here comes the sun lil darling

Editor’s Note: CHOCOLATE SNOWFLAKE took a trip to New Orleans to survey first hand the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. She took a ton of pictures and then wrote me an emotional and heartfelt letter after returning to her hotel. It’s still impossible for me to imagine that America the beautiful could be mismanaged into Third World status, but the rate at which we have failed to prioritize our homeland concerns over liberating foreigners and subsequently have continued to give billions in aid to everyplace else, there may come the day when many other U.S. cities resemble the Ninth Ward.

My dearest of all,

New Orleans is a strange city. I imagine it was strange before Hurricane Katrina, but the ways in which the graciousness and hospitality of the people made up for the strangeness no longer hold. Not that folks aren’t still gracious. Quite the contrary, the degree of courtesy and the welcoming attitude is by far the most refreshing aspect of this trip. It’s just that it’s not quite enough to cover the economic and racial fault lines Hurricane Katrina exposed.

At our meeting today, a gentleman whose family encompasses three generations of progressive unionism spoke to us about what’s going on in the Southern Crescent, as he called it. The politicians, many of whom were elected on the backs of the labor movement — which comprises mostly of teachers and manual laborers — and the christian charity network of churches, have seized the “opportunity” presented by Hurricane Katrina to try to break the unions and eradicate anything resembling a living wage.

The public schools were devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The school system lost millions of dollars in facilities and supplies — libraries, books, pencils, calculators, desks, etc. — not to mention the emotional toll it’s taken on the children who look toward the routine of school and seeing their classmates as a constant in lives that are already in turmoil by displacement. AFT, the teacher’s union, has raised a million and a half dollars which it has distributed directly to teachers in the form of cash grants to help them get situated, and find temporary shelter for them and their families.

So what does New Orleans do? They fire all the teachers, reconstitute the public schools as charter schools and tell teachers they’ll rehire them but only as non-union employees. If teachers are caught discussing they’re salaries, they’re fired. Students who can’t afford charter schools get rerouted to other districts, or are given vouchers for partial payment of tuition (with no collatoral to fund the other half) or are simply told that their schools won’t be rebuilt and that the teachers aren’t coming back. Naturally this impacts poor students, many of whom happen to be black and Latino.

Mayor Nagin has apparently also decided to locate a garbage dump — where all the debris from the “clean up” will be deposited — in the middle of an impoverished Vietnamese community that abuts a nature preserve.

The downtown area, where I’m staying, is a twilight zone. Within a two block radius of my hotel, you’d never know that a natural disaster went down. But turn a wrong corner and the smell, the boarded up stores, the watermarks on the buildings and the nastiest pigeons I have ever seen tell another story.

It may sound trivial, but when the pigeons — the pentultimate urban scavenger — are scrawny oily-necked avian refugees with matted feathers openly squabbling in the street over a crust of old bread smeared with shit, you know it’s bad.

The upcoming elections here are a joke. 26 contenders and not one of them able to do a damn thing about anything. Everyone I’ve spoken to laughs at Nagin, but the alternatives are insiders, the insiders’ insiders and the crazy uncle who prah’lee molested someone or something at some point and can’t get a job doing anything else. So he might as well be mayor.

The most tragic thing of all is that our people — and by that I mean simply human beings, our brothers, our sisters, our children, our parents — suffer while 20 miles away someone is sitting quite comfortably in their living room, watching it all on the evening news.

My cab driver from the airport — her father died in a hospital during Hurricane Katrina.

The porter, Ken, who brought my bags up, fled for his life to Texas with his parents in tow and was only able to return because he works at the only union hotel in town and therefore had a job waiting for him when the place reopened. He’s crashing on a friend’s couch because he can’t afford an apartment. His rent used to be $500 for a one bedroom; now, with the lack of housing and a general state of desperation, one bedrooms go for anything from $800 to $2300.

RiverWalk, the Mississippi River promenade where you can buy beignets and cafe au lait has been cleaned, Foot Locker has reopened, but the library is still boarded up and there are no public schools.

The moneyed elite has figured out that with HK, they can rebuild the city the way they want — New Orleans used to be a 70% black city, now it’s about 30-40% and dropping — as people seem less and less inclined to return to no homes, no jobs, no churches, no neighborhoods and the city uses eminent domain to seize their property for redevelopment.

But folks sure can drink and play some music. Whoo-wee. Good times.

As our speaker said today: The Southern Crescent of Missouri, Louisiana and Alabama was, according to the census, the poorest in the nation in the 1930s, the poorest in the 1960s and remained the poorest in 2000. The Federal Government didn’t abandon these people after Hurricane Katrina. They were abandoned a long time ago. Katrina just blew the covers off the bed of neglect on which Fat Cats, Greed and Corruption indulge in an unholy menage-a-disaster.

It’s depressing beyond belief. And I get to go home on Sunday. Can you imagine how depressed some of these folks must be?

Well, I’m thoroughly sick and disgusted. Tomorrow we go out and build a house for someone. It’s a drop, but even a drop is better than nothing. In the meantime, I’m going to lie on the bed, turn on the TV and escape into the 100 Most Shocking Moments on Television. Its a VH1 Marathon, so I’m guaranteed no Katrina coverage.

Love you, miss you,

9 Responses to “Reflection Eternal For HURRICANE STARRKEYSHA”

  1. alex2.0 says:

    1 year later and the damage done is still heart wrenching. 🙁

  2. Amadeo says:

    Watching Spike Lee’s joint the deepest thing I took from it was when they spoke about New Orleans doesn’t get any of the money from oil drilling and the fishing and what not near there cause it’s three miles off shore. They said if they got a percent of that they’d be like Saudi Arabia.

  3. That part of Spike Lee’s joint was wild.
    The other part that got me was when the guy said one of his friends drowned and said that body’s name was Eddie.
    You just see dead negroes without names, but he put a name to the face.

  4. Combat Jack says:


  5. Candice says:

    Spike opened a lot of eyes. We all know what happened and the level of devastation. The question is…what can we do?

  6. the_dallas says:

    First thing to do is remove all the cowards from office that keep us at war. Next step is to remove from our spending portfolio any company that isnt reinvesting in America.

  7. Tia says:

    Wow…I just read another moving description about a visit to N.O. in Xquizzyt1’s blog. I almost can’t believe it’s not getting any better for New Orleanians, yet the damn stadium is being readied for the Saints to come back and play in next month? What’s up with those priorities?

  8. mrkamoji says:

    Honest its kinda of sad that we forgot and turned our backs yet again. New Orleans should be head line news. I had put it out of my mind until this week and I believe most people are in the same boat.

  9. Candice says:

    Exactly Dallas. We can’t all keepp saying how sad it is and what a tragedy. We need to VOTE and take action. I hate being idle while folks are living in substandard conditions.

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