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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A Long Hard Road

"Honey, de white man is de ruler of everything as fur as Ah been able to tell. -Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God.


I am so sad right now. I can't remember ever having fought this hard with depression before. Every story I hear is sadder than the one before it and all I want to do is cry... for those who perished... for those who remain... for all of us. Ever since I made a conscious decision to look at hurricane coverage, I have been in a bad way. From anger at the way folks were herded into New Orleans' Superdome as if they were about to begin the middle passage, to despair at the cries of people who will never again see loved ones, to joy at hearing stories of reunited families, my emotions have run the gamut. This just ain't healthy.

I think it was on Wednesday that I walked past newspapers stands that displayed headlines about the looters... "Out of Control, Sin City, A City With No Order." And the headlines were pretty much right. At that time there was more order in Bagdad and that really made me angry at our current administration. It made me realize that Bush cares more for foreign oil than our citizens. A fact that should not be easily forgotten.

On Sunday I witnessed the spin strategy of deflection as responsibility was shifted to the governor of Lousiana. It is suggested that she was given options as to how she wanted to proceed. Imagine that! Bush giving options. Is this not the man who defied the entire United Nations to invade one country? He just didn't give a good *#Y$% about the people of New Orleans. Not only the black folks, who make up 80 percent, but any of them that were too poor to get themselves out of there when they were told they must leave. Kanye West was only partly right when he said that Bush doesn't care about Black people. He don't give two squirts of piss for poor people either, a fact that has remained consistently evident throughout his terms of office. That really burns me up.

I wish I could maintain that anger. It would keep me from riding this emotional rollercoaster, but I think of the horrors that are being uncovered. The waters are slowly receding, but it won't be until the flood has completely subsided that the scale of the horror will be revealed. "It's going to be awful and it's going to wake the nation up again," warned Ray Nagin, Mayor of New Orleans." There are people like Vera, whose remains someone tried to treat with dignity, but there are so many others who are floating in the putrid flood water, the prey of rats and alligators... family members who will never receive a proper burial. That is so very hard for me. I know I should be bothered more about the tremendous loss of life that could have been avoided, and I am. But I'm also concerned with getting folks to the next level with some degree of sanity. One of the things that center me and brings me peace is the fact that I can go to a piece of ground and honor the people who have passed through my life. Some I saw placed in that ground, others I only know for the mark that identifies the spot. In many cases I depend on those memorials of stone, bronze and concrete to provide me with a sense of history and belonging.

When I visited New Orleans in 1997, one of the things that I was determined to do was visit the grave of Mahalia Jackson, a woman whose recorded music ushered me through a period of my life and helped shape my moral character. By the time I was born, her career was nearly over, but her recorded legacy was in full swing, especially at my house. With the help of a good map and an impeccable sense of direction, I took a trolley, a bus and walked a considerable distance to get me from the Garden District to Providence Memorial Park in Metairie, Jefferson Parish, to pay homage to this great figure who helped shaped me through her contribution to American music. I remember entering the cemetery through a seldom used rear gate and walking through rows of folks unknown to me, yet speaking to me. I was asking them where Mahalia was and they were telling me. When I spied her memorial in the distance, I smiled and spent the better part of the day visiting with her and some of the other folk.When I heard the news of the devastation and saw the president of Jefferson Parish break down on national television, I thought to myself, 'how's Mahalia?' The answer was she's dead. There are too many atrocities against the living to worry about what's happening to the dead. Despite that rationale, I do worry about what happens to the dead. My culture forces me to. I was unable to accompany my family to the cemetery today for my cousin's burial and it bothered me all day because I still haven't gotten around to finding out exactly where's she's buried. My grandmother has struggled all her life with, not only having no memory of her mother (she died when my grandmother was 9 months old), but also the fact that no one thought to mark the grave so that she would have a place to connect with. The people of New Orleans place equal importance on the way they honor their dead. It's evident in the monuments they erect in memoriam, so reminiscent of the tombs I saw in Paris. Their french roots are without question. It's also evident in the few makeshift tombs like Vera's. I wonder how those people with no body to bury will have their sense of closure. I wonder will the souls of those dead rest in peace. I pray that God will grant peace to all of them and me too because it is really bothering me. However, the emphasis must return to the living.


At the moment I am in the process of planning an event, Black Writers for Relief, to benefit victims and I've reached the conclusion that these are not victims of Katrina. These are victims of Bush-inspired bureaucracy. I'm excited about this and other fundraising ideas. My greatest fear is that everyone is so hot to do fund raisers now, but in a few weeks they will be less inclined to participate and give as freely. What people need to understand is it's a long road... that long after the waters have receded and the cities are rebuilding, recovery will continue. Relief must continue. People will continue to struggle with what happened, why it happened and all that has changed. Some will not make it... most will. The human spirit is inclined to triumph. As Bobby Brown (not Whitney's husband) pointed out to me tonight, these people are also survivors. They are still here and we need to celebrate that as much as we mourn the losses, perhaps more. For where there is life, there's hope.

Posted by Rodney :: 1:21 AM :: 1 Comments:

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