The March/April special Katrina issue of Dolars & Sense magazine will be in print any day now. In the meantime, a few of the articles are available online. One of the articles we've posted is my interview with historian and activist Derrick Evans. Derrick lives in Turkey Creek, MS, a post-emancipation African American settlement, incorporated as part of Gulfport, MS a little over ten years ago. He is the founder and director of an innovative community development corporation, Turkey Creek Community Initiatives.
Here's an excerpt from the interview:
DE: Even though I grew up here, I didn't know even a fragment of a fraction of what there is to know about the ecological identity of the place here, and it has turned out to be very important information that then translates into good urban planning.
There's a cultural landscape, there's a sociological landscape, there's the class and race distribution, and there's also the ecological profile. And what you'll find is that the unresolved problems pertaining to any one of those issues can be overlain on a map: that the lowest-lying land is typically where black folks, generations ago, would have acquired their land; where they would have settled and developed their communities, which would have been the least disturbed by 20th-century infrastructure; and that now, in the wake of a "Mississippi miracle," the economic revitalization of the coast, for example, the advent of dockside casinos, would be the most ripe or prime for redevelopment. Not at all unlike Roxbury in Massachusetts. Roxbury lies smack in the middle of the only direction for the city of Boston to revitalize, regardless of what the priorities are, whether it's to build more skyscrapers or provide more housing for middle- and higher-income folk. Likewise, we here are sitting in the same boat as Harlem, or neighborhoods in San Francisco and elsewhere, sitting in ground zero of somebody else's future.
So I've formed partnerships with some pretty nontraditional "civil rights activists"--like ladies from the Audubon Society, who now stand with us to protect the creek. Now that it's publicly utilized for birding and for kids to go canoeing and learn about native habitat, that helps ward off sprawl. The church here, Mount Pleasant, got involved and created an environmental ministry because of this trans-formation of looking at ourselves and the ecological context around us.
This is really important because this is a low-lying area, a very small watershed. We get 70 to 80 inches of rainfall per year that falls into a 17,000-acre bowl. A lot of water, small area--not a good place for a whole lot of what we call "impervious surfaces" like rooftops, parking lots and roadways without some provision being made to re-create the natural function of the watershed so that low-income communities like Turkey Creek, North Gulfport, Forest Heights, or even more affluent areas like Long Beach to our west, don't flood, which historically they didn't.
There are people here who'll tell you that developers and local politicians have just been trying to flood us out of existence, because with each piece of land, they haul in a bunch of red clay, which is basically impervious, dump it in the wetlands to build up land on which to put a slab or a parking lot, and then on the slab they put a building, a big 'ole Wal-Mart or something.
During Katrina, my mother was rescued from a house--the water reached her chest. She was with her 95-year-old husband, who never had and never would evacuate before any storm out here, because there was never a need. We have traditionally had woods behind us for thousands of feet as a windbreak, and hundreds of acres of wetlands to handle the runoff. But nobody had even done a comprehensive assessment of the total loss of wetlands to make it clear that houses three and a half miles north of the beach would be flooded to the degree that they were.
If you don't already have a subscription, you'll be able to pick up the March/April issue at one of these newsstands. (If you made a donation for my travel to MS, you'll be receiving a copy with your thank-you.)