U.S. Neglect Helped Katrina

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Five days before Hurricane Katrina struck, 100 persons gathered at a local Catholic Church in Eastern New Orleans. They were there to talk about the city’s astronomically high rate of poverty that had increasingly become a national embarrassment. This was not a gathering of academics, local and state officials, and business leaders. They were community residents, welfare recipients, ex-offenders, and anti-poverty activists. Most of them were Black.

Many of them did not have cars and had to take buses to get to the meeting. That wasn’t unusual. Nearly one out of three New Orleans residents don’t have cars. The participants had a deep sense that they were in a race against time to do something to combat the looming poverty crisis. The poverty rate for young and old in New Orleans was double and triple the national average. Nearly 100,000 households were eligible for federal Earned Income Tax Credit but had failed to take advantage of it. Nearly 60, 000 children were eligible for a health care program for low-income families but were not enrolled in. 

The city’s poor had grown more numerous and desperate than ever.  The times over the years that I have visited friends that live in neighborhoods away from the glitter of Bourbon Street, the French Quarter and other tourist spots, I was struck by the dire poverty, the legions of panhandlers, and homeless persons on the streets, the large number of abandoned, run down buildings, and the pock marked, unkempt streets and sidewalks in poorer neighborhoods. New Orleans was indeed the classic tale of two cities, one showy, middle-class and white, and the other poor, downtrodden, and largely low-income Blacks.

It was a city that didn’t wait for a disaster to happen. The city’s grinding poverty and neglect had already wreaked that disaster on thousands. Katrina only added to the misery. What happened next was predictable. Federal bumbling, bungling, and cash shortages turned relief efforts into a nightmare. That virtually guaranteed that some Blacks out of criminal greed and others out of sheer desperation and panic would take to the streets in an orgy of looting and mayhem. It was equally predictable how some state and federal officials, and some in the media would respond.

They instantly branded the looters, animals, thugs, and even less charitably cockroaches. Though it wasn’t said directly, some state officials inferred that soldiers should shoot to kill to restore order. That would turn New Orleans into a war zone, and the ones that as often happens in any war that are hurt the most are innocents who have nothing to do with the criminal violence. And that is the overwhelming majority of New Orleans poor. It would further embed the image of New Orleans Blacks as lawless, out of control, and undeserving of any sympathy and support.

It was even more predictable that some Black leaders would wag the blame finger at Bush and city officials and accuse them of racism in not responding fast enough to the crisis. Certainly city and state officials must take some heat for the chronic neglect of the New Orleans poor. And Bush must take heat for the severe cutbacks that crippled FEMA’s ability to speedily manage, coordinate and fully fund disaster efforts. Bush’s singular obsession with the war on terrorism has also resulted in the radical shift of millions in money and personnel from disaster relief to Homeland Security. That shift in priorities further hampers federal efforts to deal with disaster relief.

The heavy handed rush to openly or subtly to paint the tragedy of New Orleans as yet another terrible example of the Black-white divide in America does a horrible disservice to the poor and needy that are suffering. Admittedly a majority of them are Black, but many of the victims are white too. This stirs fear, anger, and latent racism in many whites. It stirs the same fear anger, and racial antipathies among many Blacks. The comments on some Black web sites pulse with wild speculation that the continual TV shots of Blacks running wild in the streets are orchestrated to insure that as little as possible will be done to aid New Orleans Blacks. That kind of talk smacks of defeatism. If one screams racism and deliberate neglect, and when it happens scream even louder, I told you so, it becomes a grim self-fulfilling prophecy.

The poor of New Orleans need massive aid, long term relief, and the continued goodwill and sympathy of the nation to put their lives back together. They also need a sustained public effort to lobby the Bush administration to drastically up the ante on the paltry and embarrassingly low $10 billion that he’s pledged for Katrina disaster relief. That’s less than it costs to bankroll two months of the Iraq war. Sadly, turning the monumental tragedy in New Orleans into racial one-upmanship, piles one tragedy on top of another.

Black Star columnist Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a social issues commentator and author of The Crisis in Black and Black (Middle Passage Press).

Emergency Contact Info For Katrina Victims

September 2, 2005 3:51 p.m. EST
Jasen K Lee - All Headline News Staff Reporter

*Due to current conditions in these areas, these numbers may change or not be functional at all times, call the National Guard Hotline at 1-888-777-7731 for information updates.

• MS Amory HQ: 1/198th AR, PO Box 15Amory, MS 38821-0158 Ph: (662) 256-7683
• Biloxi: Co C(-), 1/155 Inf (M) 377 Hiller DriveBiloxi, MS 39531-3205 Ph: (228) 388-3233*
• Greenwood: HQ 1/114 FA, PO Box 901Greenwood, MS 38935-0901 Ph: (662) 453-8359*
• Grenada: Cp McCain Tng Site, 3152 James H. Biddy RdGrenada, MS 38901-8973 Ph: (662) 294-0070*
• Hattiesburg: ARNG Training Site, Camp ShelbyHattiesburg, MS 39407-5500 Ph: (601) 558-2883
• Jackson: 1410 Riverside DriveJackson, MS 39216 Ph: (877) 474-6522*
• McComb: HQ 1/155 Inf (M), 319 W. Avenue NorthMcComb, MS 39648-2813 Ph: (601) 684-0554*
• Meridan: HQ 150th Engr Bn, 1551 65th Avenue N.Meridan, MS 39307-7024 Ph: (601) 553-3195*
• Monticello HQ, 106th SPT BN, PO Box 519Monticello, MS 39654-0519 Ph: (601) 587-1039*
• Senatobia HQ, 2/198th AR, PO Box 278Senatobia, MS 38668-0278 Ph: (662) 562-6920*
• Starkville: PO Box 1366Starkville, MS 39760-1366 Ph: (662) 323-5929
• Tupelo: HQ 155th Armd Bde, PO Box 2057Tupelo, MS 38801-2057

