Sharon Hanshaw: "The water stage is over."

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DSCN1198.JPG, originally uploaded by BenTG.

Sharon Hanshaw, age fifty-one, has lived in Biloxi most of her life. Before Katrina she was in a rental unit, which adjoined her cosmetology business, on Bayview Ave, the road that runs along Back Bay in East Biloxi. Hanshaw had been away the weekend before the storm. When she returned home with her three daughters, she found the front her home and about half the roof gone. She lost everything except a few keepsakes. Five months later, when I spoke with her, she had only very recently received a trailer from FEMA. Ms. Hanshaw has not yet received any financial assistance from FEMA.

All of Biloxi to the east Keesler Air Force Base was very hard hit. Bill Stallworth, City Councilor for Ward 2, which includes most of the heavily African American, predominantly low-income East Biloxi neighborhood, estimates that Katrina destroyed 5,000 homes in that neighborhood, alone. Bayview Ave and the east most portion of the peninsula, which is predominantly Vietnamese, with some African Americans and some whites, and is known as The Point, were almost entirely wiped out.

I spoke with Sharon Hanshaw in East Biloxi, in the FEMA trailer of Alice T.

Helping people doesn’t mean give them a tent, or give them some water. The water stage is over with. It’s time to build somebody some houses. It’s time to give somebody some stability.

You gonna need a car to get to work. You gonna need some kind of bus system that goes all the way to where the jobs are. Everybody wants to work. Jobs are here. But you can’t get there if you don’t have a car. And most people have lost their automobiles.

Like I explained to the FEMA guy, I’m not askin’ you to give me anything. I’m tellin you I had stuff and I think my stuff is worth somthin’, and if this emergency fund for to aid people, then that’s what you should do with it, cause that’s what you say it’s for.

Their main thing is tearin’ down houses and building condos, building casinos. The homes are not their first priority. Their first priority is casinos. So they say, oh let’s just do casinos: that’ll give ’em work. But they have no car. They have no home. How they gonna come to work?

Local Photo Exhibit of Images from the Gulf Coast

While I was in Gulfport, MS, I had the pleasure of meeting photographer and activist, Lolita Parker, Jr., who is from Boston and has, since October, been spending 13 days per month in Gulfport, taking photographs and assisting Derrick Evans with Turkey Creek Community Initiatives.

Lolita has an exhibition of her photos from the Gulf, “Heartbreak, Hope & Healing,” at the West End Branch Boston Public Library, through February 25, 151 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA 02114. For more information please call 617-523-3957.

There is a reception Thursday, February 16, 6:00 – 7:30 PM.

I’ve seen some of Lolita’s photos, and they are great—and so is she. You can check out her professional website and her photo blog to see more of her work.

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Photo: By Lolita Parker, Jr. Oct 27th, 2005 – Gulfport, Mississippi: Mrs. Christene Brice (far right) of Worker’s Helping Youth (WHY) recounts human rights violations endured by residents of Gulfport’s Edgewood Manor in the days and weeks following Hurricane Katrina.