Letter from the People of New Orleans to Our Friends and Allies

Organization: 
Author: 
New Orleans Based Activists
Date Published: 
April 1, 2007

Letter From the People of New Orleans to Our Friends and Allies

Published on: April 01, 2007

We, the undersigned, represent a wide range of grassroots New Orleans organizers, activists, artists, educators, media makers, health care providers and other community members concerned about the fate of our city. This letter is directed to all those around the world concerned about the fate of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, but is especially intended for US-based nonprofit organizations, foundations, and other institutions with resources and finances that have been, or could be, directed towards the Gulf Coast.

In the days after the storm, there were many promises of support made to the people of New Orleans. Promises from not only the federal government, but also an array of nongovernmental organizations, such as progressive and liberal foundations and nonprofits. Small and large organizations have done fundraising on our behalf, promising to deliver resources and support to the people of New Orleans.

Many organizations and individuals have supported New Orleans-led efforts with time, resources, and advocacy on our behalf, and for this we are very grateful. These organizations followed through on their promises and offered support in a way that was respectful, responsible, and timely.

However, we are writing this letter to tell you that, aside from these very important exceptions, the support we need has not arrived, or has been seriously limited, or has been based upon conditions that become an enormous burden for us.

While we remain in crisis, understaffed, underfunded and in many cases in desperate need of help, we have seen promises go unfulfilled. From the perspective of the poorest and least powerful, it appears that the work of national allies on our behalf has either not happened or if it has happened it has been a failure.

In the days after August 29, 2005 the world watched as our city was devastated. This destruction was not caused by Hurricane Katrina, but by failures of local, state and national government, and institutional structures of racism and corruption. The disaster highlighted already-existing problems such as neglect, privatization and deindustrialization.

As New Orleanians, we have seen tragedy first hand. We have lost friends and family and seen our community devastated. More than 15 months later, we have seen few improvements. Our education, health care and criminal justice systems remain in crisis, and more than 60% of the former population of our city remains displaced. Among those that remain, depression and other mental health issues have skyrocketed.

While many nationwide speak of "Katrina Fatigue," we are still living the disaster. We remain committed to our homes and communities. And we still need support.

In 15 months we have hosted visits by countless representatives from an encyclopedic list of prominent organizations and foundations. We have given hundreds of tours of affected areas, and we have assisted in the writing of scores of reports and assessments. We have participated in or assisted in organizing panels and workshops and conferences. We have supplied housing and food and hospitality to hundreds of supporters promising to return with funding and resources, to donate staff and equipment and more. It seems hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised in our name, often using our words, or our stories.

However, just as the government's promises of assistance, such as the "Road Home" program, remain largely out of reach of most New Orleanians, we have also seen very little money and support from liberal and progressive sources.

Instead of prioritizing efforts led by people who are from the communities most affected, we have seen millions of dollars that was advertised as dedicated towards Gulf Coast residents either remain unspent, or shuttled to well-placed outsiders with at best a cursory knowledge of the realities faced by people here. Instead of reflecting local needs and priorities, many projects funded reflect outside perception of what our priorities should be. We have seen attempts to dictate to us what we should do, instead of a real desire to listen and struggle together. We have heard offers of strategic advice, but there have been very few resources offered to help us carry it out.

We are at an historic moment. The disaster on the Gulf Coast, and especially in New Orleans, has highlighted issues of national and international relevance. Questions of race, class, gender, education, health care, food access, policing, housing, privatization, mental health and much more are on vivid display.

The South has been traditionally underfunded and often exploited by institutions, including corporations, the labor movement, foundations, and the federal government. We have faced the legacy of centuries of institutional racism and oppression, with little outside support. And yet, against massive odds, grassroots movements in the South have organized and struggled and won historic, inspiring victories with international relevance.

In New Orleans, against incredible odds, despite personal loss and family tragedies, people are fighting for the future of the city they love. Many are working with little to no funding or support, and have achieved remarkable success.

