Monday, December 31, 2007

POST KATRINA 2008


As of 12:00 a.m. January 1, 2008, this blog will become archival.


The only time I may post here after this date, will be instances where I post photo's/essays relevant to 2007 taken from my notes and photo's.


I am actively posting on the New Orleans ongoing recovery process at postkatrina2008.blogspot.com.



Thank you for your readership.


Jah Bless.
PEACE.

your PlanetarySister

Saturday, December 29, 2007

MAKE IT RIGHT NOLA! A BLAZE OF PINK HOPE CARPETS 3 BLOCKS OF THE LOWER 9TH

"In the Pink" - a landscape of hope in the Lower 9th. If you look through the following archival post links you will see the areas before these wonderful pink packages arrived and may be able to more fully appreciate what Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and their partners have brought to this section of the 9th Ward where so many died and suffered after Katrina and the levee failures.

The traditions of hope, dignity, and inspiration, continue in this next phase of the rebuilding of the Lower 9th.





A few quick updates:

120 homeless people got HotHands for tonight as we are getting cold weather and rain. Thanks and blessings to those who made that possible...

I may have one person who can go over and help Daniel, in response to the CraigsList adI placed in the volunteer section. I put it up hoping that someone could help Daniel (see following posting Daniels Lions Den). No one else has replied... :>( (sigh)

Peace. Jah Bless.

ARCHIVAL POSTS ON THE LOWER 9TH, NEW ORLEANS - APRIL TO NOVEMBER OF 2007

You will find links to previous postings that are able to illustrate what this community looked like from April to November of 2007. (And much of this area still looks the same - except in pockets where individuals are rebuilding and where community groups secular and religious, have come in to help the community. The only presence of Government help that I have seen are the 9th Ward soldiers - I don't even know if the city council remembers the area especially the small businesses. There is a shocking absence of drug stores, hardware stores, fast food places - the Kentucky Fried Chicken sits empty, etc. - shocking as the people in this community are doing everything they can to rebuild, Emergency Communities and Common Ground has given much in this effort as well as Brad Pitt's green project as well as the religious community. 3 new business in the area. NO Walgreen's, No Ace Hardware, NO Family Dollar, have sprouted up in anticipation - there is something ethically and morally wrong in my opinion when I see businesses popping up in the sections of the city that the city and state deem desirous in order to promote "tourism" and gentrification). Perhaps after viewing the photo's in these posts, you will understand my incredible joy at seeing the pink landscape of hope ...

Peace.



GROUPINGS OF PROPERTIES

http://postkatrina2007.blogspot.com/2007/11/capitalism-and-diaster-recovery-left.html (St. Claude "business" district - lower 9th - November of 2007)
(the other side of Tennessee where the structures of houses survived)
(The other side of Tennessee Street from where their neighbors are "in the pink").
http://postkatrina2007.blogspot.com/2007/11/hope-and-sufferation.html
(by goin home cafe on St. Claude - lower 9th)

SINGLE PHOTO'S w/quotes
PHOTO ESSAYS

http://postkatrina2007.blogspot.com/2007/04/sunday-april-22-2007-end-of-day.html http://postkatrina2007.blogspot.com/2007/06/ceophus-fence.html http://postkatrina2007.blogspot.com/2007/05/to-be-in-relationship-with-suffering.html
http://postkatrina2007.blogspot.com/2007/04/national-guard-is-here-to-help.html
(Tupelo Street)


PICTURES IN COLLAGES
(slab of concrete and wreath)
http://postkatrina2007.blogspot.com/2007/08/post-katrina-2007-in-remembrance.html
(last picture of school - Louis Armstrong)
http://postkatrina2007.blogspot.com/2007/11/fantastic-imagery-and-incongruous.html
(2nd picture of chair by open front door of yellow house with couch at the open window - last picture of school yard).
http://postkatrina2007.blogspot.com/2007/08/where-justice-is-denied-where-poverty.html



Feel free to use any of these images, quotes and images, or stories. All that I ask is that you source the blog http://www.postkatrina2007.blogspot.com


If there are those who would ever want to do some type of exhibit, I have more photo's that can be used in an exhibit. I would need assistance to compile the photo's. Again all that I ask is that the blog gets the credit. As for me, I am a planetary sister who wishes to remain anonymous.

I see and deeply feel the blessing and healing that is occurring in this area of New Orleans which has touched my heart very deeply. And pink is my favourite color - has been for years and years...

Jah Bless.

Peace.




Friday, December 28, 2007

IN MY PLANETARY TRAVELS THROUGH METAIRIE, SONIAT BY CLAIBORNE, TOLENDANO BY LA SALLE, AND THE LOWER 9TH




This is what I was able to capture today as I gave Penny who is going to spend some time helping me with a photo project, the 'tour' from Metairie to the Lower 9th Ward. When we met Daniel and Wethanna, well we stayed for quite awhile and I am really glad we did. He has been shouldering a lot or responsibility and seem to need to just talk about what has been going on, what he trying to accomplish, what it is like for his wide and children, what it is like for him, everything he wanted or needed to say almost got said (except when I interrupted as he was a wonderfully insightful and kind man to 'converse' with.)

I was making a lot of noise in the car when I crossed over the Claiborne bridge and saw all the pink tarping and the solar panels in the Lower 9th. I never knew the name of the area - I never associated the many photo's I have taken over the summer months with the "Holy Cross" area of the lower 9th. I thought it was on the other side of Claiborne. (If I wasn't so tired I would link some of the many posts with photo's from this area, but "the kettle's on the boil, and were so easily called away...") Imagine my incredible joy when the area I have found poignancy and beauty in is the area where the pink tarps are!!!!!

I am so excited to see more and photograph what is going on. I am going in the morning and if not too tired by evening will download the photo's of the 'Green' community Brad Pitt has put his celebrity behind and it seems by the beautiful pink color - his heart - into.

Here are some meanings associated with the color pink that I am going to publicly 'project' onto those awesome pink packages in the lower 9th:


PINK: Loving - Compassionate - Tolerant - Universal Love - Approachable


I especially relate the following qualities of the color PINK to the experience I had seeing all those wonderful pink bundles and the solar panels...



Pink is said to reduce aggression, irritation and anger.


Subtle hints of pink are beneficial in areas where self-love & self-worth are needed.


