During the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, several dozen public-housing residents and activists marched to the headquarters of the Housing Authority of New Orleans. The marchers occupied the offices for hours. As the military and police surrounded the building, Sharon Sears Jasper, a displaced resident of the St. Bernard housing project, spoke: “We are not going to stop. We refuse to let you tear our homes down and destroy our lives. The government, the president of the
In contrast, the day before, I had asked Mayor Ray Nagin if he made any demands of President Bush as they dined together the previous night. Bush had just spoken at a school named for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose issues of race and poverty are starkly laid bare in
Tracie Washington is the president of The Louisiana Justice Institute and a lifelong resident of
She describes the plan by which public housing will be converted to “mixed-income” developments: “Some of these developments that are closed down took in no water. But the decision was made to take advantage of an opportunity. Hurricane Katrina came. ‘Look what we can do. We can keep these people away from here, bring in the bulldozers, tear down this housing.’ ”
It is not just renters. Private housing is being demolished as well.
To the tens of thousands of New Orleanians scattered across the country, the city’s scant notice—a sticker attached to the property plus mentions on a city website and in The Times-Picayune newspaper—is clearly insufficient. According to The Times-Picayune, in addition to homes being destroyed, liens are placed on properties for the cost of the demolition, setting the stage for the displaced owners to lose their property to the city.
That is why groups like Common Ground Collective, The Louisiana Justice Institute and People’s Hurricane Relief Fund and Oversight Coalition are taking action, on the streets and in the courts.
According to Common Ground’s founder, Malik Rahim, of the more than 12,000 people previously in the lower 9th Ward, only about 400 live there now. Where once there was a dense, vibrant African-American neighborhood, I walked with Rahim through tall marsh grass, vacant lots and destroyed churches and schools. A few isolated, damaged brick homes remain.
Curtis Muhammad, a longtime resident of
Two years after Katrina, as Bush flew from the bayou to
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 500 stations in