Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 25, 2015

Contact:  Emma Collin – 631.708.6840 | eaccollin@gmail.com

 

Event Organizers: Advocates for Environmental Human Rights • Alternate Roots • Ashé Cultural Arts Center • BYP 100- NOLA • Congo Square Preservation Society • Deep South Center for Environmental Justice • Do it for the Youth • Education, Economic, Environmental, Climate & Health Organization (EEECHO) • Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change • Families & Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) • Gallery of the Streets • Greater New Orleans Organizers Roundtable • Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy Healing & Recovery, Nfungotah Inc. • Oya Market • NAACP – Gulfport • NAACP – Mobile• NAACP – Houston • New Orleans Musicians Assistants Foundations Peace by Piece NOLA • Project South •  South Bay Community Alliance Southern Movement Alliance • Survivors’ Village • Universidad Sin Fronteras  •  Univ. of South Alabama

10 years after Katrina: Gulf South communities demand an equitable recovery

Frontline leaders unite for Gulf South Rising Week of Action

 

Ten years ago this week, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf South and shook the nation. Although some will celebrate the resiliency and recovery of the Gulf region, many continue to feel the painful consequences of Katrina a decade later. Frontline communities in the Gulf are uniting under the banner of Gulf South Rising with a week of action to confront the devastation of this disaster and the inequitable recovery that followed.

The Gulf South Rising Katrina 10 Week of Action is a powerful coming together of community leaders and organizations dedicated to lifting up the leadership and resistance of the people on the frontlines. There are more than 13 events August 21-30 in multiple locations from Coden, AL to Biloxi, MS to New Orleans, LA. The Week of Action features performance arts, policy forums, film screenings, teach-ins, youth gatherings, healing spaces, and the coming together of people throughout the South and the nation.

While Katrina was undoubtedly a climate disaster of epic proportions, the roots of the true crisis run much deeper. During the Katrina 10 Week of Action people are resisting policies and practices that extract power from their communities. Colette Pichon Battle, a native to southern Louisiana and Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy, said “Ten years is not enough time to fully recover from a storm like Katrina and the massive government and corporate failures that occurred in her aftermath. But it is a turning point for communities on the frontline of climate-based disaster to reaffirm our legacy of resistance and honor our culture healing practices as a necessary part of building a strong movement for justice.”

That sentiment echoes throughout the Gulf South. Katherine Egland, a lifelong resident of Gulfport, Mississippi and the Chair of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Committee, said “Ten years after the storm, we are still awaiting the sunshine. Our state and local governments continue to claim that we have ‘recovered’. However, some of the survivors of Katrina still reside in the shadow of the advances by businesses and industries. There is a false sense that all is well. We have planned a commemoration to give the people – the forgotten survivors – a chance to be heard.”

Monique Harden, Co-Director of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights and a member of the Greater New Orleans Organizers Round Table said, “Human rights abuses taking place in New Orleans are being masked as ‘resilience’ and ‘recovery’ by elected officials, developers, and the tourism industry in the ten years after Katrina. We are supporting the resistance of African American, Vietnamese American, and Latino community organizers to the wide range of oppressive conditions that result from disaster-profiteering.”

In the aftermath of disaster, how resources were allocated remains a particularly contentious issue. “Over $880 million came through Plaquemines Parish. We should be walking on golden streets,” said Plaquemines Parish Councilwoman Audrey T. Salvant of Ironton, LA. “The question is: where did money go? Ironton was wiped out by Katrina, Rita, and Isaac. The community is still vulnerable to floodwater and hurricanes because the elevation funding never materialized for local residents.”

Norris Henderson, Executive Director of Voice of the Ex-Offender and member of the Greater New Orleans Organizers Roundtable said, “Communities that were really impacted were prevented from getting what they need to make themselves whole again. We need to question: where did this money go? We didn’t have what we needed to come home. It was systemic that people were forced out and not allowed to come back. That was all by design.”

A decade after Katrina, the issue of displacement is significant throughout the Gulf South. Changes heralded by the city as progress often come with a high human and cultural cost. “Gentrification of traditionally Black neighborhoods by new New Orleanians is displacing native New Orleanians who were fortunate enough not to be displaced by Katrina,” said Tabitha Mustafa, a native New Orleanian and social justice organizer. “In essence, we are organizing this week of events to tell the world the truth about New Orleans ten years after the storm.”

In the face of this false narrative of recovery, Gulf South Rising elevates and unites a diversity of people behind local leadership. “We recognize that we are stronger than our individual parts. Together we can resist injustices that keep our communities divided and conquered. We can build a sustainable future in harmony with the ecological and social environments and with equity and justice for all,” said Imani Jacqueline Brown, an organizer and native of New Orleans.

Principle Chief Thomas Dardar Jr. of the United Houma Nation said, “Hurricanes Katrina and Rita became a turning point for the United Houma Nation. The impacts tropical weather were nothing new for our communities, but this was the first time that our entire Tribe was impacted simultaneously and we began to understand the increased dangers of living along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. People often ask why not move?  However, the answer is not so simple.  Our people are tied to the coast of southeast Louisiana with the strength of our ancestors and the binds of our culture.  Today we work collaboratively to ensure that these events never destroy our people and obliterate our way of life.”

What:  Gulf South Rising Katrina 10 Week of Action, a series of community events commemorating Hurricane Katrina and lifting up the leadership and resistance of people who continue to fight on the frontlines of climate, economic, and racial justice. All events are free and open to the public.

Who:  Local and regional people and organizations

When:  August 21, 2015 – August 30, 2015

Where:  Multiple locations from Coden, Alabama to Biloxi, Mississippi to New Orleans, Louisiana

People’s Media Hub: Golden Feather, 704 N Rampart St, New Orleans, LA 70116

About Gulf South Rising: Gulf South Rising (GSR) is a regional movement of coordinated actions and events to highlight the impact of the global climate crisis on the Gulf South region (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida). Through collaborative events and actions around strategic dates in 2015, GSR demands a just transition away from extractive industries, discriminatory policies and unjust practices that hinder equitable recovery from disaster and impede the development of sustainable communities. This year-long initiative 1) builds regional movement infrastructure; 2) connects and convenes frontline communities around ecological equity and collective healing; 3) advances regional efforts of indigenous tribal and land sovereignty; and 4) shifts the regional narrative from resilience to resistance.