Calms agitated states


Releases aggression & anger


Creates a loving environment


If you have ever been to this area of the 9th Ward then you would understand how perfect the color PINK is for the area.




Bravo to everyone involved in this worthy project.

DANIEL'S LIONS DEN - THE TRIALS OF GOD'S PEOPLE - A GOOD DEED NEEDED









I met Daniel and his wife Wetahanna on Tolendano Street in the city of New Orleans today. I felt drawn to his street when I saw all of the "affordable housing" that was sitting empty in their neighborhood. Which is one block from C.J. Peete. Daniel and 2 other neighbors are the only ones on his block trying to rebuild. The other properties on the block are owned by a local church (the brick building next store which has structural damage, which is worrying for Daniel and his wife as their children play in the driveway and the brick apartment building is right next to his house. Daniel by the way, takes care of the neighboring property to keep it looking as clean and orderly as possible.

Daniel is doing almost all of the carpentry work. He had a cousin who was an electrician, do the electrical, and as so many thousands have experienced in the rebuilding process, the electrician never finished the job...

Daniel tells me that he suffers from head colds a lot now. He heard that one of the symptoms is an increase in head allergies., His whole family is being affected by the formaldehyde levels in the FEMA trailer. He is not out running his business right now because he needs to get his wife and three children (two are 19 month twins, one is a 14 year old girl) out of the toxic trailer. All 5 of them live in the FEMA trailer you see in the slideshow.



Daniel has his own business, he has his own flatbed truck (for hauling), but his says that he doesn't want to be out on the roads exhausted after working full time on his house and rebuilding it. And he really needs to get his wife and children out of the toxic FEMA trailer. And he needs to work to support his family. Daniel is also working on having "affordable housing available" as this house has 3 apartments in it, once his family gets moved back into their home. he has applied with the Road Home to be put on the apartment search listings for potential renters, and will accept Section 8 vouchers. It's funny how things work out - I stop to photograph a street because of all of the empty "affordable" housing sitting there and meet a man who is trying to do something about it. He even spoke of his dream of buying the building next store and leaving 2 of the apartments vacant for people who are "transitioning" who need help to get on their feet. his idea is that they would need to be working to stay there and they could stay rent free for 2-3 months until they got on their feet. Then he would take in new groups of people. Rotating in those who are trying to get on their feet and rotating out into the community, those who are on their feet and ready to get their own places. His eyes light up as he tells of his dream. He also tells us of how he took care of his children for Christmas but even more important he tried to help out other children. He spoke of working parents who can't afford shoes for their kids and their struggles to survive to take care of their children. He and Wetahanna are good people.

If your reading this posting and you are living in New Orleans or Baton Rouge or are coming down to volunteer, and you have some sheet rock and finishing experience - he is a good man who could use a good deed. Here's my thoughts on Daniel having a few planetary brothers and sisters he has never met come and help him would go far, he is a man who shoulders much responsibility for his family and others with integrity. The end of his Katrina-levee failure story could end with a good deed at the end for he and his family...


Contact your Planetary Sister by e-mail postkatrina2007@yahoo.com and I will put you in touch with Daniel. This is a time sensitive project. Any volunteers would need to be helping during the next 2 weeks - today is December 29, 2007. I would say if you are going to respond, then getting on the site before the 10th of January would be great.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

NEW ORLEANS UPDATES FROM YOUR PLANETARY SISTER

Mrs. G went to her Road Home closing 2 weeks ago and was awarded her road Home Money. Yahooooo! She has a double shotgun to finish, then she will need to replace all appliances, refinish 2 tubs, etc., then replace some of her furniture - (I have been finding recycled free pieces - actually really nice pieces from the curbs of "Uptown" and from friends who have left the area).

Thanks to my mechanic Paul from MA who sold me (on a monthly payment plan - your awesome Paul thanks for the blessing) the 90 Volvo station wagon before I came here - I scoffed at its "station wagoness" when I first beheld it - now I laugh each time I pull over to the curb after seeing a great piece left out for "free". I have hauled furniture couches, love seats, china cabinets, speakers, let's just say the Universe provides and I pull over and pick it up to distribute. Right now I am driving around with about 200 albums that were left out for trash in the upper 9th. If the family does not return I am trying to find a cultural center to give them to as it is a wonderful collection from the late 50's, 60's, and 70's. As eclectic a collection as their previous owners must be.

Now that Mrs. G's Road Home money has come in, I am steering very clear - (as part of the messiness that manifested in my helping her this summer had to do with her relationship with her family who did not help her but also did not want me to help her, you know how dysfunctional family dynamics play out) - well, I won't go near her or the house until she spends all, if not most of her Road Home money; as her family has clearly shown that they do not understand my motives, nor my work; and as many people in New Orleans have been ripped off - including Mrs. G - I think her family (and even Mrs. G ) can only perceive me through a perceptual filter that does not have a conceptual knowing of someone helping without an ulterior motive. Someone helping from love. I'm not worried, she is a strong old bird, she has an ability, even with the onset Alzheimer's, to remember with uncanny clarity who she believes has hurt her - so I don't think she will be giving out any loans with her Road Home money - at least I hope she won't. This woman has been through so much with people stealing from her, making false promises, and dealing with those closest to her abandoning her. I hope this will be the end of her tribulations. She has suffered so much. She was awarded half of what her house was previously estimated at (I helped her with the last parts of her Road Home process and paperwork which led to her closing and I saw what a shockingly low assessment it was) - this does not count a lifetime of belongings and the contents of her double shotgun, which she used to rent out the other half to an elderly woman who has passed on since Katrina/levee failures. Yet it is enough to get her back in, finish both sides of the house, furnish both sides with appliances, and furnish her side with the rest of her furnitures, etc. When the other side is finished she can rent it out again as she survives on SS and SSI benefits.


I hung out with my friend Ulla today for a few hours over at my place. This is Ulla out back of my house in the city, I was learning how to operate my camera. Ulla was 7 months pregnant when the levees broke. She had to abandon her house - which was flooded out to the mid section of her porch. She was alone except for another woman friend of hers. They evacuated out, ended up in Wisconsin, then back down to LA, where she found temp housing, gave birth on October 5 2005. Whilst raising her son on her own, she has had to rebuild her house. This was her first Christmas back in her house and it took much from her to get here. She worked at her job and was very hands on in the rebuilding of her home. She is a woman whom I admire for her strength, her creativity, her kindness, her caring for the well being of others. As a friend she 'gets me' and we crack each other up wiht laughter. Bless sister. Perhaps one day she will share her Katrina/levee failure/flooding/evacuation/rebuilding story with us... Hmmm.... Ulla? Ulla....


