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


Blogger Tom Jeannot said...

Naomi, thank you very much for your blog report on the march in D.C. and the hundred thousand displaced people: who will stand up for their right of return to the city they love and the homes they've made?

When Rosa Clemente was a guest on "On the Clock," she too suggested even more explicitly than you do here that progressives should be going to New Orleans, not Washington D.C. on September 24
("On the Clock," KYRS LPFM Spokane, Saturdays at 5pm, on 9-17-05; the same program on which you were also a guest).

As a person who participated in our local antiwar demonstration yesterday, I regret the suggestion that opposing this criminal and immoral war is inconsistent with a whole range of progressive and radical responses to the disaster on the Gulf Coast. Bush Administration policy is all of a piece. New Orleans is the other side of Baghdad. For example, in both cases, the ruling class is practicing an ideological experiment in their fetishism of the market: Halliburton in Baghdad, Halliburton on the Gulf Coast. The connections between the failure of US foreign policy and the failure of US domestic policy are multifarious.

I think we can support our poor and black sisters and brothers at the same time we support our poor and brown sisters and brothers around the world.


Tom Jeannot

2:46 PM  
Blogger jamaisvu said...

I am a displaced New Orleanian and I was at the Washington, DC demonstration, with dozens of others from the Gulf South making the links between the war at home and the war abroad. I think people in DC got it. They see the priorities of the US Govt. are fucked up. They see that the same corporations making profit off of the misery in Iraq are making profits off of the misery in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Many of them told me they want to come and help. They want to organize aroudn Katrina in their local communities. They want to donate to grassroots relief efforts.

I'm a resident on the border of the Bywater area of the 9th ward and consider myself an activist. I see that you are an activist too. When I was able to briefly get in, I brought all supplies in my car to my friend's house which is now the Desire Street Common Ground house. The people from out of town there seemed like really good folks. I am happy that you have taken it upon yourself to help my city. Maybe by the time you leave you will love it as much as I do.

Thank you- genuinely- for your help in relief efforts. But it is not all about food distribution or putting a tarp over the hole in a house. It's not always about being in the city (I mean probably less than a thousand or two residents are in New Orleans now, more are where I'm at, in Atlanta, many more in Baton Rouge or Houston, etc.)

But lets be clear: all the volunteerism in the world will not make a difference if we don't change the political institutions that supress us. Changing those political institutions requires mass movements. Movements that make the connections and come to political concusions about the root of the social inequalities that lead to the social catastophe of Hurricane Katrina.

People need living wage jobs, longterm universal healthcare, and transportation back to New Orleans or to their loved ones. That will not come with all the volunteering in the world. That only happens with political organizing. Criticizing others in the broad movement will not organize. Getting more volunteers to cook hot meals while Haliburton gets all the contracts also will not organize. "Volunteers" get tired and go back to Ashville, or wherever they are from. The people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast need political empowerment, self-determination, and your longterm solidarity in building the political power necessary to rebuild our city on a model of social justice.

9:44 PM  
Blogger ~ FluxRostrum said...

maybe people could do both... give direct, personal support AND mass on DC... what if...

7:59 PM  
Blogger MacGregor said...

Dear Ms. Archer, I am trying to reach the web designers of the Nuclear Free Future website. I need to post some events and the links do not work. My name is MacGregor Eddy email and I am on the UFPJ DISARM commitee.
If this is the wrong Naomi Archer please accept my apology.

11:52 AM  

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