August 29, 2013
The hurricane seasons come every year, and although I am virtually landlocked in the middle of Texas, my heart sputters for a minute when it's upon us. Hurricane Katrina came ashore eight years ago and like many of us I cannot forget what happened. Destroying lives all along the coast from the bayous to the cities while those who assume Power did little to nothing when everything came crashing in. And we saw the other flood, from the media, images of the other America; the one of extreme poverty, extreme racism and bad governments–as if any governments are ever good. All of which caused it to be the biggest disaster in US history. This was real people with lives, dreams and histories. Drown in a sea of contempt and criminalization by law enforcement, indifference by professional ‘aid’ organizations and finally left to on their own. I cannot tell their stories, but my heart always beats in empathy while they rebuild their lives and their cities.
This storm and its aftermath was the opening salvo of the new normal of powerful storms from climate change and from domestic government repression by criminalizing civilian populations (it was a practice run for many agencies), but also of something else. A shift of actions that people have always participated in when it mattered of helping each other. Only these took on a new determination and consciousness to them. People from all corners rose up to help themselves in dire situations when they had nothing, or to aid those who were forgotten, ignored or just needed support. We named it mutual aid and solidarity , but it didn’t matter. What mattered was that we all stopped relying on governments in the immediate aftermath and for the longer term rebuilding. We began to rely on each other.
Grassroots organizations sprang up all along the coast while new networks of medics, food providers and first responders came to life. With an assortment of tools, skills and commitments we all were creating something different to support communities affected by disasters of all stripes-economic and ecological. These ideas, networks and spirit have sprung into coordinated actions since, in Haiti, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Sandy and most recently OpsOk in Oklahoma where those affected and those with access to resources work together to stop immediate suffering and slowly in small spaces create new worlds from below.
New Orleans, Haiti, parts of the East Coast and Oklahoma still ache from pains that oppression and exploitation cause. Their years of histories were built on it. These disasters only expose them to the wider world. In small pockets though flowers do come up through the concrete to grow and expand until the old order falls away.
On this the eighth anniversary of the disaster of Hurricane Katrina and the birth of the Common Ground Collective I am taking in these waves of change that surround us. Holding in my heart the pain of those whose lives were destroyed and also grateful for the movements we are a part of as we all try to build something different.
Dream the Future.
Know your History.
Organize your People.
Fight to Win.