15 September, 2005
In the wake of the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States, intensified by catastrophic, criminal government neglect and racist repression, Community Labor United -- a New Orleans based coalition dedicated to creating spaces for grassroots organizations to engage in dialogue, strategic planning and build collective work -- has been facilitating the development of a People's Hurricane Relief Fund and Reconstruction Oversight Committee.
More than 42 organizations participated in the convening meeting of the People's Hurricane Fund in Baton Rouge on Saturday September 10, 2005, to develop a People's Oversight Committee with the purpose of overseeing all aspects of recovery and reconstruction for our people. The Committee is dedicated to building and maintaining a coordinated network of community leaders, organizers and community based organizations with the capacity and organizational infrastructure to help meet the needs of people most affected by Katrina, and to facilitate an organizing process that will demand local, grassroots black and progressive leadership in the relief, return and reconstruction process in New Orleans.
The evacuees from Hurricane Katrina call on the world community to support our demands for determining our own future. The population of New Orleans is 67% black, 40% illiterate, with more than 30 % living below the poverty line. The abandonment, neglect and militarization by the government have led community leaders and evacuees to determine that we will take the necessary, comprehensive steps to redevelop our communities, our homes, our lives, attend to our well being. The official entities -- federal and local government agencies -- have criminally failed the black survivors of Katrina, and are engaged in the militarization of our city, constituting a form of ethnic cleansing, what we believe to be a gross violation of civil and international human rights. We believe ourselves to be operating without a government, and like ravaged and attacked communities throughout the world, we call upon conscious and compassionate people throughout this nation and the world to support us in our claim to determine our destinies.
We are committed to creating space to engage all those who want to work in support of our recovery and reconstruction, within the United States and throughout the world community.
We are developing working committees and will call for volunteers to begin to sign up for committees on Tuesday, September 20, 2005. Some examples of the work that needs volunteers is:
- documentation of all evacuees, their whereabouts and condition
- community organizing
- meeting the health care needs of evacuees
- legal advocacy, exploration of human rights and civil rights abuses, wrongful deaths, and other legal issues
- teachers and educators to work with our displaced children
- assist in support for all those still in shelters, monitoring of the conditions, publicizing the abuses and advocating on behalf of evacuees
- help in collecting the stories of displaced New Orleanians, including our vision of the new New Orleans
- publicize all aspects of our work
- experts to test the air, water and soil in preparation for reconstruction
- engineers, architects and solar experts to advise and participate in reconstruction.
We will be presenting a petition on behalf of New Orleans and Gulf Coast Region Survivors of Hurricane Katrina to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to investigate the conditions that brought about the worst disaster in U.S. history and to help ensure social justice for the Survivors, their rights to return to their communities, economic redress for their losses, and a speedy reconstruction of new communities with affordable housing for all and repaired levees and other protections against preventable tragedies.
We call on international human rights communities to join in the demand to keep the spotlight on the actions of the U.S. government, to hold it accountable for its actions, and to support the self determination of Katrina survivors.
We call on international human rights monitors to come to New Orleans to show the world the disgraceful actions perpetrated against the people in our communities.
Principles: Community Labor United
CLU devoted its first three months to developing the following Principles of Unity:
We are community leaders, labor leaders, and cultural workers committed to ending the exploitation of oppressed peoples everywhere.
We believe that all people have the right and responsibility to determine their destiny.
Our organizations and unions are committed to building a society where the realities of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation are not barriers to human progress.
We are committed to building a society where the bottom line interests of corporations and the rich are not balanced on the backs of workers and the poor.
We are committed to building local, regional, national, and world economies that are democratic, just, ecological, and do not exploit labor, culture, and natural resources.
We are committed to building an organization of organizations and individuals, focused on educating, organizing, and mobilizing the masses within our organizations and communities from the bottom up.
We believe in the prospect of multiracial and trans-generational efforts to develop our communities.