As many have been commenting, the forum has TONS of concurrent sessions, making it impossible to attend them all. In a way, the nature of the concurrent sessions forces people to partner up with others and be strategic about what they attend. I was lucky enough to have several organizer friends in attendance who were all interested in a wide array of tracks so that we could regroup and discuss events together either at lunch, the end of the night, or some time in the future.
The decision to share (always a good one) freed me up to focus on New Orleans for the first day. Not only was there a plenary session about the state of the Gulf Coast region but also several panels throughout the day ranging from artists as activists, relief workers from within the region, and resident storytelling. Panels included not only African American voices but also Latino ones, and in at least one panel Asian Americans spoke about their own immigrant communities being hit. The expansion of the racial discourse around NOLA is a good one, as it reminds us that while the issue is one of “Slavery to New Orleans,” as one panel put it, it is also one of disposable bodies – the weak, the sick, the elderly, the immigrant, the communities of color, mothers, children, etc.
The highlights of the NOLA discussion are as follows:
- Privatization Continues – huge tax breaks given to, often hand picked, outside developers who bring in their own labor, forcing seasoned NOLA workers to do day labor if/when they can get it; schools and services under private care rather than public state funds as before
- Buying & Selling Latinos – Latin@ panelists shared that their labor contracts in the Gulf Region have been bought and sold between private businesses without their consent or foreknowledge and increasing privatization means more of the same.
- Gentrification – areas abandoned because they are still uninhabitable are being taken over by those with funds to clean up and refab, other areas are being looked at by developers for same. Housing market near colleges in these areas have gone up 4xs that of previous rent, pricing out NOLA residents.
- Af-Am and immigrant neighborhoods still not safe – new flood report shows “there will be no reduction in flood waters for African American neighborhoods.” Result of report: higher insurance rates for poorest areas, forcing people out
- Currently 300,000 IDPs still living away from NOLA.
Some other points of interest for me, were the roles artists are playing in NOLA’s recovery and the shift in language toward an immigration & diaspora lexicon.
A friend of mine over at Endless Screed (I linked there but she never blogs) has been talking about the link between transnational migration theory and her concept of raced movers as easily adaptable to the Katrina genocide for a while now. Maybe posting this will light a fire under her butt to publish as her stuff resonates so clearly with that presented by the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund
The big things they are asking for/ reiterating were:
- Katrina and the handling of the aftermath = ethnic cleansing: the failure to provide transportation to the black community for evacuation, the shooting of black people in the streets and on bridge escape routes, the current policing of the 9th ward, and the privatization of the rebuild which means a loss of jobs, say, and housing, have all meant a “whitening of NOLA.”
- Recent Actions – Rent control rally to keep rent control in place (some people are ignoring), ensure rents are affordable as the gentrification effect is forcing people out of historically black neighborhoods
- Solutions – ensure leadership from within, support local organizers, keep information current in people’s minds, pass on to survivors that the survivors conference is coming up. (see previous post)
Other actions they are involved in are on the website
Also poked my head briefly in the ASHE event which blended art and survival. ASHE offered makeshift housing during and after Katrina in their art center. They offer many women centered programs including a regular health and wellness group that is SO IMPORTANT in the PTS days of post-Katrina.
They are also looking for a feminist (preferably from NOLA) to help coordinate a 10 month project to end violence against women, which is on the rise in the region, called the Katrina Warriors Project. Job description is here. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. You can also find out more about Katrina Warriors by clicking the link but please do not post Eve Ensler stuff here as I am deliberately avoiding that aspect of it out of solidarity to the missing communities of color in her narrative and the Juarez women whose fundraising plans were hijacked by V-Day a few years back.
The great quote for the day: Imagine a world with no prisons.
critical resistance (pdf on ways to start your won chapter against the prison industrial complex includes info on NOLA)