I passed by Mr and Mrs. G's ("Lord Help Me to Hang in There" posting) in the Upper 9th the other day. They must have recently gotten their Road Home money also as there was a huge pile of debris on their front curb. The old boards on the one side of the house had been pulled out, the window frames, etc. Perhaps they will be back in their home by the spring. I'll try to get by and talk with them and get the scoop!

I posted an add on
New Orleans CraigsList in the volunteer section to see if I might get some help with a pretty big (for me) photo essay project I would like to do to leave on this blog at the close of 2007. I got two replies and if you are gonna only get two replies then the two I got are the best. One is a woman from Boston, Penny who just flew in to New Orleans today. she is going to help me for a few days whilst she is here (this is her 3 visit to the Gulf Coast since Katrina and the levee failures. In the photo essay I hope to show the rebuilding process and how it varies demographically (its really uneven). The other person who replied to my Criagslist posting is originally from Ethiopia who lives in CA and goes to university there. He is in TX visiting his brother and wants to come to New Orleans for a few days to see what is going on here and is willing to come with me when I shoot on Wednesday and Thursday (our upcoming 'clear skies' days)and help me. They are both affiliated with colleges - so the quality of help I am getting is above par!

I wrote a letter to my spiritual community in MA and to some of my friends asking if they wanted to would they consider making any kind of financial gift so that I could purchase
HOTHANDS for the homeless. I received a little over $300 which will bring about (2) cases of 240 each (480 pairs) of HotHands and 50 mylar blankets for the freezing weather and the cold raw days to come. I know where to find many who live on the streets and I can also find people when they go to do their wash and shower, or at the shelters when they go for a meal. I was sent one case of 40 HotHands from a woman I never met, Janet, who is a friend of my spiritual community and 40 people stayed warmer that night on the streets. There are 2 cases that I had ordered 2-3 weeks ago (a personal gift for me to spend how I wanted - I took out $60 from the $200 and tithed it out for the blessing) from Matthew and Corinne, these 2 cases are in limbo somewhere in the postal system. Even my beloved spiritual teacher Julie, was trying to get some HotHands to me trying to find a local supplier when she heard how hard it was for me to get the HotHands to New Orleans before Christmas, but she couldn't find a local supplier where I could just go and pick them up after she paid for them over the phone.


Today I got very good news through Jeff Meyers from
Meyers Supply, he told me that he has an overnight shipment coming to me by tomorrow so I have 1 case on hand and then he sent out another 240 pairs and 50 mylar blankets from his CA supply so I would be set. I just met Jeff on the phone over a week ago when I tried and failed at getting the HotHands here before we had those 2 bouts of really cold days/nights, and before Christmas. I was really sad on Christmas eve when I realized that none of the HotHands I had ordered were coming before Christmas. Jeff after witnessing the unbelievable events that were occurring in my endeavors, got even more involved in helping me personally and he has made it possible to get many more HOTHANDS with the $300 I am able to give to him, and he has included 50 mylar blankets and I have to wait until I see the sales receipt, but I think he also covered some of the shipping.* His generosity will never be known to the people I am helping - but the energy of the intention behind his actions - I am very sure, will touch their hearts. Gratitude and thanks Jeff and to my beloved spiritual family for their initial donations that sparked the actions that followed which is going to bring 480 instances of warmth in the upcoming cold nights to come and 50 blankets to help the homeless people of post-Katrina and the levee failures, through the raw weather.


*I just got the receipt from Meyers Supply and Jeff Meyers has put in the 50 mylar blankets and not charged me, he has doubled in HotHands what I had available through financial gifts in offer for payment, and he did not charge me for the overnight shipping. Are you feeling all warm and tingly inside, just as I am, reading this? The whole HotHands phenomena for the homeless came out of manyhands and manyhearts who care. And I get to do what I love, meet with the homeless, speak with them, offer a few hours of kindness in their otherwise difficult existences. And my hand in giving will represent in intention and love, the hands of many. When life is good, it is so very good.



Okay, it is 10:29 p.m., I'm pretty weary. Even so, it is Thursday night - the night I go out to dance with Jah - Reggae night. So I am going to sign off.


Jah Bless.

Peace.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

OF CAMERA'S, THE STREETS OF NEW ORLEANS, AND NAME CHANGES FOR THE BLOG


If you've noticed a dearth of photo's recently - I dropped my camera the day I was shooting the Fantastic Imagery and Incongruous Juxtapositions posting back in early November.

Since then I have been trying to find a camera that fits my needs, finding the money to buy the camera, and then acquiring it. I was able to take some photo's - but it was really, really challenging with a broken camera.

I found a reliable camera outfit from NY - Coney Island - online called fotoconnections.com and got a really good package deal - when JoeyG heard what I was using the camera for he traded me up to a better lens for wide angles and distance shots, as well as a ionic battery and charger. (I paid $40 extra for the lens but the 4 hour battery and charger was a freebie) Way cool Joey G. Thanks for the blessing.

More photo's are on the way. I have a few photo essays that I am working on hopefully to be completed before the New Year. I want to get back into the streets of New Orleans and photograph. Over this past month, I have been logging places in my head that 'call out' to me (as New Orleans and its many spirits can) saying to myself - I'm coming back here and here...

I realized about a week ago that 2008 brings a needed name change for this blog - I think I might change it to PostKatrina2007-2008 or something like it to update it for those who are linking up to the blog from older postings on search engines.

The camera is so awesome. I was loving the experience of the first moments when I turned it on, knowing what's ahead for this camera and I, we're going to be good buds for sometime to come. Jah Bless. I had to give up something else I needed (health care) to get it - that's what happens when your living marginally. There is always a trade off to get what you want. And I really want to help those who are living even more marginally then I.

