March 29, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Chris Sturr
or Amy Gluckman
VOICES FROM THE GULF COAST
THE STORIES YOU HAVEN’T HEARD
HURRICANE KATRINA & GULF COAST RECONSTRUCTION
When Hurricane Katrina struck six months ago, the mainstream media was shocked to discover the scope of poverty in New Orleans. And that’s about as deep as the coverage has gone.
Dollars & Sense: The Magazine of Economic Justice has just released its 56-page special issue (March/April 2006) on Katrina. In it, you’ll discover how Katrina exposed—and has intensified—a whole range of unjust systems of racial and economic domination.
Did you know:
• When Katrina struck, the New Orleans jail housed about 6,800 prisoners, including violent felons but also plenty of people awaiting arraignment or trial, like a guy arrested for reading Tarot cards without a permit and homeless people arrested for begging or sleeping on the street. Prisoners were locked in first-floor cells as the water rose; some spent days standing in sewage-filled cells with little food or water. Meanwhile, the facility’s scant two-page evacuation plan was on “this guy’s computer” that got flooded.
But the story goes back much farther. The jail’s population has increased eightfold since the mid-1970s—while the city’s population has dropped. Why? Because the parish sheriff makes money for each prisoner he houses. As one sheriff commented, “fewer inmates translates into less revenue for the jail.” Locking up fewer New Orleanians would mean shrinking the sheriff’s fat patronage-based fiefdom.
• When Katrina struck, it devastated nearly the entire Mississippi coast, in some places for miles inland. Thousands lost their homes. But state and federal relief and reconstruction plans are doing little to help people rebuild their homes or find other housing. In Mississippi, Gov. Haley Barbour decided to spend the state’s entire $5.3 billion federal Katrina relief grant on retroactive flood insurance for otherwise insured homeowners—not a penny for renters, uninsured homeowners, or to repair public housing.
But the story goes back much farther. For years, redevelopment plans in coastal cities like Biloxi and Gulfport have been endangering low-income and black neighborhoods. “There are people here who’ll tell you that developers and local politicians have been trying to flood us out of existence, because with each piece of land, they haul in a bunch of red clay, which is semi-impervious, dump it in the wetlands to build up land on which to put a slab or a parking lot, then on the slab they put a building, a big ‘ole Wal-Mart or something,” says Mississippi historian and community organizer Derrick Evans.
• When Katrina struck, the flooding in New Orleans left behind a layer of toxic sediment—contaminants include arsenic and diesel-fuel substances—in neighborhoods throughout the city. The EPA has not begun any cleanup of the sediment. Government agencies are recommending that returnees wear protective gear like Tyvek suits when they work on their homes but, as environmental justice activist Monique Harden notes, “not one government agency provides this protective gear to people returning to the area.”
But the story goes back much farther. For years, low-income and black communities in Louisiana have faced the massive legal(!) dumping of toxic pollutants. In fact, the historic African-American community of Mossville, La., is the focus of the first-ever environmental human-rights lawsuit brought against the U.S. government, now pending before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States.
These are just some of the in-depth stories you’ll read in this special issue of Dollars & Sense. The issue includes:
• Gone to Mississippi – A journey along the state’s devastated coast
• Activist Perspectives on Katrina: Three Interviews
Mississippi historian and activist Derrick Evans – “Ground Zero of Someone Else’s Future”
East Biloxi community activist Jearlean Osborne – “The Storm of Life after Katrina”
Environmental justice activist Monique Harden – Katrina Hits Cancer Alley
• Bringing Them All Back Home – Housing in New Orleans, six months later
• SPECIAL PULLOUT CENTERFOLD – Rogues’ Gallery of Katrina Profiteers / Map of the Katrina Diaspora / Roster of progressive Gulf Coast organizations
• And more!!!
Authors and editors available for interviews – contact Chris Sturr or Amy Gluckman at (617) 447-2177.
Founded in 1974, Dollars & Sense explains the workings of the U.S. and international economies and provides left perspectives on current economic affairs. It is edited and produced by a collective of economists, journalists, and activists who are committed to social justice and economic democracy.