Internal Salvation

With this post, my time at the Hope House, participating as a member of the Workers Rights Project, will come to a close (at least, for now). First, I would like to apologize for being silent up until this point, forcing my courageous colleague, Laureve, to write all the inspiring comments about our rovings (Please be aware that she would post at 2 in the morning after working from 5am until 10pm. Her dedication to posting is paled in comparison to her passion towards our project.) And now, I will try as best I can to impart a fraction of the experience gained throughout this week....\r\n\r\nOriginally, I started writing a dismal post containing such dramatic metaphors as, \"drowning in the flood of social injustice left in the wake of Katrina.\" However, after an extended conversation with one of the leaders of our project, the all powerful/knowing Colette, and upon further reflection of the interviews of this week, I realized the error of my ways. Throughout our interviews, an almost palpable determination pervaded the thoughts and words of the community of New Orleans. Instead of wallowing in a vision of despair, let us now bask in the hope filled future of New Orleans.\r\n\r\nMuch of the dismal forecast grew from the hitherto inept and ineffectual governmental solutions that have thus far dominated the road to recovery. So far, the government has pursued an entirely reactive policy, attempting to fix all the problems from afar without full understanding, and through amorphous, inefficient, and partially corrupt organizations (illustrated grotesquely by the needless chain of subcontractors and vast bureaucracy of FEMA). Katrina herself clearly demonstrates the failure of reactions. Instead of proactively using the warning from the floods of Hurricane Betsy and the forecasts of engineers that the levees could potentially breach, the government chose instead to wait and hope for the best. However, while the government\'s policies currently wield more power, community based movements gain strength and with them, the future of New Orleans gains hope.\r\n\r\nIn the near future, the People\'s Hurricane Relief Fund and Oversight Coalition will be holding a conference aimed at creating concrete programs that strengthen the connections between residents and their communities, and, subsequently, between communities and reconstruction. This will develop a plan for revitalization that goes beyond the current government supported policy of selling off people\'s homes and creating a new Las Vegas. \"Paranoid ravings,\" some of you might be thinking. However, throughout this week, we have interviewed workers, residents, and both honest and greedy contractors. One sub-contractor told me that state and city contractors that have hired him, \"want to turn the 9th Ward into Disney Land,\" while he yearned for a return of the cities soul via the displaced population that can trace its roots back for generations.\r\n\r\nThroughout our project, I found that workers from all over the country wanted, above all else, to rebuild what was lost. In contrast, contractors from out of state generally saw the devastation of Katrina as an opportunity for new development. One powerful out of state contractor company, which described migrant worker encampments as a \"negative loss\" for the city, expressed a vision of the 9th ward being replaced by a golf course. These contractors are the ones that are funded by the government. Rarely, if ever, did I find a worker violation stemming from a local contractor. Instead, out of state contracting companies fueled by government funds (either directly or via sub-contract) stifle recovery by betraying honest workers. Local contractors, in contrast, have returned for the singular purpose of rebuilding the community that they grew up in, and largely fund themselves (many of the honest contractors were formerly workers, but have turned independent using their own savings). Despite these failures, New Orleans will rise from the destruction because of internal strength.\r\n\r\nNew Orleans is like no city in the world, and I\'ve been a lot of places. While I\'ve been to many remarkable and unique places, I have never experienced a city that has an actual soul. Through the Workers Rights Project, my team (El Equipo de Roving, consisting of Laureve, Paula, myself, occasionally Colette, and formerly Marty) traveled throughout the city. We went from the devastated lower 9th Ward, to the virtually unscathed regions near the French Quarter. Consistently in each location, we found people who had experienced unimaginable horror and hardship, but whose will and determination, fueled by generations of history, push them to fight for the life of their city. As a result of the storm, the heart of New Orleans was scattered throughout the Gulf Region and United States in the form of its displaced citizens, the vast majority of which were born and raised in New Orleans, as were their ancestors. Only by the return of the New Orleans traditional community will this great city be reborn in its full form. While Katrina cracked the veneer of an inherently flawed system whose effects were to deprive the foundation of society of social rights, salvation lies from within that very same core. Instead of reacting to these breaches of social justice as they develop, revitalization effectively flows from strengthening the internal structure itself.\r\n\r\nOriginally posted: http://bls-shn.blogspot.com/2006/03/internal-salvation.html\r\n

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Chris Soverow, “Internal Salvation,” Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, accessed December 12, 2019, http://hurricanearchive.org/items/show/30349.