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Black Flags and Windmills in Anarchist Studies Journal

by John DuBose
Anarchist Studies 23-1

In August 2005 Mother Nature unleashed the destructive force of Hurricane Katrina. Massive damage was wreaked as Katrina moved inland over New Orleans but the government’s total neglect of the people there was the true devastation. Parts of New Orleans were below sea level and the levees that the Army Corps of Engineers built could not withstand the force of 100mph+ winds. The levees broke, Mother Nature took over, and afterwards, the government abandoned its people. Not just any of its people, but mostly the poor and the working class of the Lower 9th Ward.

Scott Crow’s journey begins in this devastated and neglected community ‘with a question of life and death’ concerning his friend Robert H. King. King (a.k.a. Robert King Wilkerson) is a former Black Panther Party member who was unjustly sentenced to twenty-nine years in Louisiana’s Angola Prison and it was Crow’s ties to King that drew him into the recovery and aid efforts in the Lower 9th Ward in the aftermath of Katrina. What he found in New Orleans was that the government was doing little to help, and even less to account for its own neglect and inability to help. This void was filled, among others, by the Common Ground Collective.

The Common Ground Collective’s story is of a political activist and social organ- iser bringing help to those in need while government agencies fight over who will be in charge and people starve because aid is stalled. Against a background of landlords selling off people’s homes and vigilante groups of racist whites running rampant, it is a story of the strength of the socioeconomic class that is forged when they are forgotten by the government machine. It is a story of hope within anarchy.

As one is taken on this journey with Scott Crow, one can feel the rage of a govern- ment out of its depth and out of touch with the needs of a people it has forgotten. One sees the horror of the events, not as told in the local and national news, but the truthful perspective as experienced on the ground. Scott Crow is not a saviour, nor is he the champion who swooped in to ‘save the day’, he is a person like any other. But he continuously fought for what was right for the people who lived through Hurricane Katrina. He listened to the needs of the people in the area and accepted the help and support of those the government turned away (Michael Moore and others). Black Flags and Windmills is about looking at disaster from the point of view of those who are always forgotten: the poor. The past struggles of the Black Panther Party and the Zapatistas (EZLN) are where Scott and others draw their political activist strength. These groups have to fight against a system that sees them as unimportant and must survive on their own terms. Black Flags and Windmills is not a testament about fighting and winning against the system, rather it a testament of what people can accomplish when they meet collectively on a common ground.

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