Trouble The Water (Must See)

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[On Un-natural Calamities]

If you haven’t had the opportunity to see “Trouble the Water” directed and produced by Tia Lessin and Carl Deal and executive produced by Danny Glover, please try and see this documentary which includes film footage by Kimberly and Scott Roberts, two survivors of the Katrina disaster in New Orleans.

How ironic that during this third anniversary of that disaster, New Orleans again had to be evacuated this week as the raging winds of Gustav tore a path towards that City. Thankfully, the destruction has been minimal this time compared to Katrina.

I had the opportunity to talk to Kim and Scott about their harrowing experience during Katrina. When all the fortunate people were leaving New Orleans days before Katrina hit, those left behind had no idea about the resulting high waters. “We were stuck and unable to leave, so we just felt we would deal with it.  It was never my intention to make a documentary.  I decided to tape so I had something to show my kids.  I wasn’t thinking about making history or black history.  It just turned out that way,” said Kim.

“Now everywhere I go, I tell people this is a God inspired movie,” commented Kim, who bought her camcorder a week before the storm.  The aspiring rapper was uncertain how to operate it but did manage to film before Katrina hit and while waiting out the storm in a small attic with 15-20 other people, watching the streets of New Orleans become a virtual ocean.

Kim’s uncle succumbed to Katrina, as did many of her neighbors. 

“The storm hit Sunday and Monday.  My uncle died Friday because no one came to rescue him.  In fact, there was no rescue for 4 to 5 days after the storm.  People were left on their own,” recounted Roberts who recently disputed the statement of a National Guardsman who claimed he was saving people.  “I said, ‘No, Sir.  You were not.  Not in my neighborhood or you would have saved my uncle.’  Lots of folks died in desperation.  People shot at the news helicopters because they were seeking attention.  Some felt they were being treated like animals.  News crews were filming people, instead of helping people,” explained Kim. 

“We left before rescuers came” said Scott.  “We took matters into our own hands.  I told Kim I was going to get a truck because I couldn’t wait on someone to help us.  The water was everywhere and still high.  When we got the truck we went to the No Flood Zone where the naval base was,” said Scott.  “The pumps failed so the water was in New Orleans for 2 weeks,” added Kim.

Because desperate people were told during the midst of the storm, no help was coming, folks who were already up to their necks in water, resigned to their impending death.  According to the Roberts, the New Orleans officials failed the citizenry miserably.  The city had no emergency plan, nor did they use the City buses, trains, ports, or airports to get the poor people out before Katrina hit.  Nor did the mayor, governor, or president utilize the considerable resources and finances of New Orleans to rescue its poorest residents.  “They could have easily done that,” stated Scott.

Officials referred people to the Superdome.  “I knew it would be overcrowded. The Superdome was right near the River and the roof had a hole in it so it got flooded.  It was a deathtrap because   officials locked the people in with no way out.  Children were raped. People got shot and stabbed,” remarked Scott and Kim. “New Orleans poor were in survival mode before Katrina. The New Orleans educational system ranks #2 as the worst school system next to Arkansas.  The City makes money off imprisoning us. You’re jailed even for misdemeanors, so there was little job training, only hopelessness,” said the founders of Born Hustler Records.

According to the Roberts, New Orleans officials didn’t do enough to inform its poor citizenry about the expected severity of Katrina. “I fault the government to some degree.  The Local and State government should have insisted people leave or die.  I feel Mayor Ray Nagin has the blood of all those people who died on his hands.  Bush, Gov. Blanco, all of them got their hands bloody.  While whites were able to rent cars, few blacks could.  There was definitely discrimination,” said Kim.

“The naval base had over 500 rooms available yet pointed there guns at people who came to the base, ordering us off the property,” recounts Scott. “You don’t hear about the New Orleans Police Department killing people or that Marshall Law was declared.  They killed all those people trapped on the bridge during the storm.  7 New Orleans police were brought to trial and then acquitted even though witnesses testified against them. 

What is most puzzling is that no one has been held accountable.  I guess they think if they have to hold someone accountable, they would have to hold the Mayor, the Governor, President Bush and New Orleans politicians accountable.  So they pretend they are punishing people, while actually brushing it under the rug.  Although, since the Feds got involved, many of the corrupt politicians who were stealing money before Katrina (City Council on up), are being indicted and jailed, but not for Katrina, for corruption,” explained the couple.

Housing has skyrocketed in New Orleans with greedy realtors seizing property, changing former rents of $4-500 to $2K. According to the Roberts, all public housing has been abolished so families of 10-20 people are crowded into three bedroom housing or in FEMA trailers. 

“The homes of the rich were secured but poor homes were left to be vandalized.  Watch Trouble the Water, you’ll see!” said the couple.  “Katrina uncovered the real America.  It exposed the hidden dirt.  FEMA money helps but it is not enough. Foreigners are taking over the construction jobs the citizens aren’t trained for.  It’s like the poor have been forgotten. They have done little to reconstruct the 9th Ward, so the bad situation before Katrina has now become untenable,” said Scott who saved citizens during the storm alongside his neighbor Larry Simms.

Go see “Trouble the Waters.” 

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