Sunday, February 12, 2006

Jan. 13-More Pictures of New Orleans Area...5 Months After Katrina- Part II

Photo Credits:(1-5) Lower Ninth(9th) Ward-New Orleans,LA.
All pictures taken by Michael Lee, except #5.

As our time in New Orleans progressed we saw and experienced more devastation.
Above are some pictures of what we saw.Members of our team did what we could to help in whatever way was possible. Some team members either talked with residents or helped to strip drywall. This area of the city is uninhabitable. Many of the residents are living in other cities and states along the Gulf Coast. Some have moved as far away as California and North Dakota.
More to come...

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Jan 13-New Orleans-Final Stop on Katrina Trip-Part I

Photos: (1) Driving into New Orleans on I-10;(2) At Press's Office;(3) Press Making his case to rebuild New Orleans;(4) Mr. Edinburgh's Neighbor's House on a resdential block in NO. All photos taken by C. Wilson

Today we drive into New Orleans from Biloxi,Mississippi by way of a small town in Alabama. We had to detour because of a technical glitch about which venue we could return the vans. The drive was good . Our team had a chance to bond more. We had our usual reflections and sang some songs together. Our reflections were abruptly interrupted by the force of the winds hitting against the van.Ironically,it was a very windy day and our van swayed and rocked a few times violently back and forth as we traveled down the highway. It began raining like cats and dogs soon after these several frightening episodes. It was a bit unnerving to say the least. I'm sure some of us were thinking,...well, at least me, if no one else..."Not another hurricane". We immediately tuned into the AM radio weather station.

As we approached New Orleans we were able to see some of the devastated areas of the city. It was hard to capture it accurately on video,because we were simply moving too fast. But, I did manage to get some footage which will be available in the future. Our group split into two sections. One was scheduled to travel directly to Ache Community Center and the other,which I was a part of, headed over to meet with an influential New Orleans real estate developer, "Press" the brother-in-law of group member Susie Hermanson, who had also organized the meeting. We would soon discover that there was a lot more to the New Orleans disaster than "meets the eye".

The presentation was very informative. Press spent almost an hour and a half presenting a power point on the political problems the city is facing and the various alternatives being proposed to rebuilding. It was good to have the other side of the story i.e., the viewpoint of a member of New Orleans' influential business community i.e., wealthy and powerful real estate interests. This is definitely the flip side of what we've seen and experienced so far on the trip. The most important result of the meeting, in my view, was the insight shared about:(1) the various political twists and knots involved in the whole rebuilding scenario; and (2) the Baker Bill, a piece of legislation that Press is hoping will be passed; and, of which, our President doesn't appear to be too supportive. More to come...

Sunday, February 05, 2006

John Mayer Makes a Case to Stop Global Warming

John Mayer in a well crafted appeal, sets forth his honest views about global warming and other "heady" concerns in his recent "My Space" blog specifically addressing this controversial topic which has continued to grow in worldwide interest.

In his usual clever and witty style,Mayer entices his readers with the subject heading "Free Online Haircut". After the following lead in, "Now that I have your attention...", he goes into detail about how he was gradually,although it might appear to have been instantaneous sans a closer reading, won over by the apparently savvy head of the organization,Stop Global Warming, and asks his fans and loyal blog readers to sign up for a virtual march organized by the organization. Some of the virtual marchers include such high profile celebs as actor Leonardo Dicaprio, Senator Barack Obama and former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume to name a few. Mayer's quite persuasive and it looks like a worthwhile endeavor.

At least it will start you thinking on the matter,if you have not begun to do that already. It certainly has gotten Mr.Mayer thinking enough to want to pass on the challenge to his friends and fans to do the same. Follow the headline link for some interesting insight and gain a window into the quirky,yet creative heart and mind of one of music's well respected and admired musicians on this important environmental issue.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

January 12,2006-E. Biloxi,Miss. Moore Community House

[Photo Captions: (1) Entering Biloxi;(2) Broken Bridge (Accordion-shaped) ;(3) Devastated Bridge (from another angle); (4) Displaced Casino Barge; (5) Rev. Carol Burnett in Front of Space Where One of Her Buildings Once Stood;(6) Cynthia Wilson,Carol Burnett, Charon Hribar and Willie Baptist in front of gutted Moore Bldg.]

Today a few of us opted out of the work relief due to allergies and other physical limitations.
Nonetheless, it was a day well-spent touring Biloxi's Casino District and the neighborhood surrounding Moore Community House, which is run by a Union Alum,Rev. Carol Burnett. The devastation witnessed in Biloxi was simply unimaginable. It was the first time in my life I had ever seen a bridge of steel and cement contorted and twisted up into an uncanny resemblance of a deformed accordion instrument, as you can see from one of the above photos. As incredible as it was to observe that,it didn't even come close to seeing how an entire casino barge weighing in the megatons was dragged by hurricane force winds from one side of the street over to the other,spanning the length of a least two city blocks. Miles of bits and pieces of fragmented buildings blown apart by the wind or storm surge which came crashing onto shore, lined the streets.

After driving and stopping through areas of Biloxi,we finally ended up at the Moore Community House,or at least what was left of it. Most of the eight (8) building complex which provided vital early childhood development and learning programs for single low-income mothers and employment for thirty-six (36) employees was gone.The entire neighborhood was just about deserted. There were relief workers there from organizations such as Service International, Hands On or individuals and groups like ours that had traveled miles across the country on their own initiative just to help victims of Hurricane Katrina rebuild, among other things. One of the men working on the construction team had come all the way from Seattle, Washington. Another, a doctor hailing from New York City like most of the people in our group from Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary. It was heart warming to see total strangers that had traveled so far to help out.

The thing which struck me most about today is the fact that we were told earlier on in the trip that the further south we traveled the worst the structural damage would become. I just could not imagine how that could be. Next stop, New Orleans, Louisiana.