NEWS NEWS NEWS
WHAT: PRESS CONFERENCE
WHEN: 2:30PM FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 16 2005
WHERE: 927 PALMYRA, JACKSON, MS
People’s Hurricane Relief Fund and Reconstruction Oversight Committee and Misssssippi Emergency Relief Committee
Welcome IFCO/Pastors For Peace Caravan With Aid Donation
16 September 2005, Jackson, Mississippi: Eighteen days after the worst storm in U.S. history ravaged the Gulf Coast, displacing hundreds of thousands of people. The People’s Hurricane Relief Fund and Reconstruction Oversight Committee (PHRF, a coalition of more than 42 community organizations comprised of people displaced by the hurricane,) and the Mississippi Emergency Relief Committee, will receive seven truckloads of supplies from IFCO/Pastors For Peace.
PHRF, initiated by Community Labor United, a seven year old New Orleans based coalition dedicated to bringing together grassroots organizations to engage in dialogue, strategic planning and collective work, intends to build and maintain a network of community leaders, organizers and community based organizations to help meet the needs of people most affected by the hurricane, who are demanding that local, grassroots, black and progressive leadership oversee the relief, return and reconstruction process in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
"The poverty, the racism, the environmental hazards before Katrina were devastating. Now the open sores of this disregard, neglect and bias are bursting for the world to see the infection. It is absolutely imperative, urgent, for those most affected by this crisis to be in charge of all aspects of their own rebuilding," according to Curtis Muhammad of Community Labor United and PHF. We have been moved by the enormous response from people throughout the country and the world, which helps us continue. We thank the Pastors for Peace from the depth of our hearts."
The PHRF is setting up mechanisms to track and support evacuees, document their stories, work to reunite families who have been divided and dispersed, offer medical, legal, educational and other support and advocacy for those who have been displaced, oversee the testing of water, soil and air and direct the reconstruction of their homes, communities and lives. The new coalition is also appealing to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to investigate conditions before, during and after Katrina.
"We are the ones who’ve been treated without care, dignity or respect in our own place, our own country. We are the ones who will decide how to claim what we know as home. The officials have engaged in what we consider to be criminal neglect. We feel like war survivors. We are watching our own lives in disbelief and we call on the world community to listen and support us," stated Mr. Muhammad.
IFCO/Pastors For Peace, a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), a New York ecumenical organization founded in 1967, has delivered humanitarian aid "friendship caravans" to Africa, Chiapas, Mexico, Central America and Cuba. The organization directs its donations towards victims of U.S. foreign policy and natural disasters. The seven trucks with supplies for Katrina survivors will go to Algiers/New Orleans, Lake Charles and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Houston, Texas; Columbia, Gloster and Jackson Mississippi where the main office of PHF is located.
Visiting volunteer, poet Suheir Hammad observed after going to New Orleans: "The presence of the military vehicles and the private security firms running the streets of New Orleans didn’t translate to a feeling of comfort and security for the evacuees in the shelters we visited. People want to go home. They want to be reunited with their families. Mrs. Brown, in her late 70s, said over and over, I never thought I’d be in a shelter. She has been in The River Center shelter for two weeks."
According to Father Luis Barrios, Board of Directors member of IFCO/Pastors For Peace: "We are called in this moment to demonstrate not just charity but to demonstrate compassion for our sisters and brothers in this region who have been neglected by racist and classist institutions. We’re talking about a radical form of compassion in which we identify the problem and denounce the problem. Most importantly we help transform the problem by working for justice. Our commitment is for the long term."
For more information on The People’s Hurricane Relief Fund and Reconstruction Oversight Committee contact Curtis Muhammad at 601 346-5995, 504 236-4703 or Malcolm Suber at 504 931-7614.