PEACE OUT

Jah Bless. Planetary thanks.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

DECEMBER 25: CELEBRATING THE BIRTHDAY OF ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS HOMELESS MEN WHO EVER LIVED



He was born "homeless"

He "owned" 1 robe and 1 pair of sandals

His life and his teachings were mainly concerned about the poor and the "least amongst us"

His disciples were simple men and women

To be with Him, He asked that they leave behind all that they had materially and live "homeless" with Him

He spent his days and nights amongst the homeless, the drunks, the prostitutes, the despised of society

He went out of his way to heal and be available to the lepers, the mentally ill, the paralyzed, the blind, the lame - all outcasts of society.

He spent His ministry asking those who were suffering what He could do for them, His actions, His teachings, were focused on how to heal those who were suffering





He was imprisoned and sentenced to death with criminals.

He died a criminals death publicly humiliated by those in power at the time.

He didn't own a burial tomb.



"He walked his talk"
Mark 10:20
Matthew 19:20



Inspire yourself watch more videos from: Jesus Christ Superstar


In honour of all who have come before this moment since the first birthday of the Master, who have dedicated any part of their lives to serving the poor, the homeless, the afflicted and the unwanted. Blessings to my Rainbow, Rastafarian, Twelve Tribes and Mennonite brothers and sisters everywhere whose humble lives reflect the ways of the Master.

*posting title paraphrased from an inspiring quote spoken by Bill Quigely at the public housing hearings on December 20, 2007, in New Orleans city council chambers. Bill Quigley has been a public housing advocate since 1971 in New Orleans. Blessings to him and all who have worked so tirelessly on behalf of the homeless, the poor, the displaced, and those who have fallen through the cracks of societies everywhere.


Monday, December 24, 2007


"I AM... MY BROTHERS KEEPER"


"...We're part of the Rainbow family,
we're supposed to help."


-Nate
on arriving at
"Made with Love Cafe"
Arabi LA
December 25, 2005



On Nate's experiences as a volunteer in New Orleans:

"I felt as if I had become a "manifestation of prayer."
So many people were praying after the storm, I felt as if I was answering prayers.
I wasn't "doing it,", I was responding to the energy calling me to it.
I was allowing the energy of the prayers to flow through me."




link: More Than 1.1 Million Volunteers Have Responded to Katrina: More Are Needed





PEACEFUL TIDINGS.
1 OF 1.1 MILLION
(and counting) VOLUNTEERS



"TRYING NOT TO FEEL POWERLESS IN THE FACE OF OVERWHELMING NEED" an excerpt from THE POST-KATRINA PORTRAITS





The text reads:

"This trip is about not being powerless in the face of overwhelming need. Its a about a community traumatized by a storm, but just as traumatized by the ineffective institutional response and/or neglect of their needs. It's about my being ashamed of that response. Needing TO DO something. This is a whole community experiencing the fallout of trauma.

Its not the individuals traumatized by physical or sexual violence that I'm used to working with, more like refugees who've lived in camps. I rather doubt that my 2 weeks at the Algier's Clinic in February, so long after the storm, providing counseling, will have had much of an effect on those who I've worked with as it's had on me.


Whose powerlessness was this trip about? I suspect it's my own.







from:
WRITTEN & NARRATED BY HUNDREDS


DRAWN BY
Francesco di Santis
purchase this book:



view:
Slide-show Post-Katrina Portraits


VOLUNTEERING AND ACTIVISM IN NEW ORLEANS: AN ANTITHESIS TO THE "COMPASSIONATE" POLITICAL AGENDA IN BRAND NEW ORLEAN$




FROM: CommonDreams.org

Published on Friday, December 21, 2007 by The Independent/UK
New Orleans to Demolish Thousands of ‘Poor’ Homes
by Leonard Doyle


FROM: CommonDreams.org

Published on Friday, December 21, 2007 by Huffington Post
The Shock Doctrine in Action in New Orleans
by Naomi Klein



These two articles one written from a UK newspaper and the other from the Huffington Post - both have given me a sense of solidarity in reading many of the articulate responses in the comments sections - from others who seem much like myself - they see what is occurring, they do care about the welfare of their planetary community.

Too many times have I been accused and heard others accuse those who are here to help in the rebuilding process of New Orleans as "white" or "northerners". "Why," I ask myself, "did race not matter in the early days of the recovery process after Katrina and the levee failures?" Why now, I question, has the color of my skin become such a big deal that news agencies (especially the local ones) must constantly make mention of this racial difference when people like myself (racially) have come here either to dedicate a year or years of our lives and/or how many months or days of our time for the betterment of "all" who have suffered from the flooding and the rebuilding process?

I have actually been attacked by individuals who, without having knowledge of my life history and financial means, of "being a middle class or wealthy, white person, who is a hypocrite for advocating on behalf of the poor". This type of prejudice (in varying degrees) has come from white and black alike. Many people don't understand that some planetary brothers and sisters are willing to give up all or most of the trappings that a consumeristic - materially based life offers, in exchange for the meaningfulness found in serving humanity.

I am a planetary sister to all my brothers and sisters alike. No matter race, creed, or anything else that others would use to create an illusion of 'separateness'. I am able to dedicate my life and my time, thanks to the donations and support of others who cannot because of their paths of their own lives, come down here to help themselves. People who deeply care about the well-being of their planetary brothers and sisters also. I am not a non-profit, I draw no salary, and never know most (not all of the time) when and if a donation 'might' come in. My decison of this life path frequently brings me to choices of having to go "without" for myself when faced in the moment with the decision to help another whom is worse off (financially, emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually) than I am. Unless guidance is needed, I rarely have to think twice about what is being asked of me.

This is my work in the world. We each as planetary individuals, have our own paths and work to do whilst we are embodied on this planet Earth.

At this time, my heart, my soul, calls me to serve in New Orleans, and to serve the least among us. The poor and the homeless. I give whatever I can in helping those who have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of the levee failures and the ensuing flooding. Using my talents, my gift for writing and photography, and any other privileges I have been given in New Orleans. 'Privileges' which I have never seen before which have been mainly created by and for, those who live oddly insouciant lives in the city of New Orleans. These 'other" privileges I enjoy are based solely on the color of my skin and I make the best use of them, like my talents, not for my personal benefit, but to enhance the lives of others who do not enjoy the same 'privileges'.

