A Decade After the Storm: The Pain, the Progress, and the Need for So Much More

By: Marchaeus Bacon, @mbacon1906

I remember Hurricane Katrina just as if she happened yesterday as opposed to hitting Southeast Louisiana August of 2005.  Considering that I was born and raised in the New Orleans Metropolitan region I have been accustomed to hurricane seasons all of my life.  However, when my father said we need to go, I started looking at this hurricane a little bit differently.  Something about a storm coming your way as a category five gives you a new respect and perspective on the work of God.

Katrina was no more a natural disaster than one of a lack of preparedness and deficient infrastructure.  The city, state and federal government all were simply not ready for the “what if” that became a reality.  We were told that the levee system could hold back a level five storm and Katrina came in as a three and washed away that lie.  So 10 years later we have all this investment in infrastructure going forward that somehow is leaving the people behind.  We have people so excited by investing in the “upper 9th ward” that they have completely forgotten about the disenfranchisement of the lower 9.  The city is happily celebrating uptown New Orleans and the Quarters; and all but looking the other way and forgetting about Eastern New Orleans and the fact that many neighborhoods and places in that part of the city never made its return from Katrina.

I heard Mayor Landrieu on NPR the morning of August 18th talking about how he tells people we shouldn’t be concerned with building the New Orleans that was, but building one that is better than before.  My response is fine, but when you are more concerned with reinvesting in buildings and land and not the people who come from those communities the question then becomes what kind of New Orleans and for whom?  An NCBI report told us that White Americans would return at much higher and faster rates than those Black American residents who once lived in the city. And in fact that is what has happen.

So first you leave the poorest most vulnerable people in the city during the storm and after the city has flooded you very slowly and poorly remove the people, and then give them no possible path to return.

The city has not lobbied for jobs that would help pull Black and brown people out of poverty.   And the new New Orleans has offered no clear reason for young, educated, urban professionals of color to live and work there because they just could not build the kind of lives there that they could elsewhere.

So I thought about moving forward as the mayor suggested and what that means for all New Orleanais.  I think it simply means developing in a space that is productive and conducive for all of its residents to make it.  Having a 21st century work model that allows for people to make a living wage and provide for their families.  Creating a model of Public Education that takes steps to breaking the cycle of poverty in the city.  And offering assistance for people to find affordable housing and reinvest in the communities that they love and want to live in.

New Orleans is more than what you get when you visit.  It’s the people, it’s the culture, it’s the way we go “make groceries” instead of going to the grocery store.  It’s how we dance hard, laugh loud, and sometimes eat a little bit too much.  Those are the reasons we must keep looking back while we move forward.  In my opinion those are the things to fight for and that is why we love New Orleans.  Katrina might have knocked us down, but we will dance, laugh, and love while we get back up.

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