Reportback from Common Ground Relief 09.04.08Hello friends, comrades and allies
We, from Common Ground Relief, have just returned from the Louisiana Gulf Coast from delivering supplies, as well as assessing the situation within the region to the best of limited our abilities. Common Grounders in New Orleans evacuated to Hattiesburg, Mississippi where they remained safe until we all could gather information and respond. while I and a contingent from Austin , Texas traveled in to deliver much needed supplies.
A group of first responders traveled to some areas and were blocked from others. The situation in the outlying areas along the coast as many of you know were harder hit with minimal flooding and wind damage to NOLA itself.
In comparison to Katrina’s aftermath, the damages and neglect from the government and Red Cross, the situations from this storm were not nearly as dire or severe.
The state and the large bureaucratic NGO's could not let the response of 2005 happen again, not because they care, but because populations of people held them more accountable. Their strategies were again to first control the situation with direct force and control of the affected areas , then second to supply aid. They controlled access and aid points throughout, but we were able to maneuver through them into affected areas.
Majority of the populations in all of the areas were truly gone, It was deserted mostly with few hold outs as well as those who couldn't leave. This was true in all the areas we visited. The presence of the state in the form of FEMA, military and law enforcement agencies were often times the only population in areas.
Flooding due to storm surges were minimal and affected people in lower lying as well as remote areas. There was wind damage with what you would expect downed power lines and trees. There were not many roofs blown off and small amounts of mudslides across rpadways.
Around Houma , Dulac and areas along the coast there was mostly wind damage
but little flooding of what you would expect with rising tides, rains and Hurricane waters.
Roads were cleared in New Orleans and outlying areas with great speed within the first 48 hours even in residential areas.
The greatest damage to the area in my opinion is the long slow disaster still enacted on these communities. The disasters of neglect , abandonment and forgetting. Neglect in that rebuilding and return into the most marginalized communities by the most vulnerable people is still minimal or non-existent.
Abandonment in that many non-profits, foundations and us in civil society have
given attention to other matters while New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region still
needs our ideas, imagination and support to rebuild. Forgetting, that we forget the impact the small things can have on peoples lives in what we can do. Those of us with access to resources to still aid the region and the groups doing the work.
Katrina and the levee failures were the last disaster in the long slow history of disasters on these historically communities and Gustav was the reminder of the vulnerability of them.
New Orleans and the region , to me , are just unwitting canaries in the coal mine, and reminders of how vulnerable many communities throughout this country are.
In the coming days, Common Ground will be re-establishing a distribution center for basic aid supplies for residents as they return and for those who didn’t or couldn’t leave. We are already providing basic food, water and hygiene kits
in the 7th and Lower 9th Wards.
We cleared debris and trees from the streets of NOLA into Dulac on the coast. We are working with Four Directions to provide support the Native and coastal communities. We will have legal aid and communications up ASAP. Please
see our site for more updated information. www.commongroundrelief.org
We need long term SKILLED volunteers to help in continued rebuilding, Gustav served as the reminder, that more and safer housing is still needed.
We need carpenters, plumbers, electricians and other skilled trades to continue our rebuilding efforts. We will need some medical personnel in the short term to make sure there are no crisis as residents return to NOLA and to the coastal area. We will also need short term volunteers to help with immediate but not critical aid work. Please check our site for updates and calls.
But mostly we need you, in civil society, to not forget. Remember why you gave support in the first place, why it is important for us to build bridges across differences that matter and strengthen communities even ones we do not know. Tell the stories, don’t you’re your communities forget , keep rebuilding the Gulf Coast region alive in the minds and hearts of caring people. Your words and actions from afar have impact, they have meaning even if you cannot feel it directly. Don’t let history told by those who assume Power to say its ok. To return to your home is a right not a privilege from Palestine to New Orleans.
Towards Collective Liberation for all of us!
From the concrete jungle in Gulf Coast Basin
"dream the future...know your history...
organize your people...fight to win"