Katrina: Genocide Or Gentrification?

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So what happens to the once destroyed communities that have since been reconstructed? Fast-forward with me, circa 2007. The Mayor of New Orleans and the Governor of Louisiana stand proudly in the French Quarter to announce the completion of construction to revitalize New Orleans and areas affected by the great storm of 2005. .
…we see a string of new town homes and other posh looking residences that resemble the recent renaissance’s seen in New York City’s Harlem, Washington, DC’s Southeast and Newark’s Iron-bound section. .. we notice that the color of the city has changed and now resembles something out of a Stepford community. The ‘hoopties’ once seen sitting in the yard on milk crates are replaced by finer automobiles, SUV’s and hybrid vehicles. The residents …are walking their dogs, washing their cars and jogging along the new track constructed bordering Lake Ponchatrain.

Okay, so we’ve experienced one of the greatest natural disasters in the history of the United States and our government’s impotent response has been decried, analyzed and dissected. The vast majority of the residents of the Crescent City have been absorbed by other cities leaving behind everything they own and know.  Well, if you listen to the political pundits from both sides, they’re pretty sure this matter is long from over and will probably never be forgotten, especially by those who spent five days at the Superdome and New Orleans Convention Center without food, water, electricity and plumbing; they watched their fellow residents suffer and in many cases, die. After the voices of America and the world raised up, relief came but it was definitely a case of too little, too late.

As we in other cities have lovingly and compassionately opened our homes to love our brothers and sisters by providing them clothing and shelter, I am struck by some of the responses that couldn’t be edited out on live TV, like, “We didn’t even know we were coming to Utah until we got on the plane,� and, “I didn’t really want to come to DC, I just wanna get back home.�

Back home? To what? The City of New Orleans is in ruins and will likely be rebuilt as the government’s money funnels in to care for the damaged infrastructure; by that time, the residents that have been sent to places from Washington, DC to as far away as San Diego may very well have been assimilated into their new surroundings and may not wish to return to what used to be their home.

So what happens to the once destroyed communities that have since been reconstructed?
Fast-forward with me, circa 2007. The Mayor of New Orleans and the Governor of Louisiana stand proudly in the French Quarter to announce the completion of construction to revitalize New Orleans and areas affected by the great storm of 2005. During the tour, televised by all of the major news organizations, we see a string of new town homes and other posh looking residences that resemble the recent renaissance’s seen in New York City’s Harlem, Washington, DC’s Southeast and Newark’s Iron-bound section. Fast food establishments, a state-of the art medical facility, coffee houses, new schools and modern gas stations now sit where residents once prayed they’d existed; yes, the areas once peppered with abject destitution and desolation are now new points of light that are attracting a more ‘desirable’ collection of people to inhabit one of the flagship cities in the American enclave.

As cameras pan the new communities, we notice that the color of the city has changed and now resembles something out of a Stepford community.  The ‘hoopties’ once seen sitting in the yard on milk crates are replaced by finer automobiles, SUV’s and hybrid vehicles. The residents who found work wherever and whenever they could are replaced by upwardly mobile couples and singles with little or no connection to New Orleans, let alone the South. They’re walking their dogs, washing their cars and jogging along the new track constructed bordering Lake Ponchatrain. They’re enjoying the spoils of suffering at the hands of many whose souls cry out for justice from their watery graves, but their voices are muted by the sound of our silence.

There is no mention of the former residents and where they might be, after all, it’s been nearly two years since the disaster and the news coverage had long dried up. The State’s number one politician talks about the ‘new life’ that’s now bolstering the New Orleans economy and the Mayor brims with pride at how ‘clean’ the city looks. We’ve all turned a blind eye to what’s really happened because our attention was likely diverted by some other news story that, on its face, is fairly innocuous in comparison to the ugly tragedy that was Hurricane Katrina.

Gone are the days of finger-pointing and screaming about what the government failed to do; gone are the images of bodies floating in poisoned waters and scenes of our American brothers and sisters, our African-American brothers and sisters, looking like our brothers and sisters in The Sudan, starving, in dire need; and gone are the days of fund-raisers, celebrities donating a million here, a million there and others of us doing whatever we can to help and our tears dried up by the winds of forgetfulness.

It’s over. So here we are in 2007, our hearts swelling with pride at how one of our greatest cities, New Orleans, rose from the ashes and now stands as yet another example of American Pride, the free-enterprise system and—“progress.�

Marvin Curtis Reid is the author of “Caught by the Past, A Novellaâ€?  (2003) “STEVENâ€? (May 2005) and “Words Unspokenâ€?  (June 2005) He can be reached via  silentknight64@yahoo.com Please send your comments to this article to letters@blackstarnews.com and remember to e-mail this article to all your friends. To have your Katrina commentary or article considered for publication please submit to Milton@blackstarnews.com

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