To be chastised for serving and helping those who have been less fortunate in their lives as someone who is
quixotic is to miss the (REPEATED) teachings of the many Prophets, Sages, and holy men and women, who have blessed this planet with their presences in the span of our embodied existences as planetary brothers and sisters.


IN PEACE.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

WELL SAID NEW ORLEANS NEWS LADDER: AN EYE WITNESS ACCOUNT FROM NEW ORLEANS CITY HALL CHAMBERS DURING THE PUBLIC HOUSING DEMOLITON 'HEARINGS"


From NewOrleansNewsLadder.blogspot.com:


Enter Stage Left~Baby Ray Nagin Writes Letter To HUD About Housing Demolitions~Letter puts conditions on demolition permits


{editor notes~Yeah Riiiiiiiiiight! And each city council member, as if on cue, read their own pre-prepared words as they justified voting to assume the position?}{editor asks~Who ya'gonna believe? Baby Ray Wonka or your own lyin'eyes?}{It would also appear that the Times~Picayune has forgotten the rest of us out here on the back hand path riding the Long Road Ho~who'dat?}


One comment from yesterday's Bayou Buzz


I WANT TO SPEAK OF THE MEETING ITSELF. During Thursday's meeting, I was in the City Council Chamber from 9:30am to 4:30pm, and I'd like to put to rest the old refrain about 'out-of-town trouble-makers' that recalls the dismissive scorn of the civil-rights activists of the Sixties. I was sitting in the central section, and the shouts and action began in front of me and to the right of me. I recognized many of the people sitting there from previous rallies against demolition, and they were native New Orleanians, not out-of-towners. There was one outspoken young man that I had never seen, but I would estimate that three-fourths of the rest were native. It should be noted also that at least half of the developers hired to plan the replacements for the projects were from out-of-town, as their presentations during the meeting revealed, and their motives were clearly rooted in their intention to profit from the demolition. So we had out-of-towners on both sides.


I HAVE A WORD TO SAY ABOUT THE CITY COUNCIL'S HANDLING OF THIS HEARING.At the end, each council member read a lengthy explanation of his or her vote, and it became clear that they had prepared these statements together prior to the hearing. To me, that meant that the meeting was not a hearing at all, so a lot of very busy people had just wasted their time preparing their own three-minute speeches. The deal had already been done, and we were just spinning wheels, no doubt to the considerable amusement of the council members, the mayor, and the federal authorities. I judge the council members harshly for this deception.


Furthermore, they had the outrageous audacity to correct the public for noise while they were speaking, yet they laughed and joked while the public was speaking. In fact, one man stopped his comments and demanded their attention before proceeding. It was a mockery of democratic procedures, and for that reason I found myself sympathizing with the outrage of the demonstrators. I also felt outraged, though I do not like to demonstrate in the manner they did. I left the meeting with the conviction that George Bush and his clique had their vision of what they wanted to look like, so they told Alphonso Jackson, who extorted obedience from the council. I do not know what the council would have decided, if the members had in fact been free to vote their own judgments. I have a copy of the threatening letter that Alphonso Jackson wrote to the mayor and the council.


I ALSO WANT TO COMMENT ON THE DEMOLITION ITSELF.The belief that destruction of the housing will bring about a reduction in crime is an illusion. Crime and other behaviors are the result of education and training, not of public housing. If we do not understand this, then we will fail to address the issue. It is a mistake to destroy solid buildings and replace them with flimsy ones. If this issue could be addressed with objectivity, instead of with fear and with greed, we would probably save those buildings in good condition and demolish only those that are not. However, Alphonso Jackson made it clear in his letter that he would prohibit funding to New Orleans if we did that. Of course, it is possible to find the funding through other federal authorities, but the council did not overcome its fear enough to think of that.


FINALLY, ON RACE. The great lesson of the day was that race was not the primary issue. Class and power were.

PUBLISHED ON DECEMBER 19TH BEFORE THE CITY HALL MEETINGS - IT SEEMS CITY COUNCIL WAS WORKING ON THEIR PREPARED STATEMENTS BEFORE HEARINGS

This is a reposting from the December 19th posting:
An update on the New Orleans Public Housing Demoltions issue from Bill Quigley at


Tracie Washington and I had a brief meeting with Council members Clarkson and Fielkow asking that they: create a process for resident consultation; do a 60 day moratorium; create a blue ribbon board of trusted citizens to nail down the facts and make recommendations; and guarantee one for one replacement.


They were polite and clear and firm.
There will be a vote on Thursday 20th.
There will be no moratorium.
The council will approve demolition on all developments.



We asked. They answered. Be prepared.

Friday, December 21, 2007

LAST THOUGHTS FOR THE DAY


It seems like the Universe had one more lesson in humility for your Planetary Sister. Perhaps one more posting will help bring back any balance I might have lost in my postings over this very intense and emotional week.

The lesson in humility came once again from a NOPD police officer. One of the officers who was in the city council chambers where the hearings concerning the demolitions of New Orleans public housing were being held, when things got out of "harmony" on the 20th of December .

I went to visit a woman whom I had met 'randomly' one afternoon this week, and we began conversing at the curb. She had invited me to see where she worked in the Quarter. I had been invited to a reggae event this evening near the Quarter, so I stopped to see her on my way.

She works at the front desk. As we were talking she asked me what I had been up to and I shared briefly about my experiences in the last 2 days. "Oh," she said, "you were at the protests week?" Then she asked the NOPD police officer who was across from me if he was there also. He told us he was and I asked him where he was. He shared about what he saw and then I shared with him what I saw, and a really good conversation came out of the interaction between us.

He wasn't reactive at all to my "perceptions", if anything his opinions and replies were as thoughtful and insightful as mine. (There I go again - preconceptions and assumptions on my part) He seemed to understand the pain of those who lost their homes who were in public housing and he was able to articulate with some compassion, his commiseration with those who had thought they were just temporarily leaving their belongings and precious mementos behind and the pain they feel from being hurt again now that they buildings are going to be razed. For many he said all "hope" of returning will be lost once all the buildings are destroyed. First it was the storm. Then not being able to go back to their homes, not being able to get their belongings things that were meaningful to them. And now the demolition of the buildings.