• Fort McClellan: Building 1060Fort McClellan, AL 36205 Ph: (256) 847-4640
• Homewood: 2100 East Lakeshore Drive Homewood, AL 35209 Ph: (205) 803-5296
• Linden: 2400 East Coats AvenueLinden, AL 36748 Ph: 334-295-8952 or (888) 397-0214
• Montgomery: 1720 Congressional WL Dickerson Drive Montgomery, AL 36109-0711 Ph: (334) 271-7283

• Abbeville: 3415 Veterans Memorial DriveAbbeville, LA 70510 Ph: (800) 568-9899 ext.8130
• Baton Rouge: 769th Armory, 8686 General Chenault Dr. Baton Rouge, LA 70807 Ph: (225) 355-3886*
• Camp Beauregard:Building 409, Camp Beauregard, LA 71360 Ph: (866) 647-3617
• Houma: 1000 Williams AvenueHouma, LA 70364 Ph: (866) 502-5053
• Lafayette 256 Brigade Armory, 1806 Surrey Street Lafayette, LA 70508 Ph: (337) 593-2093*
• Lake Charles: 1111 First AvenueLake Charles, LA 70611 Ph: (800) 611-2536 ext.8102
• New Orleans: Jackson Barracks, Building 223 New Orleans, LA 70146-0330 Ph: (800) 541-5860*
• Ruston: 3102 McDonald AvenueRuston, LA 71270 Ph: (866) 647-3615*
• Shreveport: 400 East Stoner AvenueShreveport, LA 71101 Ph: (800) 342-7968 ext.8102

Major Brian Batt NGB J3 LNO TO ALABAMA
Harvey Browne NGB-AVS 7-7766harvey.browne@ngb.army.mil
Captain Scott Daxton NGB-J33 LNO TO Louisiana 703-607-2253Scott.Daxton@ngb.ang.af.mil
Major John Dressler NGB-J33 LNO TO Louisiana 703-601-2266John.Dressler@ngb.ang.af.mil
Major Dave Guido NGB LNO TO MISSISSIPPIdave.guido@ngb.ang.af.mil
JOC Operations Off NGB JOC 703-607-0696NGBJOCJ3CS@ngb.army.mil


Major Aaron Overby NGB-J33 NGB LNO TO Alabama 334-273-3518william.overby@ngb.ang.af.mil
Lt. Col. Bill Ryan NGB J33 607-5505 Major Bryan Witeof NGB-J33 DO 703-607-1655Bryan.Witeof@ngb.ang.af.mil


Mississippi Emergency Management Agency
• (601-352-9100);
• 24-hour emergency line, (800-222-MEMA or 800-222-6362)
Alabama Emergency Management Agency(205-280-2200)
Florida Disaster Web Florida Emergency Management Agency (1-800-342-3557)
Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness(225-925-7400)
LOUISIANAAssistance For Storm Victims FEMA Disaster Assistance1-800-621-3362/ 1-800-462-7585 (TTY)National Flood Insurance Program

Shelter Information:
• Red Cross- 1(866)-GET-INFO (438-4636)Special Needs Shelter InformationTriage Phone Numbers:Alexandria: 800-841-5778Shreveport: 800-841-5776Baton Rouge: 800-349-1372Monroe: 866-280-7287Houma/Thibodaux: 800-228-9409Slidell/Hammond: 866-280-7724Lafayette: 800-901-3210Lake Charles: 866-280-2711
Equine Shelter/Evacuation Site Information
Locations for Animal Evacuation:Alexandria - Large & Small 318-442-4222 (all vet clinics will accept)Lamar Dixon - Gonzales - Large AnimalsShreveport - LSU-S (pets only, no livestock)West Monroe - Ike Hamilton Coliseum
Emergency Shelter Information Points:
• Tourist Welcome Center, US 65 & 84, 1401 Carter St. (US 84), Vidalia, LA
• Tourist Welcome Center, TA Truck Stop, Tallulah Exit (Hwy 65 & I 20)Paragon Casino, 711 Paragon Place, Marksville LA
• Sammy's Truck Stop, I-49, Exit 53, 3601 LA 115W, Bunkie, LAMed Express Office, 7525 US 71, Alexandria, LA
• P.E. Gym, LSU- Shreveport, One University Place, Shreveport, LA
• Pickering High School, 180 Lebleu Rd., Leesville, LAMowad Civic Center, 5th & 10th St., 1 Block off US 165, Oakdale, LA

• American Red Cross 1-800-HELP NOW (435-7669) English,1-800-257-7575 Spanish;
• Operation Blessing1-800-436-6348
• America s Second Harvest1-800-344-8070

• Adventist Community Services1-800-381-7171
• Catholic Charities, USA703 549-1390
• Christian Disaster Response941-956-5183 or 941-551-9554
• Christian Reformed World Relief Committee1-800-848-5818
• Church World Service1-800-297-1516
• Convoy of Hope417-823-8998
• Lutheran Disaster Response800-638-3522
• Mennonite Disaster Service 717-859-2210
• Nazarene Disaster Response888-256-5886
• Presbyterian Disaster Assistance800-872-3283
• Salvation Army1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769)
• Southern Baptist Convention -- Disaster Relief1-800-462-8657, ext. 6440
• United Methodist Committee on Relief1-800-554-8583
For further information: visit the website for the National VoluntaryOrganizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) at:

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