Thursday, December 8

C-Span's "Voices of Katrina Evacuees"

Did you catch the Hurricane Katrina evacuees's testimony before Congress on Tuesday on C-Span? It was a riveting, emotional, hours-long telling of the racist elements that lace (then and now) every aspect of the disaster.

Two groups presented to Congress. The first group was comprised of African American community activists, people who lived through the bizarre experience. The second group was comprised of African American lawyers and policymakers from other cities, whose opinions were to help assess the local, state and federal response.

Here are some of the highlights, if you missed this important broadcast:

  1. In the opening remarks, Rep. Cynthia McKinney (GA) recommended the committee adopt the Congressional Black Caucus's guidelines for adddressing poverty in America. Ms. McKinney was one of two African American Congress members who sat on the dais. The African American Congressman from New Orleans, Rep. Bill Jefferson, arrived late so made no remarks, acted aloof while there, and left the hearing after the community group presented. He didn't sit through the lawyer group's presentation, which looked odd. How is it that no black NOLA representative sat through their remarks? The lady from Georgia had to step up and in?
  2. Part 2 of the testimony included a stellar, absolutely fierce presentation by Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. Ms. Arnwine was the last of five presenters to speak, but was well worth the wait. This sister came off like the next Barbara Jordan! She gave FEMA a royal beat down in her analysis of the disaster and included savvy measures the agency should consider. The Republicans in the room seemed flustered by her strong mannerisms, in pain in the membrane.
  3. Both groups spoke out forcefully about reports of having heard a double-boom right before the levee broke. One representative of the black lawyers group, Ishmael Muhammad of Mississippi's Advancement Project, raised the little-known fact that the government had blown up the levee before, in 1927. The Republicans clearly thought some of these people were nuts. (Perhaps this is why the New Orleans congressman left the room post haste, wanting nothing to do with this conspiracy theory drama.)
  4. One Jewish Republican on the dais grew fed up with the evacuees' repeated reference to Katrina's aftermath being similar to a "concentration camp." He asked the peoplez to please stop likening their experience to this. Some of the activists argued back that that was what it was like, so they'd continue to call it whatever the hell they wished.
  5. One of the community activists -- an eccentric, purple scarf-and-locs wearing Earth Mother named Dyan French -- I was sure would be carted out of the room by her armpits. A colorful, 60-year-old who is a former head of the NAACP, beautiful "Mama D" was the most contentious. (She is one of those fascinating older persons you love to chat with, but soon realize your "chat" is not supposed to be a real dialogue at all. Your role is really to just shut the hell up and listen. And listen. And listen. And if you don't, she may cuss your ass out.) At one point, one of the Republicans, Christopher Shays of Connecticut, rudely cupped his ears while Ms. French pontificated. (I must admit I understood why. lol.) But to be fair, he'd riled Mama D by insisting she answer "honestly" as to having actually eye-witnessed anyone bombing the levee. Upset from feeling he was calling her a liar, she'd only answer about what she heard -- a big boom-boom. She barked back to Rep. Shays that he needed to come to New Orleans and look at the levee himself. Her anger was warranted and palpable all the way here in Chicago.

Chaired by Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), the committee said it would investigate all of the panelists's claims of the many ways that racism tainted the Katrina recovery effort -- from whites only being slipped out of the Superdome to the alleged military bombing of the levee to the fact that no one is investigating how people died (at the hands of an uncaring military, it is alleged) to the belief that 6,000 people are still missing.

We'll be keeping an eye on all of this, for sure.

Voices of Katrina Evacuees - The Activists (part 1)

Voices of Katrina Evacuees - The Lawyers (part 2) - Comments about the proceedings

Clicks to Miles Davis catalog, but explore as you like


Anonymous UDAMAN said...

Nice report, Viqi...

I wonder, however, if this is purely a blackwashing of the obvious: a deeply ingrained political caste system which has historically thrived on the backs of the poor while Black and White Democrats corralled their votes.

The idea that the government would deliberately blow up the levies in order to force blacks out of low lying marsh land is ridiculous.Oh! Wait! I think I hear the hum of Farrakhans' mother-ship!

Perhaps upon the eve of the next disaster, the Democratic Leadership over each of these Urban Plantations should announce general elections. This would assure that the poor minorities will escape upon the very same school buses which would have taken them to the polls!


4:33 PM  
Blogger Viqi French said...


well, we agree on this one: the conspiracy theory about someone having blown up the New Orleans levee is nuts. and i admittedly love a good conspiracy theory. but it has to make sense. this just doesn't.

hate to say it, but these folk looked major league crazy saying this. i didn't have a problem with them raising the question, but with how it was presented. they would have looked more credible if they'd positioned it differently. they had no facts to back this up, only anectodal, "my uncle Jimmy's cousin said he heard a big boom" tidbits.

they'd have been better off coordinating this and stating, "none of the scientists so far seem to be able to explain specifically why the levee broke, so we're asking congress to commission an official study. there's something amiss that warrants serious investigation."

the reason i dont' buy into this is simple. no one's willing to fit the bill to rebuild the levee to withstand the same or stronger hurricane winds. so there's not going to be this mad rush to rebuild fabulous homes on top of this big sink hole. if there was some secret plan to get rid of the blacks, they'd have had a plan in place to build the best damned levee in the world beforehand.

the other piece of it that i want to look at is this: there's oil in the nearby Gulf of Mexico. and i'm one who suspects that when there's "black gold" invovled, anything's possible.

if i find an oil-related possibility that makes clearing this land advantageous to big oil companies, i just may join the peeps in the conspiracy line. otherwise, i'm shaking my head at all of this.

8:10 AM  
Anonymous UDAMAN said...


12:47 PM  
Blogger obifromsouthlondon said...

I read something about this and thought whatever. watching real close. this one aint over yet.

2:44 PM  

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