NOLA on my mind…Gentrification, Hurricanes and People in Power
Safely tucked away from the threat of a hurricane in the suburbs of Minneapolis, the city of New Orleans has been on my mind and heart. It’s raining here as well, but just enough to water the crops before harvest…As many of the people who moved to New Orleans after Katrina, I am clueless as to how I should feel. I know the survivors of hurricane Katrina suffer PTSD and all sorts of aliments from living the nightmare of the storm. My family and friends were among the ones who waded through the murky waters.
I left my Minnesota born 21yr old niece and 13 month old nephew in my shotgun duplex in the 8th Ward, an area that’s prone to flooding. I have called her though out the day giving her a list of what to have just in case. I even went as far as telling her to fill the tub with water and to get flashlights and candles, now apart of me is worried that I put invoked fear in her… Well, let’s not say fear, my Daddy called it “NOT LIVING IN A STATE OF EMERGENCY, ALWAYS BE PREPARED.” I think I feel a sense of guilt for leaving her there and at times like theses I feel guilty for moving my family back home, because of the corruption, lack or resources that comes with living in New Orleans, but I love my city, like so many other natives do even the ones who lost everything to hurricane Katrina.
Maybe, my nervousness has a lot to do with the Government and the pump failure. In effort to keep the children calm, we put on our rainboots and stomped through the trash, germ and rat infested water singing “Rain Rain Go Away and God please take the flood waters away.” I did this, because they asked a million and one questions about hurricanes and tornadoes, one said “Remember in the Oz, the house was picked up by the tornado and Dorothy ended up needing to see the Wizard of Oz to get home.? How will we get home or is would that be like us being dead??” It broke my heart, so there we were with makeshift boats, toys and a message in a bottle for good measures..
The waters were over 2 feet deep, my neighbors came together to get most of the cars to the neutral ground and retrieve floating trash cans. As the kids splashed I assisted to pick up as many trash bags as I could until I picked up that last bag, which was busted and maggots were fighting for their dear life not to drown.. Can maggots drown?? I’m afraid of all things creep crawly, but I picked it up and put the bag in a random trash can,
At first playing with the kids brought a sense relief to me, but seeing things floating down the street as if we would be the next, my mind shifted to worry, but what brought ease was these New Orleanians who stopped by and asked if we needed anything from the corner store, which was still open, because it was on higher ground. They came back with beers and poboys.
This was not even a Hurricane, just a really bad storm and Sewage and Water pump failure, so to know that a Hurricane is on its way has me worried about everyone there. It’s seems that my life takes me up here to Minnesota at this time of year and I’m dodging the emotions that come along with living in New Orleans, during Hurricane season.. Even with being over a thousand miles away I can still feel the dread of worry for my family. friends and the people of New Orleans during Katrina. The images on the news still haunt me to this day, I can visualize th elderly woman covered with a blanket while her dead body sat in a wheel chair in the heat. It was a horrible nightmare to watch and I can not imagine what it felt like for those who lived through it. How are they managing tonight? Are they in need of a mental health worker, are they chain-smoking, having an anxiety attack or minutes away from a stoke, because of fear of another Katrina within the city’s reach??
It’s wonderful to hear and see that the governor has taken actions and called a “State of emergency,” but when I read 200 US Guardsmen where coming in, my heart sank. That’s a whole different level of fear.. Do we forgive and forget that there were some police, guardsmen and servicemen in the city during Katrina who actually wore their badges in honor, but then we know what the other’s did.. How did it make you feel to know that more guards were called in to protect the city??
I’m also wondering about the transplant, the people who were not born and raised in New Orleans, but moved here after Katrina Power Players flushed out the poorest of New Orleans, so they can live their version of New Orleans culture. I wonder if the threat of both life and property will get them to understand what it truly means to be a displaced refugee?? Unlike, the poor they have the careers that line their pockets and pad their bank accounts. They have full coverage on their “Creole Cottages” and expensive automobiles even flood and storm, a coverage that most are denied in New Orleans. But, then that makes me think, would a rich person really move into an area where poor people where displaced, because of Katrina? Why? Maybe their move has something to do with investment infrastructure, unequally funded grants and the advantages that come with being wealthy?? I’m new to all that, but I’m trying my best to find ways to educate myself on things of this nature, but I know onething…it’s not fair whatever is going on around the city, especially where housing is concerned, but I’ll address that later.
I’m mentioning this, because unlike Hurricane Katrina the city wasn’t occupied by non-natives of this magnitude. I have met several people who relocated here after coming to New Orleans to volunteer their time without any compensation. They lived and worked in the same conditions as the New Orleanians that stayed behind, they suffered and endured with them out of compassion. These are not the transplants I’m speaking of. They stayed, relocated, uprooted their lives, because they not only loved the culture of New Orleans, but the people.
