Yes, we’re still here. There’s no more waters flooding the city, drowning people in their own homes. No more human beings on top the rooftops after digging a hole through their homes to escape the rising waters, 20 feet in some areas of the city. When I think of the progress that has been made commercially and for tourists, I can say we have made major progress here in the city of New Orleans.
But when I see the demolitions of schools in predominately Black neighborhoods, I say ‘No, we have not.’ When I see an influx of white drug addicts saturating my neighborhood, who weren’t here 10 years ago, I think there has been progress in destroying our neighborhoods. We get tired and move and to further the gentrification process, the powers that be have made is progress a goal. New Orleans is a wonderful city that wasn’t in the best of shape before the storm, but there was a huge opportunity to rebuild her bigger and better. That has only happened in certain areas deemed “worthy” of rebuilding.
Crime has increased by 40% since last year and rape is up as well. 10 years later and we seemed to have gone what I’ve called, “Blackwards.” This being in the sense as just like in the times of slavery, I see our city being placed on an auction block, with schools being sold and the culture being changed with gentrification. Affordable Black neighborhoods are systemically becoming unaffordable for those that were living there most of their lives. In my neighborhood, New Orleans East, we are just now getting a full-service hospital opened just this year.
While schools have been rebuilt and local parks reopened, it’s only peaked this year with the 10th year commemoration. One of the hardest-hit areas, The Lower 9th Ward, looks like Hurricane Katrina hit yesterday, and this even after 109 Brad Pitt homes have been built.
While writing this, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is on a “tour” of Atlanta and Houston, thanking city leaders for welcoming and supporting Katrina evacuees after the storm. He’s sure to leave out that many people stayed in these cities because they cannot afford to live here, and the school systems are still in dire need.
Parents are not happy with students being enrolled in failing schools, but let the city’s officials and RSD (Recovery School District) Charter folks tell it, the schools are doing great. It’s a lot of political smokescreens going up, on all accounts. The city is not safer as is being touted, because the news reports are showing the rise in crime, but our city officials are saying the city is safer.
The French Quarter and Bourbon Street, and its residents and the tourists are safer because extra law enforcement presence has been brought in along with state troopers. Guess where that leaves the citizens? Yeah. But, we are strong people and we’ve overcome many issues of this city and its design to move us out of the way for commercial and tourism dollars. New Orleans, without the bullshit of politics, is a gem that has the opportunity to continue to shine and even brighter than before.
But the powers that be seem to have the upper hand and control of our culture, our schools, our safety and quality of life. We are strong because we are strong on our own. But the “new” New Orleans does not include us. I’m not “celebrating” the “anniversary” of Hurricane Katrina. I am celebrating that my family is doing fine, I’m doing fine and many of my friends and other family members are doing fine.
Yes, we are resilient, but not because of city officials, because we are the ones who really love and care about New Orleans. She is my mother, my sister, my aunt, my grandmother and my friend. And you don’t just give up fighting for her. You don’t just allow for her to be sold off, piece by piece.
She’s given us more than they are giving back to her and they owe her. We ALL owe her more respect than she’s been shown these past 10 years. So, yes, there will be a celebration, but the real celebration will come from those whose hearts beat, along with hers, as one.
(Photo: Simon and Schuster)
New Orleans resident, author/activist Phyllis Montana LeBlanc, featured in Spike Lee’s documentary When The Levees Broke, is one of the most memorable survivors of Hurricane Katrina. She played Desiree on for three seasons on the HBO series Tremé. Her book, Not Just the Levees Broke: My Life Before And After Hurricane Katrina was published in 2008.