We are writing this open letter to you to tell you that it's not too late. The struggle is still ongoing. Evacuees are organizing in trailer parks, health care providers are opening clinics, former public housing residents are fighting to keep their homes from being demolished, artists and media makers are documenting the struggle, educators and lawyers are joining with high school students to fight for better schools.

We ask you, as concerned friends and allies nationwide, as funders and organizations, to look critically at your practices. Has your organization raised money on New Orleans' behalf? Did that money go towards New Orleans-based projects, initiated and directed by those most affected? Have you paid New Orleans organizations that have acted as consultants? Have you listened directly to the needs of those in the Gulf and been responsive to them? Have you adjusted your practices and strategies to the organizing realities on the ground?

We ask you to seize this opportunity, and join and support the grassroots movements. If the people of New Orleans can succeed against incredible odds to save their city and their community, it is a victory for oppressed people everywhere. If the people of New Orleans lose, it is a loss for movements everywhere. Struggling together, we can win together.

Signed,

    Cherice Harrison-Nelson
    Director and Curator, Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame, New Orleans

    Royce Osborn
    writer/producer, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Greta Gladney
    4th generation Lower 9th Ward resident, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Corlita Mahr, New Orleans

    Judy Watts
    President/CEO, Agenda for Children, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Robert “Kool Black” Horton
    Critical Resistance, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Jennifer Turner
    Community Book Center, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Mayaba Liebenthal
    INCITE Women of Color Against Violence, Critical Resistance, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Norris Henderson
    Co-Director Safe Streets - Strong Communities, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Ursula Price
    Outreach and Investigation Coordinator, Safe Streets - Strong Communities, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Evelyn Lynn
    Managing Director, Safe Streets - Strong Communities, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Shana Griffin
    INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence
    New Orleans Women's Health & Justice Initiative

     

     

     

    Min. J. Kojo Livingston
    Founder Liberation Zone/Destiny One Ministries

     

     

     

    Shana Sassoon
    New Orleans Network Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans

     

     

     

    Althea Francois, New Orleans

    Malcolm Suber
    People’s Hurricane Relief Fund, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Saket Soni
    New Orleans Worker’s Justice Project, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Nick Slie, I-10
    Witness Project, Co-Artistic Director Mondo Bizarro, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Catherine Jones
    Medical student, Tulane University, Organizer and co-founder, Latino Health Outreach Project, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Jennifer Whitney
    coordinator, Latino Health Outreach Project

     

     

     

    S. Mandisa Moore
    INCITE! New Orleans and the Women’s Health and Justice Initiative, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Aesha Rasheed
    Project Manager, New Orleans Network, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Jordan Flaherty
    Left Turn Magazine, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Dix deLaneuville
    Educator, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Courtney Egan
    Filmmaker, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Rebecca Snedeker
    Filmmaker, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Catherine A. Galpin, RN
    FACES and Children's Hospital, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Hamilton Simons-Jones, New Orleans

    Al Alcazar
    Educator, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Grace Bauer
    Families and Friends of Louisiana 's Incarcerated Children

     

     

     

    Erin Bell, New Orleans resident

    Xochitl Bervera
    Families and Friends of Louisiana 's Incarcerated Children

     

     

     

    Mario E. Carbajal
    New Orleans resident living in Houston

     

     

     

    Bess Carrick
    Producer/Director, New Orleans

     

     

     

    John Clark
    Professor of Philosophy (Loyola University)

     

     

     

    Brandon Darby
    Director of Relief Operations Common Ground Relief

     

     

     

    Diana Dunn
    The People's Institut, European Dissent, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Courtney Egan
    Artist, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Lou Furman
    Turning Point Partners

     

     

     

    Ariana Hall
    Director, CubaNOLA Collective

     

     

     

    Gwendolyn Midlo Hall Historian
    writer and lecturer, New Orleans and Mississippi Pine Belt

     

     

     

    Susan Hamovitch
    Filmmaker/Teacher
    NYC/New Orleans

     

     

     

    Russell Henderson
    Lecturer, Dillard University and
    Organizer, Rebuilding Louisana Coalition

     

     

     

    Ms.Deon Haywood
    Events Coordinator, Women With A Vision Inc.

