Gulf of Mexico. Economic assistance may become an important need for families without reliable income or government aid.

    To coordinate work teams across the region and focus undirected relief supplies, please contact Naomi Archer at (828) 230-1404 or by email to Naomi is a non-native organizer who has been working in solidarity with tribal leaders to provide aid to indian communities, primarily through Common Ground Relief ( Along with medic Dave Pike, she is organizing the Four Directions Relief Project ( to assist in gaining short and long term assistance specifically for these areas.

    To send money or material donations directly to individual tribes, please use the contacts below.

    Direct Relief to the United Houma Nation

    Contact: Brenda Dardar Robichaux, Principal Chief
    Phone: (985) 637-3826
    Financial Donations to: United Houma Nation, 20986 Highway 1, Golden Meadow, LA 70357
    Relief Supplies Send to: Houma Relief Center, 4400 Highway 1, Raceland, LA 70394

    Direct Relief to Pointe-au-Chien Tribe
    Contact: Charles Verdin, Chairman
    Phone: (985) 594-6250 home or (985) 856-5336 cell
    Contact2: Donald Dardar, Chairman
    Phone: (985) 594-7916 home or (985) 688-8145 cell
    Address: PO Box 416, Montegut, LA 70377

    Direct Relief to Isle a Jean Charles Band of Biloxi Chitimacha
    Contact: Albert Naquin, Chief
    Phone: (985) 594-3725 or (985) 232-1286 cell
    Address: 100 Dennis Street, Montegut, LA 70377

    Direct Relief to Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of the BiloxiChitimacha
    Contact: Marlene Foret, Chairwoman
    Phone: (985) 594-6593
    Address: 114 Retreat Drive,Bourg, LA 70343

    Direct Relief to Bayou Lafourche Band of the Biloxi Chitimacha
    Contact: Sharon LeBouef, Secretary
    Phone: (985) 798-7542 (home) or (225) 235-4812 cell
    Address: 317 East 14th Place, Cut Off, LA 70345

    Thank you for your support and solidarity with these Native American communities of Louisiana.

    Friday, October 07, 2005

    Real Reports Returns

    Updated: Saturday October 8, 2005
    Location: Body in Asheville, NC; heart in Louisiana

    Working in solidarity with tribal leaders, Naomi Archer (supported by Asheville medic Dave Pike) has created a dedicated relief effort for Native American communities called Four Directions Relief Project. (

    Another truck will be heading from Asheville, NC (piloted by yours truly after a week home in the mountains) to the Native American communities of Louisiana early next week. This will continue the trend of grassroots relief being virtually the only assistance these communities have received. Work teams are also being organized to assist with rebuilding. Help is URGENTLY NEEDED. If you want to get more involved, please contact Naomi at or call 828.230.1404.

    Where are the Feds? Well, to answer that question you have to look at the historic relationship between the Federal government and Native American communities. Not real positive is it? And you know, there is that whole 10 million dollar levee improvement project for Dulac and Grand Calliou that got axed by Bush Inc. And of course the dredging of the Houma Navigation Canal and the numerous other dredging projects that have destroyed the cypress swamps and allowed salt water to travel further inland to benefit Big Oil. Wow, you hate to start pointing fingers but...

    I mean seriously, you don't think any community would choose to live in such an exposed location do you? At one time there were hundreds of square miles of swamp between these communities and the Gulf of Mexico. But thanks to channelizing the Mississippi which interrupted the deposition of silt (ie. new land) and dredging canals - much of the the wetlands have been lost.

    The Pointe-au-Chien burial ground is now in the salt marsh thanks to these man-made impacts. Just another way the white-man has stepped on the original inhabitants of this land. But hey, we have sports mascots to commemorate their existence, right?

    Leave it to the Red Cross to further the trend of kicking people when they are down. A news report says they will soon be kicking people out of shelters if they cannot prove they are residents of the disaster area. Forgot your ID? Credentials washed away in the flood? Luggage left behind when they removed you at gunpoint from your home? Guess what - you are now out of luck and out of a home!

    I'de laugh at the inhumanity of it all if it didn't make me so @&*$^ angry. Oh, and remember, 70% of hurricane donations have gone to the Red Cross. It's not like they can't afford to house people in shelters. You're Red Cross money at work, aren't you proud?

    Well, depending on the day, the hurricane death toll hovers around 1300 or so including those in Mississippi. Despite dire warnings of thousands of deaths - we have yet to see this confirmed. Why is that?