I could tell from our interaction together that he was someone who deeply cared about his city and the people in it. I could tell he was a thoughtful man who understood his community, his city, and it seemed to me that he had spent some time coming to his own moral understanding of the situation when he articulated his opinions about the city, it seemed to me that they "held" everyone without polarization. He was a soft spoken, reticent man, with a powerful outer countenance.

YIKES!

I knew halfway into our conversation that it was lesson time again for me. I could feel the Universe laughing. God was laughing. The city and its political mechanisms were laughing. Not at me. 'With' me. 'For' me. Sometimes, I have found that when I need to learn something more about my self and others around me, that the Universe brings me just the right situations and people to help me fine tune my usually pretty accurate insights, which if I am not careful, can get out of balance when my emotional self gets too involved. It usually happens that these events for my edification happen with uncanny serendipity and synchronicity which draws me back to my spiritual and emotional center. I know 'em to be edifying occurrences often "as they are happening" and later, I like the Universe, the city, life around me, begin laughing too.


In Peace.
Sweet dreams...

The darkest day of the year is over. Each day now, the light will stay with us a little longer.


'I AM WORTHY" - "BEING HUMBLED BY HUMILITY" - TENT CITY CLOSES IN NEW ORLEANS - FOR SOME OF THE HOMELESS - A TIME OF MOURNING FOR LOSS OF "COMMUNITY"



That was the prevailing mood of sadness (and joy) amongst many of the homeless that were left today in "tent city" in New Orleans.

The 'sadness' I am speaking of - on a loss of community - may be hard for some to understand.

What someone who hasn't been homeless and who has been through the trauma of the Katrina related levee failures may find hard to comprhend is that for at least 100,000 people just in New Orleans, everything they had was destroyed for so many people. Those who are homeless since then who 'had' something to call their own, lost everything tangible, everything that to them, gave their lives meaning and gave them a sense of identity.

Think about it. Right now, you have to leave your house, you have right now. What are you going to do in in the next 10-20 minutes you think to yourself. Remember, you are also dealing with shock and your mind can't fully comprehend the reality of that which is unfolding before you. Your mind just doesn't have a context for the level of trauma you are presently engaging in.

You are going through the experience and find that it is so mind blowing, that don't have enough wherewithal to process it - so your mind goes into a "shock" mode and you just move automatically.

You grab whatever your mind has previously identified as "valuable".

You get out.

YOU NEVER GET TO COME BACK TO THIS REALITY -- THIS LIFE -- AGAIN.

For others, they might be 'luckier', they get to come back and mop up and throw out their previous lives, memories; pick up the debris, look at the slat of what is left of which used to be their 'reality', perhaps not even that...

Now imagine, your life for the most part, had up until this point, seemed to be pretty much behind the "8 ball" in one way or another, to a greater or lesser degree.

Now you have just lost, everything.

It's months later - your homeless, you stay in the shelters, the mission, on the streets, with friends, with strangers, in abandoned buildings, in your car, on a bench, in motel rooms when you can afford them.

Your trying to get your life together. Perhaps your not trying at all. Perhaps at some level or another mentally and emotionally you cannot be fully 'present'. There are some among us who during their lifetimes, never 'fit' into the structures society creates, for whatever reason.

It doesn't matter. You stayed on the roof, you walked through chest high waters, you were without food for days and nights, no toilet, on a roof. You drank Katrina water indesparation. Or you were in the convention center or SuperDome. On top of a school or an apartment building or in a tree. It doesn't matter how you got to tent city. Or even if you were in the flood zones. What mattered was that you were in "tent city".

What mattered for the homeless that I met, who spoke with me - was the shared experience with each other, the camaraderie and the rare experience of collectively feeling "more than" the "less than" worthy that they have experienced from many other New Orleanians.

I don't know much about it tent city's origins or who was who there - I just can share with you the experiences I had with the homeless staying there and then the people who help who I met today.

(What was really funny is the self righteous contempt a few of the case workers from Unity dished out my way. For one thing there was a sudden "sea of white faces and middle class white folks" at tent city today. I usually came before dark or in the mornings on weekends. I don't keep office hours, I follow the rhythms and the time of the homeless. And before dark is a good time to find people who are like the birds, returning to their nests as it gets dark, while it is still relatively, safe. So they had no idea who I was and thought I was here for the first time today.

Nah, I knew enough to come with extra sturdy large trash bags on moving day.)
Here is the theme of what I have learnt and experienced amongst the homeless, the people who try to help them, and the people who really do care but are silent and unseen. Worthiness and dignity.

The people who came together in "tent city" shared a unique experience with each other - for better or worse, and in many cases it was worse - (and worse is 'relative'). The became a family in Ultima Thule. And they knew community again.

It seems odd doesn't it to think that the homeless miss community or that it would be important to them. I think perhaps that we look upon the homeless, I have until I was homeless myself; we look upon them as loners - the outsiders of society and community. I think far too many believe, without even questioning the origins of this belief, that the homeless don't want to be a part of community.

The odd thing is that they do. But the homeless don't fit for the most part, into the structures and boxes that society (communal, ideological, and political) have created. For most, not all of the homeless, there is a need to function to the best of their abilities, as human beings, with dignity, on their terms within the greater society. These are human beings who are willing to suffer degradation and being very un"comfortable", in order to live a life that they can relate to, on their terms. They need as human beings, to "be" right where they are at in the moment. Not where you or I are 'at' or where you or I believe they should be 'at'.

And this is where 2 men I met and spoke with today intersect in this story of the homeless leaving 'tent city' :


"I AM WORTHY"


I got the inspiration for the sign from the 1960's trash strike - "I am a man".

--James Sowell

1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike


More to come on James.




Story # 2


ON BEING HUMBLED BY MY PRECONCEIVED PREJUDICES AND HUMBLED BY HUMILITY...





I spent some time today talking with a one of the 2 police officers assigned to the NOPD Homeless Division.

I am once again "humbled" by my preconceived prejudices that I bring to my writing on the homeless situation.

I got the first clue that my bias on writing about the homeless had skewed a little too far out of balance even for me, and it came when Herbert mentioned, that "the police division were helping us out of kindness by letting us stay here."

The Universe made sure I followed up on that thought today by presenting in my path a person who spends his time in the streets helping the homeless every day he is on the job.

I stand beside all my previous postings and I admit that it wasn't the whole story. Mea culpa.

