Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Katrina Townhall Meeting update

Here's a report from Alexandra Tager on Monday night's Katrina Townhall Meeting.
It was apparent last night at the event commemorating Katrina that the level of need folks in New Orleans still face continues to go unaddressed. The lack of a coherent plan for helping people put their lives back together is a day to day insult to a population that has already endured endless trauma.

Survivors who have come to New York are struggling to keep it together, either emotionally or financially, sometimes both. The trauma sustained does not just melt away like a flesh wound, it festers and debilitates long after the fact.

WFP State Co-Chair Bertha Lewis (pictured at right), also executive director of New York ACORN, gave a detailed accounting of the dearth of a coherent government response, even to this day. The public school system in New Orleans has been decimated, a majority of the teachers fired, and most of the schools operating today are charters - read privately run. Funny, didn't the Bush administration want to do this with vouchers? People have lost their addresses and thus their ability to receive their Social Security checks, so they have been cut from the rolls. Funny, didn't the Bush administration want to do this too?

Jeffrey Volk (pictured left), a former Bush fundraiser, came to speak. He's on a rampage against the current administration, after having been caught in the eye of the chaos while depositing his daughter at Tulane and witnessing the horror. He told of his Jewish grandparents being rescued by the US Army at the end of World War II, and his incomprehension at the fact that the same US Army couldn't be marshalled to rescue it's own people.

He was not present last night to tell a personal sob story he said, he was there because he had vowed to go anywhere, to talk to any audience, to decry "the disgrace" that is the Bush administration. Talk about an epiphany.

There's a tremendous amount of disillusionment about government, a corrosive lack of faith in politicians, which illustrates the loss for all of us, whether we lived in New Orleans or not. People just don't believe that politicians can or will do anything for them.

One of the most consistent remarks among survivors however, and the most heartening, is that even though they don't believe in government, they believe in people, the goodness of nameless individuals who jumped at the chance to help, and have continued to do so. It's a solid lesson for all of us.

The Working Families Party has a big challenge ahead of it - as does any one of us who cares about having a collective conscience - to restore faith in government or, rather, restore government to an institution that deserves our faith. Maybe the way to start that process is by putting those same good people in government.

Maybe we need to look to ourselves, look to our neighbors, join proverbial hands, and work together to improve government. There has never been a more crucial time to come together with one of our most powerful weapons - the power of the multitude raising their voices in tandem - to hold politicians accountable to the concerns of poor and working people and change the politicians we have for the ones we want.
More pictures below:

Kevin Powell, one of the event's organizers, riffed on Fannie Lou Hamer's famous quote "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired."

City Councilmembers Tish James and Charles Barron fired up the crowd with their take on Katrina, economic injustice and what we can do about it.

Thanks again to everyone who came.

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Images by Michael Scott Jones

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