Dear friends, accomplices and those with emergency hearts
Ten years? Ten since the storm, ten since the aftermath, ten since disasters- both ecological and economic - continued to devastate too many regions, too many communities since. Ten years rooted in 500 years of oppression in constant ongoing Recovery from communities ravaged by Power and its effects. But also ten since the crack in history opened and people acted-while no one waited for governments to react.
This week behind the scenes, away from the camera images, and far from public view the feelings for so many have been intense and personal. While the media makes spectacle and tries to scratch the surface of the complexities of stories, the horror and aftermath is still in our bones, our hearts and our living memories.
What about The Recovery the outside world wants to know? I say which one? The personal, the political, the economic- or do you mean the communities? The biggest beneficiaries of The Recovery have been big business, developers, governments and the nonprofits who fund raise off of it. And somewhere there’s a small piece for those who were the most affected by all of it. I live hundreds of miles from there, but visit often enough to see who benefits and who continues to suffer under it all. I don't need charts, stats and figures to confirm it.
The questions for me are not whether the Gulf Coast- and New Orleans in particular-bounced back, but have people been able to change their communities and lives? Remember these communities were being destroyed slowly before the storm by capitalism and climate change through abandonment, neglect, environmental degradation, economics, brutality and incarceration. I always, and still want, those communities to come back on their terms in healthy and autonomous ways. Did they bounce back? It depends on who you ask and their story even for those who don’t call New Orleans home anymore. It wasn’t a generic mass that was left to die, it was individuals, families and neighbors all with their own stories of The Recovery. Post Traumatic Stress has become more of a way of life for some, while others are completely resilient. The histories and legacies from these aftermaths will always be confusing and mixed.
Bad governments and the non-profit industrial complex will never build the total liberation that these communities want or need, and we, those who build from below, can only do so much with so little. Our hearts are big and our commitments are unwavering despite all this. There was beauty in the devastation. From the open hearts of people helping people only because it mattered at that moment to the flowers that pushed up through the concrete. The facts are that thousands upon thousands who took great risk with what they had-whether it was a little or, a lot- to help, support and make the lives around them better beyond the immediate disaster despite government warnings or roadblocks.
People who had most everything taken from them, gave everything to help those they knew and those they didn’t. The most marginalized, and often criminalized, in US civil society rose to the occasions because lives mattered. I cannot, and would never want us to forget that.
No matter what the spectacle reports, there is much continued work and rebuilding to be done all across the Gulf Coast- and really all across the US where communities have suffered from the slow hidden economic and ecological disasters- especially if people want to create communities that won’t collapse from the effects of capitalism or human induced climate change.
With love from ten years of living remembrances and reflections of those moments in 2005
Humbly from the Gulf Coast Basin