And I "should" know better when it comes to New Orleans.

This city does have a compassionate aspect to it that has been a part of its heart for a very long time. I get caught up some times in the politics that are playing out - like with what is happening with the public housing issue and I forget there are other aspects to this scenario.

New Orleans is unlike many other US cities and towns I have lived in over the last 20 years. It understands and at times, prides itself on its charities and good works. And it is not an egotistical pride that I witness, it is more of the "good feeling" pride that you want to teach your kids.

The officer from the Homeless Division I spoke with today taught me so much more about how there are those in the city who are trying and do care - within the NOPD.

And he talked to me in a language that I speak. If you have spent anytime on this blog you may have figured out that my "perceptions" and they way that I understand reality is "different", perhaps one would say from the "norm". I speak in a language that is political and spiritual at the same time. I try to live a life that is about "doing" rather than "preaching, "being" rather then telling. The NOPD homeless division officer I am speaking of Sam Scaffidi, spoke the language that spoke to the same level of "caring" and "respecting" the dignity of others, no matter their circumstances.

My time speaking with him and most of all listening to him share about his work, his heart felt desire to help the homeless, his willingness and compassion in understanding the many levels of complications that can occur with each individual within the greater homeless population touched me profoundly.

I did not take notes as this was form me, a personal conversation for my own edification.

If I would have, you too would be as inspired by who he is as a person and how he brings this "self" to his work.

Yeah. I am talking about personnel from the New Orleans Police Department.

You can't fake integrity. you can;t fake compassion. It there is any contempt it will slip out in phrasing of a sentence or through words unconsciously chosen. When I spoke with this man I was touched by his sincerity, clarity, his ability to recognize his position as a bridge between opposing viewpoints and his willingess to expose his vulnerability by being openly compassionate on the beat. And this is an ex-marine. Semper Fi.

Can you understand now why I write that I have been humbled by his humility? I found this NOPD officer whose job it is to work with the homeless and interface between the force and the homeless, to be a compassionate human being "within a law enforcement capacity".

He became one of the teachers that comes across my path whose integrity and true passion for what they do - really makes an impact in my consciousness and creates an opening within me when I get stuck in ruts where my thinking is preconceived or prejudiced.

I felt like Officer Sam Scaffidi in my conversations with him today was embodying "being" in purpose and his humility humbled me and inspired me.

I have an opportunity to speak with him again in a few days. This time I am going to write down as much of the conversation as I can and you can judge for yourself.


IN PEACE.

Prayers for the suffering everywhere, especially for the homeless, the hungry, the violently oppressed, the fearful, the tortured, and the lonely.


A p.s. from your P.S. - I am really tired and as much as I would like to edit this posting, I am just too tired.... Peace.

BAGDHAD ON THE BAYOU: LOCAL NOPP (New Orleans Private Patrol) BRINGS IN MEN FROM CHILE AND BRAZIL TO WORK IN NEW ORLEANS 'SECURITY' INDUSTRY

Okay. Did you get yet the full impact of the post-headline I just wrote?

There is a New Orleanian private security company that guards most of "Uptown and the Garden District", private homes and the stores and who is also involved in port related security. And the have a program of not hiring locals who "need" work, but hiring men from South America who want to travel to the United States on a 3 month work visa and training them on the job, for security positions. The same security contractor houses them and charges them rent.

Chile. Brazil. New Orleans security.
Are these men technically 'mercenaries'?

Here's a brief synopsis of what happened on my brief walk to the corner store to get a sandwich:

I was walking around the corner to the corner store down the street from me. I saw a NOPP patrol car pulling away. I saw, in front of the newly renovated building a few buildings from mine, about 6 men who were new to the neighborhood - and I found, to this country. One of them was wearing a NOPP jacket. 5 of the men (who were very nice and very polite) were from Chile, one from Brazil. I welcomed them to the neighborhood and that is when they told me that they are just here for 3 months on a working visa, taking in 'the culture' and working 40 hours a week in security.

It seems there is a cottage industry of sorts for hiring 'out of country', mercenaries to do security in the US while they are here enjoying the culture!
Whoa. I don't know about you my dear readers, but many circuits in my brain were simultaneously firing and blowing. I couldn't comprehend how a local New Orleanian security company was hiring from Chile for security patrols in New Orleans and this same 'local' New Orleanian security company was not hiring New Orleanians only to fill its slots, a city where people need work. I am sure they will use the arguement that they "can't" find people who "want" to work. We all know what that means.

I heard it used today against the homeless. Someone from Unity from the Homeless told me that the people who were left in 'tent city' didn't want help. 10 minutes later I met a husband and wife pushing a shopping cart with all their belongings. They told me that they were told there was not housing for them or a room. They want housing, they want a warm room to put their belongings in and go to work from.

Also, I know a 'little bit' about Chile and I asked them - "You know with your own country's history with abuse by the military and the killing of it's citizens, I would think you would be really leery of hooking up with private "security" companies. Private security companies such as BlackWater are becoming as powerful as the military. And that can;t be good for this country. I said to them, "The next time there is a 'terrorist' incident on US soil, there is going to be a lot of 'security' happening in this country - and not for the 'safety' of it's citizens - but I am afraid security being used 'against' them."

"You guys know what I am talking about when it comes to abuses of political power, right?" "No," they collectively said to me, sincerely. I grappled in my mind for references to what I was speaking to. "Pinochet." I said. "Pinochet, he was Chilean right?" All agreed yes. "I remember," I said to them, he killed alot of people and abused power." "No, no they said to me." "Pinochet was good for the country. Pinochet was good."

Again circuits are blowing - firing - going crazy in my brain. I have conflicting thoughts and emotions occurring these men are very sincere and credible. Yet I am certain Pinochet was not 'good' for many people in Chile.

I told them that I wanted to come back and speak with them some more about the subject and would come and visit another day and said goodbye.

I had to walk away. My intuition was telling me that something was very wrong with hearing the words "Pinochet was good for Chile" and associating these words with men who are on US soil hired to do 'private security' in New Orleans - our "Bagdhad on the bayou".

Moments later I am ordering my sandwich and I say hello to the woman on my left and then the man on my right.