     

     

     

    Rachel Herzing
    Critical Resistance

     

     

     

    Rev. Doug Highfield
    Universal Life Church
    Cherokee, AL

     

     

     

    Joyce Marie Jackson, Ph.D.
    Cultural Researcher, LSU Dept. of Geography & Anthropology, and Co-founder of Cultural Crossroads, Inc., Baton Rouge

     

     

     

    Elizabeth K Jeffers

    Dana Kaplan
    Safe Streets - Strong Communities / Center for Constitutional Rights, NYC/New Orleans

     

     

     

    Vi Landry
    freelance journalist, New Orleans/New York

     

     

     

    Bridget Lehane
    European Dissent and The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond

     

     

     

    Karen-kaia Livers
    Alliance for Community Theaters, Inc., New Orleans

     

     

     

    Rachel E. Luft
    Assistant Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, University of New Orleans

     

     

     

    Melana Luke

    M. Denise Miles
    Student, Tulane University School of Public Health

     

     

     

    Damekia Morgan
    Families and Friends of Louisiana 's Incarcerated Children

     

     

     

    Saladin Muhammad
    Black Workers For Justice

     

     

     

    Ukali Mwendo
    (Hazardous Materials Specialist, NOFD),President, Provisional Government - Republic of New Afrika / New Orleans LA (former resident of the Lafitte Housing Development)

     

     

     

    Kalonji T. Olusegun
    2nd Vice President, Provisional Government- Republic of New Afrika, Founding lifetime member National Coalition Of Blacks for Reparations in America, NCOBRA: Trustee, Div. 330 UNIA/ACL

     

     

     

    Donna Paluch
    Loyola College of Law, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Thea Patterson
    Women's Health and Justice Initiative, New Orleans

     

     

     

    J. Nash Porter
    Documentary Photographer and Co-founder of Cultural Crossroads, Inc., Baton Rouge

     

     

     

    Gloria Powers
    Arts Project Manager NOLA

     

     

     

    Valerie M. Prier

    Bill Quigley
    Loyola Professor of Law, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Linda Santi, New Orleans

    Roxanne Saucier
    Student, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Tony Sferlazza
    Director of Plenty International NOLA

     

     

     

    Heidi Lee Sinclair, MD, MPH
    Baton Rouge Children's Health Project
    Baton Rouge

     

     

     

    Carole Smith
    fine artiste (and i deserve to be kissed!)
    Florence, AL

     

     

     

    Justin Stein
    Neighborhood Relations Coordinator and Community Mediator, Common Ground Health Clinic, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Audrey Stewart

    Paul Troyano
    Carpenter
    New Orleans

     

     

     

    Tracie L. Washington, Esq.,
    Director, NAACP Gulf Coast Advocacy Center, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Scott Weinstein
    former co-director of the Common Ground Health Clinic, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Melissa Wells, New Orleans,

    Jerald L. White
    Bottletree Productions, New Orleans

     

     

     

    Melissa Wells, New Orleans,

    George "Loki" Williams
    Founder, New Orleans Oral History Project / Humid City

     

     

     

    Morgan Williams
    Student Hurricane Network, Co-founder
    New Orleans

     

     

     

    Tyler Wilson, Rn,
    Pediatric Registered Nurse

     

     

     

    Gina Womack
    Families and Friends of Louisiana 's Incarcerated Children

     

     

     

    Signatures from Activists and Allies outside the Gulf region:

    Jim Ace
    UNtraining White Liberal Racism
    San Francisco

     

     

     

    Ujju Aggarwal
    Center for Immigrant Families, New York City

     

     

     

    Kirsten Angel-Lambert
    Art Educator
    Philadelphia

     

     

     

    Denise Barnes
    Prison Families Community Forum
    NYC

     

     

     

    Scott A. Barton
    Board Member, Southern Foodways Alliance, Willie Mae’s Scotch House Restoration Project

     

     

     

    Beverly Bell
    Coordinator, Other Worlds collaborative, Albuquerque/New Orleans

     

     

     

    Charles Boylan
    Producer/Co-Host Wake Up With Co-Op!CFRO 102.7 FM
    Vancouver, BC