    In case you didn't see the Tuesday LA Times story, don't worry. There are another 8000 bodies that lie unidentified in a Baton Rouge morgue.

    "It's inefficient and inept out there - it's beyond incompetence,"said William Bagnell, a funeral director who said he was refused access to four bodies at the morgue even though officials had faxed him forms inviting him to pick up the bodies.

    Why haven't see heard much about this, or seen human interest story after human interest story about loved-ones lost and the true cost of this disaster?

    That's because we have Karl Rove's Sanitize the News effort in place to keep those pesky stories that anger and upset out of the public eye. It's just like Iraq. Keep spoon feeding the media stories of rebuilding and Bush's heartwarming concern, meanwhile keeping the stories and the pictures out of the news.

    One day this bubble will burst, and the tragic reality of the government's inaction may finally be felt. Meanwhile, don't look for sobbing parents or worried husbands on TV - it's all be scrubbed to bolster Bush's poll numbers.

    Where is - that progressive news wire that is supposedly providing people with the real news and incisive lefty opinions of the world? Well, right before the September protests hurricane relief efforts plummeted off their list of stories for feel good blurbs about DC and the protests. And even now, we have a full editorial diet of Iraq, Iraq, Iraq - but very little news from NOLA or the rest of the storm affected region.

    Now, I know if I can get breaking news and updates on relief efforts sitting here in Asheville talking by phone to friends on the ground, certainly the editors of Commondreams could get these stories too, right? Even taking stories off Indymedia. Right?

    Out of sight. Out of mind. Pan$ to and the gaggle of lefty columnists for supporting the micro-attention span of the left. We have to do better than this.

    Thursday, September 29, 2005

    Powder Keg

    Updated: Thursday September 29th
    Location: Algiers and Beyond

    Mayor Ray "I'm mayor of a town with no functioning government" Nagan has announced the latest in what has become one inhumane attack on hurricane survivors after another. This time, its the "Look and Stay, Look and Leave" program. New Orleans residents may begin returning to their homes by zip codes. Upon arriving to their home, they will encounter a mark on the door left by FEMA. If the mark is green, the house is considered habitable and people may stay. But if the mark is red, the house has been condemned. Residents of 'red houses' MUST leave their zip code by curfew time. In other words, they must leave their home neighborhood of family and friends, or face police action.

    Law enforcement units are realigning to set up check points zip code by zip code. What happens when tens of thousands of displaced residents who have been treated like cattle are forcefully prevented from taking control of their homes and belongs? How will these storm survivors - many of whom have been treated like criminals and moved around under armed-guard to restricted camps - cope with even more abuse from incompetent government authorities and institutionalized racist/classist policies?

    This city is a powder keg. At some point, people will reclaim their dignity. We don't need armed guards lording over shocked and saddened residents who really need a warm hug and a shoulder to cry on. We must change our relief priorities from armies with guns to armies with hugs. We must return human dignity to those in need. If not, at some point, the people will explode.

    R - E - S - P - E - C - T
    The incredible and persistent work of Common Ground has finally earned respect from the "authorities". First, the military began helping out because they were on the ground and witnessing our clinic, distribution, and community service projects in action. Now, we are getting response from FEMA related organizations. That doesn't mean FEMA has become less incompentent, but more that our work has been very difficult to marginalize. We are finally having the chance to access some of their relief infrastructure that may allow us to serve the community in solidarity more effectively. Anything that helps the people is good news. Meanwhile, we remain vigilant for any attacks against our services from those in power who feel threatened by a community-based effort that has reacted more humanely, fluidly, and effectively than the "official" relief effort.

    Today we expanded into Smithville, Terrebonne Parish and emptied an entire truck. These folks have received virtually no help. We are also planning distro into the community of Chauvin - another bayou town flooded during Rita. We are also trying to get into the small town of Lafitte in Jefferson Parish. Much of the town still has flooding issues but there are still people there. We still have an urgent need for volunteers with cargo trucks, rental trucks, pick-ups, busses, etc. that will allow us to expand food and supply distribution in more areas. Trust me, thousands of square miles are in need. Your participation is needed.

    I write tonight's update with a heavy heart. Tommorow I return to Asheville, NC for a small respite from relief work. I'm exhausted, frustrated, and simply burned out from organizing and working 18- 20 hours every single day. But I am going to miss all my new friends, both here in Algiers and in the outlying communities of Terrebonne Parishb while I'm gone.

    I plan on returning to the area in about two weeks and will be in constant contact with the work on the ground. There are several of us that are also working to build a more efficient first response disaster network.

