Isn’t it quite telling how we’re always reminded every year about the events of 9/11, but not the catastrophic event that was Hurricane Katrina? There are no memorial services, no moments of silence, no 24/7 documentaries on cable television that chronicles the event. Nope, it’s almost as though it never happened. Here we are 4yrs later and people are still struggling in New Orleans. Well, for me, Hurricane Katrina is one event that has left a lasting impact on my life. No I wasn’t there in New Orleans or nearby Biloxi Mississippi, but I did live on the Gulf Coast that day and several months after.
I lived in Pensacola Florida back then, and even to this day it’s hard for me to even forget the events leading up to that day, and the days afterward. I don’t know what was more terrifying: not knowing where the hurricane would hit land and being in its path, or watching what people endured and realizing that I too could have met such a fate. I’m sorry, but the combination of fear, disappointment, and the eventual anger was enough to make me move from the Gulf Coast the following year.
For the first time in my life I stared southern bred racism directly in the eye, as I watched displaced Black people bussed in to a shelter I volunteered at because “certain people” didn’t want them in their “Lilly White” towns or neighborhoods in nearby Alabama. I met and spoke to people at that shelter who had no clue where they were, or even where other family members may be. I saw entire families sleeping in cars, babies and grown men crying; I saw a lot. To this day I don’t know if it was worse watching what most people saw on television or living and seeing what I saw firsthand; I can’t imagine being at ground zero, could you? And just think: four years later and people are still not where they should be.
I also remember the shock and horror of watching the World Trade Center fall on September 11th. I remember watching and thinking about my mother and the rest of my family and friends in New York City. Yes, that was indeed a morning full of terror, but I got over it eventually. I wish I could say the same thing about the events following Hurricane Katrina because I’m still mad. Sure it could be debated that the gov’t had the power to prevent the 9/11 event; a debate often riddled with conspiracies. But I’m sorry, what they did not do in the wake of Katrina, or even in not repairing the levees in years prior is not debatable.
To me, it was no conspiracy, but instead affirmations that the lives of poor people – especially people of color – are disposable. But hey, I guess this would explain why it’s easy for “certain people” to argue against social policies in this great nation of ours. After all, the underclass must be preserved at all costs, no? How ironic is it that Katrina has hit this country again in the form of our current economic meltdown? Payback maybe? How ironic is it that there are people who still believe that the gov’t shouldn’t do anything to assist it’s citizenry in these times while people are drowning…
Hurricane Katrina, just like 9/11 is one event that should never be forgotten. Yes, and just like my man Mos Def says in the song Katrina Clap: “Stop being cheap nigga, freedom ain’t free!!” But I guess James Baldwin said it best when he said: “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”
And now, I delectably present to you a song, most suitable for the occasion: