Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is neither fully healed nor truly at ease with the legacy of the storm that for many people in the United States became the first undeniable example of the critical intersection between climate change, economic inequality, and racial injustice on a grand scale.
Community members in some of the neighborhoods hardest hit when Hurricane Katrina ripped through the low-lying city on August 29, 2005 commemorated Saturday’s anniversary with colorful marches and joyous “second line parades” while also speaking out loudly against injustices—many of them along the lines of race and poverty—the destruction of the storm both exposed and exacerbated.
As Rae Breaux, a native of south Louisiana and a climate campaigner for 350.org, wrote on Saturday:
While city and state officials joined national figures like President Obama in championing the “resilience” of the city, community activists and their supporters from across the country gathered under the banner of ‘Gulf South Rising’ in order to make it clear that while the storm waters long-ago receded, there remains much work to be done for the city and the region to be considered whole again. Bringing various organizations from across the region, the GSR initiative takes direct aim at the interwoven crises of racial discrimination, entrenched poverty, and climate change by demanding a “just transition away from extractive industries, discriminatory policies, and unjust practices that hinder equitable disaster recovery” while fighting in favor of progressive economic solutions and sustainable communities.
In an op-ed written just ahead of this weekend’s anniversary, journalist Jordan Flaherty, who has covered the story of Katrina in-depth over the last decade, describes how even as many people have come to equate New Orleans as a city that was “destroyed by” but then “recovered from” the storm, the real story contains many layers that are often overlooked.
“As the national media has descended on New Orleans,” Jordan writes, “the stories of those who continue to struggle to survive have been left out.” The deeper story, he continues, is one of
Meanwhile, as part of the community effort to acknowledge the individual and collective struggles unleashed by the storm and the persistent inequities experienced by those who have not “recovered” in the ten years since the storm, the Greater New Orleans Organizers Roundtable produced this short film to highlight the ongoing injustice:
However, despite the ongoing struggles, journalists, community organizers, and ordinary residents throughout New Orleans know there are victories of specific nature that deserve to be reported and celebrated. As Jordan concludes in his piece:
And as 350’s Breaux championed those who took to the streets, she also celebrated the collective determination throughout the region where people are showing their willingness to stare down their struggles and have adopted the mantra: “The seas may be rising, but so are we.”