    I'll keep updating with more Real Reports.

    Wednesday, September 28, 2005

    What the $#@^#!

    Updated: Thursday September 29th
    Location: Algiers and Terrebonne Parish

    I apologize for the slow Real Reports. I've been working 20 hour days traveling between Algiers and Terrebonne Parish, so updates have to be written early in the morning. Thanks to everyone for all the support.

    Yesterday I drove to the Algiers Red Cross distribution point which is located in the southern section of the Algiers neighborhood near the middle-class white section of town. As soon as I walked in, I noticed a frowning young man in a khaki shirt and black hat with a sidearm and corporate logo prominently displayed.

    Blackwater Security is now providing security to the Red Cross! That's right, you heard correctly. Armed mecenaries are providing security to a (supposedly) humanitarian relief organization. I spoke with three Red Cross volunteers about what was going on with their distribution and pointed out that Blackwater is a group of armed mercenaries - corporate contractors who have a very bad reputation. I offerred the question - who are they accountable to?"

    A well meaning volunteer from Vermont said that the Blackwater guys were very nice and they offered protection. I asked, "Who do you need protection from?" The conversation ended.

    So if you donated money to the Red Cross, you are supporting extra-legal armed mercenaries who were observed shooting people out of French Quarter windows following Katrina. Hurricane relief at gunpoint. Aren't you proud?

    Terrebonne Parish is the disaster area no one has heard about. Situated just outside the ring of catastrophic Katrina damage to the west, and just outside the Hurricane Rita media frenzy to the east - this area was only just declared a federal disaster area yesterday afternoon. In reality, the area sustained significant wind damage from Katrina, and then was flooded by Rita's storm surge.

    Common Ground has been providing supplies and relief south of the city of Houma for four days. We acted as true first responders - making a supply run during the rising flood waters. For the past four days we've seen virtually no Federal disaster relief agencies. Red Cross-ed finally showed up yesterday with a whopping two trucks at the Baptist Church on State Road 57. FEMA began showing up today and in true form began making the resident's lives even more miserable.

    One woman reported that a FEMA agent came to look at her house, which sustained roof damage during Katrina and whose trailer sustained structural damage from Rita's flooding. Fortunately the inside of her trailer was not immersed. The woman kept trying to show the FEMA agent the damage to her trailer, but all he could ask to see is damage to furniture and appliances. When she said that her inside possessions were fine but the trailer itself was damaged, the FEMA agent told her he needed to see "damaged refrigerators and appliances" or she had no claim.

    Another woman reported that she has been trying to contact FEMA for over a month. The FEMA website is so complex and overloaded with traffic that even the Red Cross is advising people not to use the internet. But the phone systems are constantly busy. I heard from one person that was on hold for over EIGHT HOURS.

    So maybe people should just show up to the FEMA office in person right? Wrong. FEMA will only let you apply for disaster services online or by phone. People are so pissed FEMA agents have to walk around in disguise as firemen or Red Cross workers. Incredible but true.

    Our critical work in Terrebonne Parish has yielded the huge need for cleaning kits and supplies. We have been exploring all possible avenues for getting cleaning supplies for distro to flood victims. We tried to get some of the cleaning boxes from the Red Cross but surprise surprise ran into red tape. "You have to call central distribution," an officious but friendly volunteer coordinator said.

    So I called the head honcho for Red Cross distribution and explained that we were working with local contacts and distribution networks in Terrebonne Parish and really could use a couple of pallets of cleaning boxes. After a pause she said, "I'll give your contact information to the distribution coordinator in Houma. If they need your help, they will give you a call."

    Ahhh... Red Cross has it all covered. Thank goodness. No need to panic. Everything's fine. Move on, nothing to see here. Check's in the mail. WHATEVER!

    While the Terrebonne communities of Ashland, Grand Calliou and Dulac have barely seen Red Cross and FEMA, another friend in the Disaster Industrial Complex showed up in force today. Haliburton vehicles were commonplace on State Road 57 this afternoon. It's so nice to know that our corporate profiteers are always circling like vultures to descend on the next money-making natural disaster.

    Just the otherside of the bayou from the town of Dulac lies Shrimper's Row. This road, runs through the largest concentration of Native Americans in the coastal area. Father Kirby of the Dulac Methodist Church and community center said, "You know how cities have 'the other side of the tracks?' Down here we have the 'other side of the bayou.'