     

     

     

    James M. Branum
    GI Rights Lawyer / Texoma Regional Vice President, National Lawyers Guild, Oklahoma City, OK

     

     

     

    Ingrid Chapman
    Catalyst Project and Critical Resistance Oakland

     

     

     

    Kym Clark
    Founder, Prison Families Community Forum
    NYC

     

     

     

    Chris Crass
    Coordinator, Catalyst Project San Francisco

     

     

     

    Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
    Writer and University Professor, San Francisco

     

     

     

    Hannah Eller-Isaacs
    Unitarian Universalist Association St.Paul, Minnesota.

     

     

     

    Cathey Golden
    native New Orleanian
    residing in Boston, Massachusetts

     

     

     

    Ramon Golden
    Boston, Massachusetts

     

     

     

    Priscilla Gonzalez
    Center for Immigrant Families, New York City

     

     

     

    Kevin Alexander Gray
    organizer & writer, Harriet Tubman Freedom House Project
    Columbia, South Carolina

     

     

     

    Saib Isa
    Software Quality Assurance Engineer
    Montreal, Quebec, Canada

     

     

     

    John Janovy, Jr.
    Lincoln, Nebraska

     

     

     

    William M. Johnson
    New York Rep. Common Ground

     

     

     

    Chris Kromm
    Executive Director, Institute for Southern Studies

     

     

     

    Prita Lal
    Center for Immigrant Families, New York City

     

     

     

    Jen Marlowe
    filmmaker/author
    Seattle

     

     

     

    Sharon Martinas
    Challenging White Supremacy workshop, San Francisco

     

     

     

    Pilar Maschi
    Critical Resistance, membership and leadership development director, nyc

     

     

     

    Molly McClure
    Catalyst Project,Oakland

     

     

     

    Saiya Miller
    student, Simon's Rock College of Bard
    Great Barrington, MA

     

     

     

    Meshá Mongé-Irizarry
    Idriss Stelley Foundation , Law Enforcement Accountability

     

     

     

    Christopher Monson
    Architect and educator, Starkville, Mississippi

     

     

     

    Claudia Montesinios
    Architect, Atlanta

     

     

     

    Jovita Natal
    Prison Families Community Forum
    NYC

     

     

     

    Donna Nevel
    Center for Immigrant Families, New York City

     

     

     

    Cheri O'Donoghue
    Prison Families Community Forum
    NYC

     

     

     

    Ricky O'Donoghue
    Prison Families Community Forum
    NYC

     

     

     

    Beatrice Parwatikar
    Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace / INCITE Women of Color Against Violence, Shoreham, VT

     

     

     

    Ed Pearl
    formerly of SNCC's Free Southern Theater, Los Angeles

     

     

     

    Lydia Pelot-Hobbs
    student Oberlin College, Ohio
    former member of Common Ground Anti-Racist Working Group

     

     

     

    Kyung Ji Kate Rhee
    Executive Director | Prison Moratorium Project
    Brooklyn

     

     

     

    Marc Rodrigues
    Student/Farmworker Alliance Immokalee, Florida

     

     

     

    Marion Rodriguez
    Organizer, NY Campaign for Telephone Justice/Prison Families Community Forum
    NYC

     

     

     

    Gabriel Sayegh
    Project Director, Drug Policy Alliance, NY

     

     

     

    Mikell Grafton Skinner
    attorney
    Louisville, KY

     

     

     

    Susan Slohm
    Organizer with SEIU
    Albuquerque, NM

     

     

     

    Matthew Smith
    Architect, Seattle Right of Return Committee
    (formerly representing Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility)

     

     

     

    Rebecca Solnit
    writer
    San Francisco

     

     

     

    Hon Andrew L. Somers Jr. (ret.)
    retired Judge , Fitchburg, Wisconsin

     

     

     

    Stephen Steinberg
    Professor, Urban Studies Department, Queens College
    New York City

     

     

     

    Ken Stowar
    Programme Director for CIUT 89.5FM the University of Toronto Community Radio station, Toronto,