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Ten years after Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans creating one of the worst natural catastrophes in American history, much of the hard-hit city on the banks of the Mississippi River has been rebuilt.

But one nagging question remains: What is the future of the Ninth Ward, the predominantly Black community that remains forsaken to this day?

Regrettably, the overall rebirth of the Ninth Ward has not materialized and today the area remains mostly desolate. There are empty lots on almost every street, just like in 2005, and only 37 percent of the households have returned to a community that once boasted 14,000.

It’s unconscionable today there are still no supermarkets or grocery stores in the Ninth Ward. Some folks, correctly, have likened the community to a Third World country — mobile trucks bring in fresh produce once a week and cracked streets on many blocks can break a car axle.

On Friday, the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, city officials, residents, human rights activists, musicians and artists will gather all across New Orleans to celebrate the city’s reconstruction and renaissance but they will also remember the pain, loss of life, and destruction caused by nature’s fury.

President Barack Obama will also take part in 10th anniversary commemoration. Obama will travel to New Orleans on Thursday to meet with the Mayor Mitchell Landrieu and residents – including young people — in several neighborhoods who have rebuilt their lives over the past 10 years. The President will be joined by Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate, who has helped spearhead and coordinate many of the administration’s efforts during the past six and a half years.

Black residents will probably never forget the slow response to Katrina by the federal government, which prompted many civil rights activists to blame then President George W. Bush for abandoning the city’s poorest residents, most of whom were Black.

When I walked through the glass-strewn streets of the Ninth Ward four weeks after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the city, I saw the devastation. I saw the houses marked with bright red paint to identify police searches for bodies. I watched exasperated Black folks sift through rubble in a desperate attempt to salvage family keepsakes. And I spoke with one young man who choked back tears while standing on a pile of bricks where his home once stood.

Here’s what I wrote in 2005:

“Today, again, an unprecedented number of Black families are separated — only this time, the story is set in America 2005. Black Americans are witnessing history repeating itself, not because of slavery, but because of something equally insidious: benign neglect, a stalled response to a national catastrophe as a result of Hurricane Katrina and the national, decades-long failure to provide adequate resources for America’s Black and disadvantaged residents.”

Since then, $19 million has been invested in a new community center and there are plans for a drug store. But many insist that progress in the Black community is taking far too long while other parts of the city are now gleaming.

Bush wasn’t the only politician to let citizens down. This fall, New Orleans residents will be reminded of another painful moment in the city’s history: On Oct. 5, a federal appeals court will hear arguments in the case of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin who is challenging his conviction on fraud charges.

Nagin was sentenced last year to 10 years in prison for taking bribes from contractors who were seeking city work. Nagin was convicted on 20 counts, but his appeal claims jurors were improperly instructed on how to apply the law on nine of the counts. Nagin also has challenged a $500,000 judgment entered against him by the court, saying he’s destitute. Nagin was voted into office as an African-American politician who residents hoped would uplift the Black community by creating jobs and training. Instead, Nagin failed miserably.

On Friday, the city is planning numerous festivities that will feature a parade, a two-mile walk to commemorate the anniversary, a dedication to the hundreds of people who died during the hurricane, a mass for first responders, musical tributes, a Latino festival and selected readings by local writers and poets.

Celebrities like Jay-Z, Jamie Foxx, Julia Roberts, and John Travolta have been involved in the rebuilding of New Orleans. Actor Brad Pitt founded the “Make It Right Foundation” in 2007 to rebuild environmentally-sound homes in the Ninth Ward. New Orleans native Wendell Pierce, best known as Detective Bunk Moreland on The Wire, has also spearheaded the rebuilding of the community he grew up in.

Richard Karlgaard, the publisher of Forbes Magazine, characterized the resurgence in New Orleans as “the greatest turnaround of our lifetime.”

Sadly, many Black residents still struggling to rebuild in the Ninth Ward ten years after Katrina can’t embrace Karlgaard’s zealous declaration.

I can’t either.

What do you think?

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14 thoughts on “Ten Years After Katrina, New Orleans Celebrates Renaissance, But Black Neighborhoods Are Left Behind

  1. Obama has had 6 years to do something. He ignored New Orleans, concentrated on his legacy of universal healthcare. He ignored creating jobs, he blamed everyone else for his own shortcomings.

  2. That “Your are doing a heck of a job Brownie!” still pisses me off to this day! People were dying in front of our eyes, being raped, drowning. I watched every day wondering where is FEMA and this is really happening in America? Then here comes Bush smiling at a press conference. Most anniversaries are celebrations, this is far from a happy memory. I guess Ray Nagin is still in jail . . .I haven’t bothered to check.

  3. October on said:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there are contracts to rebuild in the Ninth Ward but only after all the residents have left the area. Then the contractor can build exspensive homes, condos and townhomes and sure up the leves. I hope the residents of the Ninth Ward hold on to their properties and not sell to the highest or lowest bidder.

  4. The first line of defense was that incompetent Mayor who let those people remain in that danger zone, Katrina should have been an eye opener to Blacks in this country about what happens when your dependent on government for your safety and livelihood

  5. Timekeeeper on said:

    4,486 American Soldiers died during the Iraq war. Additionally, over 300,000 soldiers have come home with head trauma and serious wounds of all kinds as well. The bill for this war exceeds 6 trillion dollars. And yet, when asked, on national television what hurt him the most about his presidency, George Bush’ answer was when Kanye West told the world ( And Rightfully So) that George Bush didn’t care about black people. Not the soldiers who died, not the ones who came home wounded but a statement made. Gee, talk about priorities! No one will ever forget the ridiculous “Brownie, you’re doing a keck of a job” statement to his disgraced FEMA director, where he patted him on the back, no here near where any emergency services were needed, I might add Those words still live in the minds of America on just how inept he really was..

    • redbone1954 on said:

      Thank You you said a mouthful and I completely agree. People can blame Obama however when he took office this country was reeling for the mess that GWB made not to mention 2 wars a deficient in the budget (from giving all his rich friend tax breaks) When Clinton left there was a surplus. President Obama walked into a mess which I personally believe he has done a fantastic job!!! Google what has President Obama done and see what it say’s it is nothing short of incredible. Stupid inept GWB should have been impeached!! For lying to the Congress period point blank! I will forever hold him responsible for not helping New Orleans!

  6. If Obama, cared anything about poor black folks, he should’ve made the ninth ward his top priority when he took Office. People, can blame Bush, until they’re blue in the face, but Obama, was elected for two terms, and what has he done for poor black people, but throw them a few crumbs every now and then, to keep them in their place and keep them loyal to the Democratic Party.

    • Harold WIlliams on said:

      you must be delusional. President Obama has done much for Black people including increasing jobs and healthcare.

  7. It all came down to racism, insensitivity, and creed! How do attitudes such as these live with themselves; constantly taking away from the “have-nots?” ……

  8. The levees in NO were intentionally neglected so they would overflow causing mass floods during the next hurricane. That hurricane was Katrina.

    The areas that were hit the hardest with damage to property were those in African-American wards.
    Those wards have not and will not be re-built anytime soon. When they are, it will be for White folks
    and not for people of color.

    I will never forget that weekend when Katrina hit and seeing folks on roofs with signs pleading for help.
    I thought I was watching a movie or a scene from some third world country.

    Meanwhile GW Bush kept his ass on his ranch in Crawford Texas-refusing to provide much needed government assistance to these helpless people.

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