National Anti-racist Organization Calls for U.N. Investigation of Federal Response to Katrina

The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond, one of the nation's foremost anti-racist training organizations, today called for a full investigation by the United Nations of the federal response to the Katrina catastrophe in Mississippi and Louisiana, and especially in the city of New Orleans.

"This calamity demonstrates how racism manifests itself in every institution in this country," said Ronald Chisom, executive director of the People's Institute, a 25-year old, multiracial organization headquartered in New Orleans. "With the national and international coverage of hurricane Katrina, the world has seen the real face of racism in America. Only an international body will be able to hold accountable the political leaders who had the knowledge but did not act, who had the power, but did not use that power to preserve the lives and human dignity of all people."

Rooted in the culture of New Orleans, The People's Institute is intimately familiar with the history of racism in New Orleans and the south. Although it is a national organization with a national and international network of anti-racist organizers and trainers, The People's Institute feels acutely the impact of Katrina, having lost its offices and the homes of many of its staff.

"We need the United Nations to oversee an international Public Works campaign similar to the post-tsunami rebuilding efforts in South Asia and the Pacific," said Kimberley Richards, Core Trainer with The People's Institute and a citizen of Mississippi. "We must prevent this tragedy from becoming a 'cash cow' to benefit those who have historically profited from war and crisis. We must build with a vision of social justice and economic equity, so that poor people do not end up simply with "services" but without economic power. Only an international body can guarantee that."

Founded in 1980, The People's Institute has provided "Undoing Racismâ„¢" workshops and consultations to over 120,000 people of every race, religion, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds throughout the United States as well as internationally in South America, Puerto Rico, Cuba, South Africa, and Japan. The organization is committed to assisting community organizers, leaders and organizations deepen their understanding of the systemic, economic and social impact of racism on their lives, their family, and their communities.

"Let's not turn off our TV sets and shrug off the deadly results we have witnessed as someone else's responsibility," urged Ronald Chisom. "Instead of papering over our inequities and pushing poor Black people back into the neighborhoods where other Americans don't have to see them again, we can rebuild a truly equitable New Orleans - a truly humane America."

The People's Institute believes that to accomplish these goals, the people of the United States must examine the roots of our racism, analyze our multigenerational national bias against people of color and its corollary bias in favor of people because they are white. We must critique the effects of decades of neglect suffered by poor people across the country, then transform our institutions, our policies, and our culture.

First, we must let the people flooded out by Katrina come back and be paid a living wage to rebuild their own communities!

Ronald Chisom can be reached at 504-782-6525; Dr. Kimberley Richards can be reached at 504-722-3213. For more information about The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond, visit our website at