Special Katrina Issue–Press Release

VOICES FROM THE GULF COAST

THE STORIES YOU HAVEN’T HEARD
ABOUT HURRICANE KATRINA & GULF COAST RECONSTRUCTION

When Hurricane Katrina struck six months ago, the mainstream media was shocked to discover the scope of poverty in New Orleans. And that’s about as deep as the coverage has gone.

Dollars & Sense: The Magazine of Economic Justice has just released its 56-page special issue (March/April 2006) on Katrina. In it, you’ll discover how Katrina exposed—and has intensified—a whole range of unjust systems of racial and economic domination.

Did you know:
–When Katrina struck, the New Orleans jail housed about 6,800 prisoners, including violent felons but also plenty of people awaiting arraignment or trial, like a guy arrested for reading Tarot cards without a permit and homeless people arrested for begging or sleeping on the street. Prisoners were locked in first-floor cells as the water rose; some spent days standing in sewage-filled cells with little food or water. Meanwhile, the facility’s scant two-page evacuation plan was on “this guy’s computer” that got flooded.

But the story goes back much farther. The jail’s population has increased eightfold since the mid-1970s—while the city’s population has dropped. Why? Because the parish sheriff makes money for each prisoner he houses. As one sheriff commented, “fewer inmates translates into less revenue for the jail.” Locking up fewer New Orleanians would mean shrinking the sheriff’s fat patronage-based fiefdom.

–When Katrina struck, it devastated nearly the entire Mississippi coast, in some places for miles inland. Thousands lost their homes. But state and federal relief and reconstruction plans are doing little to help people rebuild their homes or find other housing. In Mississippi, Gov. Haley Barbour decided to spend the state’s entire $5.3 billion federal Katrina relief grant on retroactive flood insurance for otherwise insured homeowners—not a penny for renters, uninsured homeowners, or to repair public housing.

But the story goes back much farther. For years, redevelopment plans in coastal cities like Biloxi and Gulfport have been endangering low-income and black neighborhoods. “There are people here who’ll tell you that developers and local politicians have been trying to flood us out of existence, because with each piece of land, they haul in a bunch of red clay, which is semi-impervious, dump it in the wetlands to build up land on which to put a slab or a parking lot, then on the slab they put a building, a big ‘ole Wal-Mart or something,” says Mississippi historian and community organizer Derrick Evans.

–When Katrina struck, the flooding in New Orleans left behind a layer of toxic sediment—contaminants include arsenic and diesel-fuel substances—in neighborhoods throughout the city. The EPA has not begun any cleanup of the sediment. Government agencies are recommending that returnees wear protective gear like Tyvek suits when they work on their homes but, as environmental justice activist Monique Harden notes, “not one government agency provides this protective gear to people returning to the area.”

But the story goes back much farther. For years, low-income and black communities in Louisiana have faced the massive legal(!) dumping of toxic pollutants. In fact, the historic African-American community of Mossville, La., is the focus of the first-ever environmental human-rights lawsuit brought against the U.S. government, now pending before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States.

These are just some of the in-depth stories you’ll read in this special issue of Dollars & Sense. The issue includes:

–Repopulating New Orleans – How did San Francisco do what a top economist says New Orleans cannot?

–Gone to Mississippi – A journey along the state’s devastated coast

–Activist Perspectives on Katrina: Three Interviews
Mississippi historian and activist Derrick Evans – “Ground Zero of Someone Else’s Future”; East Biloxi community activist Jearlean Osborne – “The Storm of Life after Katrina”; Environmental justice activist Monique Harden – Katrina Hits Cancer Alley

–Down by Law – Orleans Parish Prison before and after Katrina

–Bringing Them All Back Home – Housing in New Orleans, six months later

–SPECIAL PULLOUT CENTERFOLD – Rogues’ Gallery of Katrina Profiteers / Map of the Katrina Diaspora / Roster of progressive Gulf Coast organizations

–And more!!!

Authors and editors available for interviews – contact Chris Sturr or Amy Gluckman at (617) 447-2177.

Blowed Away

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Blowed Away, originally uploaded by BenTG.

 

Blowed Away: Trouble in the Lowlands

Now showing at the Haley House Bakery Cafe

Artists/Writers/Activists Walter Clark, Benjamin Greenberg, Project HIP HOP Crew, L’Merchie Frazier, Lolita Parker, Jr and Amanda Savage present stories and images from the Gulf Coast.

Reception April 7, 2006, 5 pm to 8pm

Haley House Bakery Cafe, 2139 Washington Street – Dudley Square – Roxbury

Mon-Fri 7am – 4pm, Sat 9am – 4pm

For more information and directions, http://haleyhouse.org/cafe/directions.htm, 617 445-0900

Four of my photos are in this show—including the one, above, which was used for some of the publicity. Many thanks to Lolita Parker, Jr. for inviting me to be part of it. Also on display will be some of my posts from this blog (photos and text). –BG

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