Oddly enough - (not really, in my 'reality') - my neighbor on the other side of the corner store about a block and a half from me, is from CHILE. What are the odds? I speak with him about what I just heard from the guys here doing security concerning Pinochet. He reels back, not believing I just heard what I did from fellow Chileans. He is a graduate student from Chile.
He says his family was upper middle class and all for Pinochet very "right wing". His wife's family on the other hand suffered under Pinochet and were exiled to England. He confirms my thoughts that Pinochet did in fact "did murder" "alot of people".

And if I remember correctly as I am writing this, he "tortured them".
And again, if I remember correctly, we are connected in some way with this torture (there are protesters at the {?} School of the Americas {?} protesting our involvement with torture and military corruption in South America, in Virginia {I believe?}) and more is coming back to me as I write, I'm remembering "death squads".

My Chilean neighbor also appraised me of a fact that I did not know - that a very large proportion of "mercenaries" in Iraq are from Chile.

And now they are here in our Bagdhad on the bayou.


Our Democracy is in sooo much trouble isn't it?

"THERE ARE LAWS IN THIS COUNTRY THAT ARE MAKIN IT 'ILLEGAL' TO BE HOMELESS" {ERIC} -- THE CRIMINALIZATION OF POVERTY AND HOMELESSNESS

I spent most of my time yesterday with the homeless that I have met, asking who got signed up for housing and who got a motel stay.

Most of the population that was left in tent city as of yesterday afternoon, were single men and 95% of them were African American.

Most had neither a short term stay in a motel room nor the prospect of affordable housing. Just about all of them worked (it was raining today so that those who had construction jobs were off, and some took off from their jobs hoping that they might find shelter with Unity for the Homeless before getting "fenced out". I was told time and again how having a place to stay helps getting to the job and being clean for work more possible.

Herbert (who is the fiance of Catherine whom I spoke of in another post - I just found out in this conversation he was Catherine's fiance - who is also homeless) has a motel room but it is in New Orleans East. He works at the SuperDome. He didn't even have bus fair to get to his room. He was told that tokens were going to be available for those put in rooms farther from the city. Payday is tomorrow. He told me whilst grateful for the room, it is farther from his work and everything in his pay is alloted out with very little "discretionary" spending money left. He also has no idea how long he is going to be there so he doesn't know how to budget out for bus fares, food, (he was eating for free at the shelters) or for how long.

"They have a limit (on tolerance of the homeless) which is tomorrow. They are scrambling to place us anywhere. Whether you are in housing or not - you gotta get outta here (Friday December 21, 2007)

Once this is over (the big push of help) you're on your own." "The police division were helping us out of kindness by letting us stay here."

"Until they come up with a feasible solution with housing they should keep {public housing} open.

Herbert told me that he has a strong suspicion that "any public place {in the future} is gonna be off limits - 'strictly trespassing' for the homeless."

"After Christmas if you don't have a case worker (with Unity for the Homeless) - then how can a "case worker help you get off of the streets?" Herbert works in the SuperDome doing floor work and machinery work. He says his job is coming along, he just doesn't earn enough to pay his bills. "I'm a working man, I'm not the type to sit around and say gimme - gimme. I can't afford to pay the rent and the utilities, I can't find affordable housing."

Jay, the man whose is making his bed in the following pictures, told me" This is my last day makin my bed. I don't know what I am gonna do. This is the last time, makin my bed.

(I was photograghing how neat Jay leaves his "space" before he got back from work today. Notice the placement of his sneakers." I have observed often how many of the men who are working who stay here are neat in this way.)




"Look at this trash," Jay with is trash picker-upper:




"You don't have to be nasty and homeless, you can be neat and homeless."



I (Jay) signed up with Unity (for the Homeless) about 5 times, they came to my bed 2x - they have my name. Then they say they can't help me because they "ain't got my name". I went to the church to sign up there and also signed up when they were here.

"This is my house here. I am getting evicted tomorrow". "Things are so hard for me I can't even afford underwear. I walk to work at the Convention Center every day, the chafing was so bad yesterday I found myself crying from the pain as I walked." "It is hard to work without a place to rest."

"The shelters are not designed for people who go to work - you have to be out of them by 5-6 a.m. and then you can't get back in until after 4:30."

"This building (state building) became a number one priority when the homeless came around. Not the hospitals and schools. First they fixed the SuperDome - not the hospitals and schools."
They housed the military across the streets but they don't have the money to house the homeless."

Jay tells me, "I am going to stay under the covers today and stay warm." (We had heavy rains today).

* * * *

In another conversation with a homeless man who was standing with Herbert and I, he told me "I have a job, I can't wait around for charity all day. They (Unity and charities), come during the day."

* * * *

When I spoke with Don he told me his former profession was as a chemist. I'm 5o now and I can't find a steady job He shared his thoughts on the demolishing of Public Housing. "It would take a week or two to train men in asbestos abatement, then certify them. Then in 6 months to 2 years, people won't have to be in tents." "Asbestos is rampant in New Orleans, these people would be trained for the future. Instead, they are lockin people up to get them off the streets. I am vulnerable out here - I gotta work I send money to my wife for my kids."




About the group of men who live over here. And this is not "trash" - this is their belongings. to the left in this picture is a man who I did not photograph, who was the one left behind to watch every one's belongings. The men who live(d) up here shared things. I saw it time and time again. And each time I was toched by the sense of community they had created forf themselves. There is something so profound in watching the "sharing" that occurs between those who have so little - I was deeply touched at how people watched out for each other here and "shared". They shared money they had collected to get food, to get beer. They shared cigarettes. They share clothes. They "s-h-a-r-e". As I was leaving one of them ran around the "hill" to tell the rest of the men there, that Unity for the Homeless was gonna come over and take some people to hotel rooms and get ready."

Their hope that they would be one of them was contagious.



For those who don't get a motel room stay or signed up for housing, and there are plenty* - - I know where to find them, many have told me where they will go if they don't get help with Unity, I won't be publishing where they are or pictures of them anymore. I have learned that publicity for them can be good and bad. If something positive comes out of it to help them stand up - it's good publicity. But after December 21 with this big push to make brand New Orlean$ all sparkly and wonderful for the Sugar bowl and other upcoming events - being homeless is going to be risky and for some - illegal.

*Unity for the Homeless estimates there are 12 thousand homeless post-Katrina.