Ms. Katrina

by Renee

September 7, 2007

I moved to Washington DC the semester I graduated college. I thought I would work in some big hot shot international development organization and make full use of my new International Relations degree. Well, things don’t always turn out as planned. Instead I waited a whole bunch of tables, met and then eventually dated a number of bartenders, and five years later am still friends with the dude that walks around holding a newspaper (some people call him Everywhere Man, but his name is Mark). He always asked me how the people of Lafayette Louisiana are doing.

He remembers the time I told him I was born in Lafayette. I was born on a bayou. Yes, I do have several versions of that song on my ipod.  It’s a good song! Mark always seems to pop out at odd moments when I had just forgotten that I was indeed born on a bayou.

I didn’t realize when I applied to work at Greenpeace, that the organization had a deep history in Louisiana. I didn’t realize that the people who work here felt connected to this place. It’s one of the things I love most about the Greenpeace, it’s interesting history and people.

Last week, NPR played a series of stories of DC natives visiting New Orleans, some deciding to move there and some raising awareness of what is still happening in the area by coming back to the district and telling anyone who will listen. I’m starting feel like Katrina is my generation’s Kennedy assassination. We all remember where we were when the levees broke, when we saw the images of the Super Dome, when we heard the rumors of violence, when we saw Anderson Cooper wade in the water.

I’m not sure if everyone at this point feels oversatutrated by these images, the mainstream media (if you’ve noticed) seems to prey on our heartstrings with horrific images without providing any suggestions on action we can take.

So I guess . . .  what I want to do with this entry is introduce you to a few things in New Orleans that you might not know. Things don’t always go as planned and if you find yourself wanting to take action to help New Orleans maybe these resources will help guide your kind efforts.

WWOZ – The best radio station on this planet (Not sure about the other ones). I know I recently rented a car that had satelite radio. This is better. And you get to hear Cajun accents all day! I mean really what more could you want during the work day?! I often spend the day reading about how CFO’s of large corporations say going green is too expensive and try to make others believe that consumers think destroying ancient forests is just fine for their soft toilet paper, while listening to this amazing station online.

New Orleans Habitat for Humanity–  After moving from Lafayette to South Florida, I realized I am destined to live wherever hurricanes hit. Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida not long after my family moved. South Miami was devasted and similarly to what happened during Katrina most of the houses that withstood both hurricanes were made by volunteers at Habitat for Humanity. Look it up. It’s true. Last Thanksgiving I visited Shylia Lewis and her family, GP staff helped build her a toxic free house in 2004 and we wanted to see how she was doing. During the day that I spent with Shylia and her children, we talked about why her house had survived Katrina when others had not. She said that Habitat houses survived because they were made out love. I think my heart stopped that very moment. It may just be that volunteers get nervous about not putting enough nails so there are about double the amount, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t right. Those houses are made out of love.

I guess this is a long paragraph to say, if you are planning a long weekend why not use it to volunteer at Habitat in New Orleans.

Louisiana Bucket Brigade–  Ever heard of grassroots organizing? This is it. The people who founded this organization were sick (literally) and tired of government agencies like the EPA standing behind big corporations instead of the communities they are suppose to protect and gave power back to the people to defend their homes and their families. This very small organization (3 full time staff people) teach community members how to test the air quality of their neighborhood. This is extremely important in Southern Louisiana (as in other places around the United States) because of the large concentration of PVC facilities.

Young Aspirations/Young Artists– "I was born a stick figure and with each person I meet and each action I take, I become a full drawing." I’m not sure who wrote that, but it is a reminder of how intertwined humanity is with art. This is an organization that brings art to the youth of New Orleans. Now N.O. has a strong rich history of art and artists, the city has once again entered a time when art and artists are helping to keep it alive.  

Alright, I’m going to stop here. I could continue the rest of my day writing about organizations we should all know and care about in New Orleans. Hopefully this has peaked your curiousity and you will do a little more research on the topics you are most interested. I feel there may be a running theme to my blogs, figure it out yourself. No . . its not that harsh. I guess I mean I want to be source of information where anyone who reads my writing will feel empowered to discover what their role is in this big ol’ mess of ours. Am I doing that? Are you bored? Would you rather read about Nicole Richie or my LA Sophis-Hipster style I was recently told I have?

Well, at any rate, you are stuck with what I give you. Oh the power I have!






By Renee

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