Recently, I took my daughter to a birthday party at a laser tag facility, and I planned on having a nice time, I really did. But, wouldn’t you know it someone had to spoil it by bringing up New Orleans. A parent told me that he was just in New Orleans and that he was impressed with how much it has been built up since Hurricane Katrina. I said calmly, at first, ‘It’s not that built up.’ The parent went on to say, “Oh yes it is. I stayed by the river and went to the Jazz Fest and had a great time.”
Well, that did it. I reminded him that he was in a tourist area and of course those areas (Superdome and the convention center) have been repaired. I also reminded him that the French Quarter was never really damaged. Then, I asked him did he dare to venture outside the tourist area and he did not. I told him that that is where he should have gone to see the real deal.
I then reminded him that my parents and one of my brother’s still live there, so, I know what was/is going on! Needless to say, he finally backed off.
Speaking of New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina, whenever I am asked about the devastation and what happened, I always add an extra element – one that no one probably wants to hear. I tell them (black, white, brown, etc.), that not just poor blacks were affected by the hurricane. I tell them that everyone from all walks of life and areas of the city were and continue to be affected by the hurricane’s aftermath.
One thing that has not been mentioned, or I should say I have not heard it, is that many who lived in the Lower 9th Ward owned their homes, which had been passed down from generation to generation. Media reports have painted the place, and basically the whole city for that matter, as a wasteland of poor, uneducated folks, with no teeth, running around. You would think that the main media coverage could have found just one black person, who could actually string two words together. Are there poor people there? Why of course. Are there uneducated people there? Why yes!
Another area that was devastated but hardly mentioned is the Upper 9th Ward. The Upper 9 is where my parents lived and where I grew up during late middle school, high school, and college. While my parents were blue collar, we moved into a neighborhood where professional blacks thrived. Where were these people during the media coverage?
Oh, did I mention that many media reports would have you believe that we, mostly presumably poor, uneducated blacks, who could not put a sentence together to save our lives, were too dumb to leave while the water was rising. Apparently, we just stood around saying, “Oh lawd, the watah comin’ to get us, what we gon do?” The reality IS is that many New Orleanians did leave the area before the hurricane hit. But, guess what? They could not hitch their houses and other belongings on the back of their cars and leave.
Yes, my parents left in time and went to Houston. The rising waters would go on to destroy anything in its way devastating areas that touched us all.
My family lost everything, except for the cars they took with them and literally the clothes on their backs.
Although, I left New Orleans in 1989, I never bothered to take much with me because I figured that home would always be home and my stuff (prom dress, baby clothes, toys, mementos, pictures, etc.,) would always be there. It was a good thing I grabbed some yearbooks and family photos (the only photos left) during my many visits years, months before the dreaded Hurricane Katrina hit.
Many New Orleanians, especially black natives, are afraid to admit that they are from the city. But, I admit it and am proud to do so. I proudly display fleur-de-lis and Xavier University of Louisiana stickers on my car. In fact, right before the hurricane hit, I ordered a license-plate frame that said, “New Orleans Natives Adore The Skin We’re In” and proudly displayed it. I will always be proud of my city!
Now, when you see reports of Hurricane Katrina with crazy-looking and crazy-talking black folks, please note that there is a different side!