Blog Master G

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New Orleans is Still Not OK

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006 · 2 Comments

The face of New Orleans is changing from black to white, and the city is still not OK, nearly 6 months after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the city.

Who will New Orleans be rebuilt for?

Before Katrina struck the Gulf Coast last August and exposed compromised levees, 70 percent of the close to 487,000 residents of New Orleans were Black. The Jan. 26 study projects that the population could permanently lose 140,000, mainly Black, residents.

Katrina and the Built Environment: Spatial and Social Impacts

The below first-hand account of the state of New Orleans today comes from my friend Dan Rosan on February 3, 2006:


Last night I sat in seat 1F, watching New Orleans fade away below me,
on my way back to New York. Sweeping expanses of the city below were
dark, and only a sliver of light lined the Mississippi River. It was
hard to tell where the city began and the lake ended.

As many of you know, I went down to New Orleans to explore the role my
organization, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, could
play in the rebuilding, and I saw Liza and Ingrid, whom many of you
also know.

I wanted to put out some personal reflections on the trip. I’m sending
them to kind of a small group but forward as you like if the spirit
moves you.

First, the obvious: New Orleans in not a strip mall, an amusement
park, all Starbucks and Olive Gardens. It is the anti-Vegas: never
seen before and, once lost, impossible to recover. And make no mistake
– New Orleans is dying, not with a bang but with a whimper.

Life in New Orleans is hard. The phones and electricity aren’t back in
most places, it is hard to find groceries, traffic is horrid (because
stops signs have replaced most traffic lights) and trolleys don’t run.
You live in a trailer, or on a cruise ship, or in one of three active
neighborhoods. Other neighborhoods have an eery, ghost town feel. They
look almost normal, if you don’t look closely. But nobody is there.

There is an island of life in the Garden District, French Quarter, and
Central Business District, all areas which saw little or no water. You
can almost forget there is not a whole city. Then you walk a block the
wrong way, and it is just dark. No lights, no sounds.

Where is the rebuilding? It is buried itself, under the weight of
sssllooooww insurance payouts, toxic sludge, the enormity of the task,
and simple fear – what if I rebuild and nobody else does?

Society in New Orleans is fighting atomization. With their friends
scattered, family stuck in Houston or Baton Rouge while the
breadwinner works in New Orleans, colleagues laid off, faculty gone,
and racism and racial tension going strong, people are struggling just
to stay connected in meaningful ways.

Civil society and especially faith and self-organized low-income folks
have really stepped into this breach. And they can hold things
together – but not indefinitely. Without forward progress, the city
will die. It will be slow and hard to see, but it will happen.

New Orleans could live – given the depth of the destruction and the
indifference of the federal government (the only entity on the planet
capable of rebuilding a completely destroyed major city is probably
the U.S. Government), it is amazing how much has been done. Hospitals
and colleges (but not other schools) are open. Small businesses in
some areas are back. There are prophets in New Orleans – especially
the local paper (, which uses its editorial page to bear
witness to the injustice heaped on it.

Living, though, is a choice. And we have not collectively chosen life
for New Orleans.

So what to do? I know you’re expecting a laundry list of political
action. And I could give you some stuff to do. But really, just show
up. Flights are $79. Go and see New Orleans now. You might not get
another chance.


Tags: the world

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Alex // Feb 10, 2006 at 11:06 am

    Welp Gabe,
    I think it’s clear what we need to do…For New Orleans. Let’s go down there and party like it’s 1999. Every Hurricane purchased- a donation. Every brain cell killed- a martyr. Every po-boy eaten- a spark for the economy. Every stripper tipped- an opportunity. We must do our part. We must help rebuild this once magnificent city. I hear the call…and YES, OH YES, I WILL ANSWER!

  • 2 Duckman // Feb 12, 2006 at 12:34 am

    Talk about a solid source…Workers World huh. hundreds of media outlets report on this particular study and you pick Workers World. Bravo comrade. I encourge the rest of you to pick up the latest copy of Workers World, In addition to capitalizing (no pun) on the misery in New Orleans to push, of all things, socialism. The Workers World Party is also really pissed at the Danish. Yeah that right, them again. God damn danes, always stirring the pot. As quoted from Workers World: “The vicious mockery of Mohammad in a Danish newspaper last September first lit the fuse”. Yeah you remember the fuse last September Right, oh yeah, big story…..No?……Not so much? Anyway, I’m with ya Gabe, fuck the danes, and fuck free speech. Che lives!