ACTION: What YOU can do to help NOLA

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

cross-posted with minor edits from dailykos as part of today’s NOLA diary-athon.

You’ve read about the situation in New Orleans.  You know there are still crumbled houses all over, that thousands have never come back, that the economy is crippled and crime out of control.  You’ve heard that the levees are still unimproved, the local politicians are corrupt or ineffective or both, and that the cable news networks no longer see the issue as sexy enough for your attention.  You’ve wondered if things can get better.

Good news: this diary is dedicated to you, and what you can do to help.

Every time I try to write an essay about the situation in NOLA, I waver between rage, nostalgia, despair, and optimism.  It’s a potent mix of reactions that makes writing these essays an emotionally draining experience, but if you’ve ever let New Orleans seep into your blood, you know it’s worth it.  

First the bad news: while there has been great improvement in a number of areas, the situation is still far from “normal”.  You don’t go through a trauma like Katrina and expect to come out whole.

I wish I could explain to you how it felt in the months following the storm, but no matter how striking the images or how carefully crafted the words, it just doesn’t capture the experience of being there.  The closest anyone’s gotten in Chris Rose, whose article “Despair” (reprinted here under the title “The Storm that Keeps Killing”) reduces me to a blubbering mess.  I can’t help it: he took one small story from among the chaos and turned it into a bare howl of despair.

I first heard it while I was driving to Houston to visit displaced family, and I nearly had to pull off the road.    

Life isn’t nearly so bad as it was when Rose wrote “Despair”, but we’re not doing a second-line down the street just yet.  Those levees are still dangerously unacceptable.  Those politicians are still dawdling and lining their pockets.  So many of those displaced have given up on coming back.

But I don’t want to turn this into another walk through post-K misery.  I’ve done that before, more than once.  Instead I want to ask you to join me in supporting that wonderful, backwards, brilliant, diseased, talented, decrepit, hopeless and hopeful city that’s brought us such a wealth of beauty and ugliness in its 300 year history.  

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP:

1. Help get better Democrats elected to local office.  For south Louisiana, this means throwing our full support behind Gilda Reed for LA-O1.  

Here’s a great interview that Reed did with Blue Mondays back in January.  It’s well worth the watch to see why Reed is such a fantastic candidate.  Her segment starts around 11:40 mark:

You can donate to Reed through her website or at Act Blue.  We can’t expect change above if we haven’t laid the groundwork for change below: local candidates like Reed are the key to longterm success.

2. Support local businesses.  This means not only buying local when you’re there, shopping online at New Orleans-based businesses, and remembering New Orleans when it comes time to buy gifts; but also … remember tourism is still our number one source of income! (*hint, hint)

3. Get involved with local activism.  If you’re unsure where to start, there are plenty of sites that deal with development and coordination of local projects, some of which you can support from the comfort of your home, no matter how far away.  Check out sites like Think Nola and find a local cause you can really sink your teeth into.  Maybe you’ll decide to contribute to levees.org, a grassroots group dedicated to flood protection, while the government drags its feet.  Or maybe the sultry lure of jazz will convince you to support Musician’s Village, a Habitat project for local artists.  Or maybe you remember the fantastic work done by the people at Common Ground.  There is so much to do that you’ll have no problem finding something to match your interests.

and finally:

4. NEVER FORGET.  We live in an age of rapid news cycles and short-term memory, but the scars of Katrina are long and painful.  At dailykos there are archives of writers who described their personal experiences, whether as part of wmtriallawyer’s Katrina Blog Project, or independently collected on the wiki under Survivor Stories.  In the meantime there are plenty of diarists who try to keep the post-K coast in our consciousness, so keep an eye out for regular essays by people like YatPundit, Louisiana 1976, commonscribe, Ana Maria, Nightprowlkitty, Crashing Vor, nolalily, etc.  Not all of these are NOLA-centric: the coast from Louisiana to Alabama was decimated, and residents for over a hundred miles are facing the same problems with insurance, rebuilding costs, special interests, and bureaucracy.  

There’s a corollary to 4: Never let your elected officials forget, either.  You may live in Alaska or California or Vermont or Tennessee, but the people you elect to the federal government have a say in how money and resources and attention are allocated to the Gulf Coast region.  REMIND THEM that the problems of the post-K south are far from over, and that our government’s response was unacceptable, is still unacceptable, and unless we hammer out solutions for the future will continue to be unacceptable until the next time a natural disaster finds us without a plan.  

Contact your Representatives, your Senators, and your candidate for the presidency.  Tell them how you feel about FEMA and New Orleans, about natural disaster and responsibility.

You have the power here.

from the comments at dkos:

Via Chicago adds: Go!

Go spend a few days, a week, or more volunteering with one of the many relief agencies.  I guarantee you will not regret it.

What I got in return for spending a week working hard was far greater than what I gave.  

In addition to feeling good from doing real work with tangible results, I surprisingly felt like I got the most valuable kind of relief from the stress of my every day job than I’ve ever had.  It was a true vacation from the every day, and I did not feel at all like I “wasted” a week that could have been spent on a beach somewhere or touring a foreign city.

So, go!  Work hard, and by all means don’t feel guilty having a little fun  while you’re down there!

http://www.flickr.com/…

here’s a small sample of organizations that can use your help:

http://www.habitat-nola.org/

http://www.lowernine.org/

http://www.onsiterelief.com/

http://animalrescueneworleans.org/

http://www.emergencycommunities.org/

NOLA DIARY-ATHON SCHEDULE. ALL TIMES PACIFIC

Thurs., Mar. 20

7AM Louisiana 1976: NOLA: The Best Venue

9AM blueintheface: Help me Kossacks, you’re my only hope!

1PM mlharges: Debates in NOLA: I Want To Know

3PM Avila: Because It Is Bitter

5PM YatPundit: Good Friday and Insurance Companies

Fri., Mar. 21

7AM Crashing Vor: Welcome Home, Neighbor

9AM Louisiana 1976: Never Forget. Never Again…

       mlharges: Another Circle, Another Story

11AM catchaz: why don’t they just leave?”  (RITA diary)

       pico (this one)

5PM Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse: The NOLA Shock Doctrine

A few diaries about New Orleans/Gulf Coast diaries that serendipitously landed during the diary-a-thon:

quaoar: FEMA puts a price tag on the truth – $209,099

dmsilev: Friday Evening Photoblogging: Swamp Thing

Thank you for reading.

What’s more: thank you for caring.

18 comments

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    • pico on March 21, 2008 at 7:23 pm
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    check out some of those links above: really fantastic work out there on a topic that’s largely fallen off the traditional media’s plate.

    • OPOL on March 21, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    a lot of very important stuff here.  I appreciate your hard work in putting this together.

  1. pico – I slightly edited your Action tag to just “Action”. Note that this has the effect of listing your Essay in the “Action Alert” blox in the middle of the far right column.   That is a feed of all the Action tagged essays here – it will stay in the list until more Action essays push it down.  

    Thanks for posting this here.  I probably never would have noticed the DKos Diary-a-thon otherwise.  Very cool!  

    • kj on March 22, 2008 at 3:13 am

    i hoped maybe the next action or two thingy here might be about the Gulf Coast.  i’m too brain tired to do this essay justice tonight, but i will be back to read and to follow some of your links.  thanks much.  

  2. One thing we need to do is lobby the next administration to find a job for this guy..

    I’m thinking Chertoff’s job will do nicely.

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