When the tornado hit New Orleans East last year I hoped that it would shed some light on that a natural disaster knows no color, but like the 9th Ward, New Orleans East still sits in ruins, possibly because the weathy people are no longer interested in living out there, As a teenager, that was my goal to have one of those fancy gated apartments in the East with all those fancy amenties. One had to have not only good credit, but a career and a two incomes coming in.
I hope this category 1 Hurricane brings a reminder that we are all in the same boat. We are all living in a city that is below sea level, we are all at risk of not only losing our material possessions, but our most priceless of gifts, the lives of our loved ones and ours. We are all here, because in some form whether it is to use the culture or embrace it, we are living in this bowl of gumbo by choice. If by chance another Katrina happens at the end of the day all we have is each other and that’s why I’m writing, because I’m thinking of not only my niece, my family and friends, but everyone in New Orleans as a whole.
What saddens me is that the culture of New Orleans is at risk to be drowned out not only by a hurricane, but the people who come here and see nothing, but dollar signs. When I say “New Orleans will be a watery bowl of gumbo if we do not save the culture” I’m not speaking of a thing or place, but the people. There can be no New Orleans period without New Orleanians. Most of the people who stayed behind after being told to evacuate or came back to nothing, should not be looked at as poor people or insane, but cultural gate keepers. They stay and came back, because they love New Orleans, this is home, they worked the city prior to and helped rebuild as well. Gieve them some kinda credit..
We have a bond with the city, we are rooted here, we belong here and we deserve to not worry over if the pumps or anything else in this city is working. The taxes are high enough and the wages are low so why we have to worry about anything, but trying to make ends meet. We elect officalls to worry and wake care of those things and they get paid well. That’s not our job, it’s theirs. Our leaders owe it to the ones who continue sacrifice and work hard for New Orleans as our ancestors did to at least protect and care for us. We are the reason they are in office right?? I’m loving Mayor Cantrell, she has love and understanding for the people of New Orleans. I feel at peace knowing she will advocate for the people of New Orleans.
As y’all know I’m a tourist in my own city, speaking on being a local tourist; it’s not fair that we’re spending top dollar to live downtown, hangout, dine and shop in the French Quarters and as a tourist we can’t be guaranteed that my money isn’t being used to protect me from at least flooding??? Gentifications isn’t done soley, by who has the most money, who has the power to move whole neighborhoods, but Mother Nature has more power than all the money in the world. We we are a tourist city, but this tourist city is worked by New Orleanians. If anything ever happens to the French Quarters, Bourbon St and etc, those tourist will hop on a plane to the next top tourist destination. I love being a local tourist, I love New Orleans, but hey, I love my people 1st and I want them to be the sirst prioty.
We live by the water and we know we are vulnerable to flooding, right? We have this beautiful captivating city that millions of people love and travel to throughout the year, but the monies invested should not only go to protecting the tourist areas. The profits made from tourism, the investing protecting the city should be redirected to protecting the entire city. Investors are more concerned with making more room for more tourist, over policing the tourist areas, fixing the streets in the tourist area, everything is for the tourist. The gentrification of the city’s projects which are now unafforadable for the ones who were dispalced to live in. The only concern for the people of New Orleans making sure gentrification continues.
A billion dollar tourism industry can and will be wiped out just like the poorest parts of the city. At this very moment the entire city can be shut down, which means the New Orleanians who were pushed out of the neighborhood the grew up in, live way out in New Orleans East and beyond, guess what they can’t get to work, because Mr.Investor didn’t think about that when he was playing Monopoly with houses that Katrina victims couldn’t rehab with that lil FEMA and Road Home money. I’m proof that the money wasn’t enough, because at this very moment my Daddy’s and grandmother’s houses were torn down, because we could afford to rebuild. What some do not realize that water damage can rot out the most beautifully constructed homes. The neighborhoods that lay vacant, abandoned and left in ruins by the city is the cause of gentrification on two levels, natural diaster and a government failure. If we can only get off our thrones long enough to see, life and death in any form or fashion is non-biased
Let me do a whoosah, because I’m getting upset and worried about my people, because of past treatment. This threat of a Hurricane revives the wounds of Hurricane Katrina. The people of New Orleans have suffered enough and it’s time that we take care of them, especially the ones who came back and even the ones who long to come home, but can’t afford it. I want the people who know they have the power to step up and make up for the past, because it’s clear that the only forward movement the city is leading to is gentrification. We can not prevent a natural disaster, but we can care about not only certain parts of the city or certain people, but we can come together and survive as a whole. Regardless to if you’re a native, transplant or tourist, we are all in New Orleans, because we have soulties, a relationship with the city, Let’s be there for each other and protect Our culture.
In the meantime check on your neighbors, tell that homeless person where the nearest shelter may be, call the SPCA if there are any strays in the area, but 1st make sure you’re ok, check your blood pressure, call someone if you’re feeling overwhelmed and please evacuate if they say so..
Love yall, NOLA Chic