    I've seen alot of heart wrenching things the last month but driving down Shrimper's Row was among the most depressing. Like many Native American communities, this area is deeply impoverished. Many of the homes had not been placed up on stilts (which costs $35,000 - $185,000) and were flooded and torn apart by rushing waters. Shrimp boats and other vessels were thrown across the road and into people's yards. Tons of dead marsh grass debris littered the roads and community. Hundreds of poisonous water moccasin snakes are trying to find their way back to the marsh. Mud covers everything.

    I've developed an immense respect for the communities of south Terrebonne Parish - Ashland, Grand Calliou and Dulac. Local residents have been in constant contact with us helping to coordinate our trucks and informing their friends. Once we set up our distro, they help out in the trucks and along the lines. There is such a sense of community. Despite the incredible loss, there is also alot of smiles and laugher amid the tears. These folks, new friends, act from the heart.

    I've been in Algiers for over three weeks now. I'm exhausted. Tomorrow, I might be taking a break for several days. But I'll continue to give Real Reports and let you know what's happening on the ground in these areas. Keep an eye on New Orleans when the tired, frustrated residents return to unihabitable homes, little support, and lots of wacko Wackenhut Security and other law enforcement. It's a fire ready to ignite.

    Naomi Archer is a global justice organizer and spiritual activist from Asheville, NC working for the Common Ground relief effort in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans. She can be reached at 828.230.1404 or Blog at Website at

    Tuesday, September 27, 2005


    Updated: Monday September 26th
    Location: City of Dulac, Highway 57, Terribone Parish

    Fifty miles southwest of New Orleans, the Houma Navigation Canal is a 36 mile man-made linear gash running from the Gulf of Mexico to the small city of Houma in Terrebonne Parish. The canal bypasses several small fishing villages perched like wading birds with one leg on the two lane blacktop of State Road 57 and the other anchored in the marshy bayou. Small brackish creeks and channels connect the shrimping villages with the canal and the open water of the Gulf.

    When Hurricane Rita collided with the Louisiana coast, the storm pushed a wall of water into thousands of square miles of bayou backed by south winds that kept the water bottled up for days.

    The same Houma Navigation Canal that allows ships to penetrate the marsh grass and hardwood swamps of the bayou allowed the storm surge from Rita to do the same. A flood of muddy water and silt up to eight feet high ran through the bayou and swallowed up the small fishing villages of southern Louisiana. Alongside Highway 57, the towns of Ashland, Bayou Calliou and Dulac found themselves under flood waters and the sheen of diesel fuel spills.

    The town of Dulac, home to a large community of Houma Native Americans was hit especially hard, their levees crippled by the same underfunding of flood protection that made New Orleans vulnerable. President Bush's 2006 budget included no money for flood protection efforts in Terrebonne despite a request for $10 million by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans District. Standing in a foot of muddy water in front of the Dulac community center, Houma native and methodist pastor Kirby Verret observed, "No one really sees us down here."

    FEMA certainly doesn't see Dulac or the other towns. Despite the constant buzz of helicopters in the air, and nearly 10,000 homes in Terrebonne Parish destroyed, FEMA has yet to declare this parish a disaster area. When FEMA was asked about the flood damage in Terrebonne Parish during a Sunday press conference, the government mouthpiece stated, "We have helicopters flying over the area. We are assessing the damage."

    Adding ignorance to insult, folks living along Highway 57 were told by FEMA they could not remove the rapidly molding furniture and appliances from their homes or else they would void disaster funds. With 90 degree temperatures turning such an absurd restriction into a serious heath hazard, most families are emptying their homes as soon as the water recedes, FEMA's "poverty pimping" be damned.

    No matter the super-spin being put on Hurricane Rita relief efforts to bolster Bush's abysmal poll numbers, the real report is that thousands of people have had their homes destroyed and families displaced. No one is sure how the shrimping will recover until the debris clears out of the rivers and creeks and fishing begins anew. Like farmers, a good shrimp harvest means boat payments and yearly bills are paid. If the shrimping is disrupted, an economic disaster may continue far beyond the immediate affects of the flood.

    Hurricane relief efforts continue to run along race and class lines. While the misery might not be evident to FEMA damage assessors far removed from the reality on the ground by their aerial surveys, relief organizers from Common Ground have been sending trucks and supplies to the small towns of Ashland, Bayou Calliou and Dulac for three days. The damaged houses and heavy hearts are clear to us.

    Maybe its the fact that Terrebonne is populated with working class brown, black, Cajun and Native American people. The area isn't easily accessible, doesn't have any five star hotels like the renovating French Quarter, and doesn't allow for a quickie Presidential "moment" between rounds of golf. It's just the home to proud, resourceful fishermen and hard workers. With Red Cross and many of the other Disaster Industrial Complex profiteers pulling out of areas ravaged by Katrina, and with Rita refusing to provide the disaster film footage necessary for multiple Presidential photo-ops, its quite possible Terrebonne will continue without Federal assistance.

    I've been personally touched by the people of Terrebonne Parish. Growing up on boats and spending part of my life among shrimpers and crabbers on the Georgia coast, I have a special kinship with those who make a living from the sea. I'm proud to work in solidarity with their efforts to rebuild.

    In compliment to native-led efforts, Common Ground has provided some of the first assistance that some Terrebonne communities have received. We've handed out hundreds of gallons of water and box after box of food and diapers. We don't have enough personal hygeine kits to even remotely meet the need of those families who've lost everything. And for those families that are cleaning out the mud and mold, ten semi-trucks of cleaning supplies would not be enough. (But it would be a start!)

    The Methodist Church in Dulac feeds over 100 families every month. Their storage area has been flooded and they are concerned how they will continue this assistance until new food donations arrive. Multiple teams of volunteers are needed to work in solidarity with the residents here to clean up homes and provide hot food. Additional supplies are needed.

    Please support Common Ground by 1) Volunteering your time here in Louisiana. A few days isn't too little and a few months isn't too much. 2) Send trucks, vans or other vehicles full of supplies to the Common Ground office in Algiers or to our post office box. 3) Tell your friends about what's really happening in the hurricane affected areas. Visit and other independent media like New Orleans Indymedia - for information you won't get on the corporate news channels.

    Common Ground is community-run organization offering temporary assistance and mutual aid to the citizens of New Orleans and the surrounding areas. Common Ground's team includes doctors, lawyers, aid workers, community organizers, and volunteers of all stripes and creeds. For more information visit

    Sunday, September 25, 2005

    One Hundred Thousand

    Real Reports of Katrina Relief Special: One Hundred Thousand
    2:00am September 25th. Algiers, Louisiana

    One hundred thousand people. I read the news from Washington DC that one hundred thousand protestors are marching on the capital, sharing a flood of outrage on our faltering King George, who frankly, doesn't care if one hundred million demonstrated. I look at the pictures from the day and I see marches with multitudes of people, smiles and laughter, and creative props, costumes and actions. I'm sure the people who are participating feel empowered and alive.

    Hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama. All affected by decades of socio-economic neglect and new super-fueled hurricanes. They are outraged at King George and his jesters who have made a joke out of the word "relief." They care deeply about their lost loved ones, lost homes, and displaced lives. I look through the images of my mind today and I see flooded homes, grim faces, and a children's doll floating face down in the tea colored water.

    Tonight, there is alot of water. The bayou parishes of South Louisiana have become a lake. Water covers thousands of square miles of low lying land, bottled up against the high ground by a combination of Hurricane Rita's south wind and storm surge. High tide peaks in about thiry minutes. The water was still rising into people's homes when myself and another relief worker left the Point Au Chien community.

    The disonance between what is happening in Washington DC tonight and what is happening in Louisiana is too much for me to rationalize. Progressives talk about ending racism, poverty, and showing how much they "care" about other people. But it seems that for too many people, those ideals are values of convenience. And when it becomes inconvenient, uncomfortable, or frightening - then the values become almost valueless.

    What could I say to the hundreds of families who are watching the water rise towards their doors and windows, or people who have already lost everything from these storms? "I'm sorry, but I can't help you because we don't have enough volunteers. I know your house is flooding, you're hungry and everything you own will be lost. But look on the bright side. One hundred thousand people are protesting about the lack of relief response you've gotten. I'm sure it will change right away. President Bush always moves quickly on these kinds of things."

    But things could be so much different. Imagine one hundred thousand people marching on the Gulf coast to act in soldiarty with others who have been marginalized and demonized by King George and his jesters. I think of the pictures of that day. I see hundreds of tons of food distributed, thousands of tarps and house repairs, and creative ways of acting together to build a community of change. I'm sure the people who are participating feel empowered and the ones they are helping are still alive. There might even be a smile.

    Come to Louisiana. Come hand out food. Come provide medical care. Come cover the roof of a house. Come give hope to those who've lost everything. I guarantee it will change your life forever. For more information about Common Ground and community-based hurricane relief, visit