Ancestors and Art as Post-Katrina Resistance A Poverty Skola Tour Through New Orleans


Tiny - Posted on 09 July 2018

Author: 
Tiny

“Wow, i didn’t even know that place was gone” New Orleans born and raised sisSTAR Ann, exclaimed as we rolled through the gentriFUKed and/or re-deviloped streets of the 9th ward, Algiers and Treme neighborhoods of New Orleans, to name a few.

 

Block after block our fearless, decolonized guide on her own self-described “resistance tour”  would shake her head as she took us through destroyed and currently redevil-oping streets of herstoric oppressed peoples.

In so many ways this place looked to me like the worlds of POC/indigenous poverty skolaz from San Juan (Puerto Rico) to the mission district of San Francisco, and like them both was under attack from gentriFUKing forces. Not small or discreet move-ins, but wide, sweeping arrogant reductions of poor people housing, small and Black or POC owned businesses and even working class, thriving communities.

 

"This is one of the most famous graveyards in New Orleans, and now it charges $25-30.00 just to get in,” Anna murmured with disgust.  

The reduction in poor people housing and poor people communities and even our ancestors graveyards isn’t just due to a confusing mess of “market forces” or gentriFUKing new populations ready to pay more and more to live in urban settings, its also due to a focused and targeted removal of housing under the Dept of Housing Urban Devil-Opment(HUD)’s RAD program which POOR Magazine has re-ported and sup-ported multiple times. It is also due to a targeted move by global real estate snakkkes and speculators moving into urban cities with the goal of “development” always important to keep the global empire of Capitalism strong and profiting.

 

In two different situations i have overheard wealth-hoarders be pitched by real estate snakkkes about the “new market” of Puerto Rico. This in addition to the fact that a lot of these urban settings are tourist attractions, makes for an evil cocktail of removal and displacement, post disasters like Hurricane Maria and Katrina for any poor or working class person who is still holding on to their homes. By any means necessary.

“I’m B-Mike and I’m trying to create, produce and lift up art in our neighborhoods as a form of survival and thrival,” graffiti artist and revolutionary from New Orleans BMike stated to PoorNewsNetwork reporters Leroy Moore and me.

 

We had the unbelievable blessing of meeting B-Mike and viewing his new community gallery which was in the impacted neighborhoods and even if it meant that real east snakes and devil-opers would try to capitlalize on his default “improvement” he was so on point and down for the people that I’m not sure if the people would prevail or the snakkkes - kinda how we moving at Homefulness in Deep east Oakland.

“Alf of homeless people be staying under that bridge,” Ana whispered. Sadly the other rarely spoken about result of intense 21st century removal /displacement projects, with or without disastrous hurricanes, is the impact of folks who just can’t keep fighting to hold on to their hamster wheels - who, like my mama and me,end up on the streets, “living in the cardboard motels” once we are evicted cause like mama always used to say , just cause we evicted doesn’t mean we leave our neighborhoods..” and then her voice would trail off while we tried to get warm on that nights designated park bench.

From Frisco to the French quarter unhoused folks by the hundreds, post -gentriFUKation are ending up living in the cardboard motels and then are harassed and criminalized for living without access to a roof cause once we are outside we are equated with trash. In new Orleans as you can see in one of the embedded images literally hundreds of people were living under a bridge that straddled the outskirts of downtown. This was just the unhoused people we saw. Meanwhile, thousands of other families were just pushed out to outskirts like the place our ghetto - Motel 6 was located in, with no sidewalks, or transportation systems or stores with fresh food, or much of anything. This is the same in so many places - with Sacramento, which used to be just another destination of the newly pushed out/gentriFUKed Bay area residents, now being one of the highest populations of unhoused children in the state of California.

 

“They just cut off food stamps in the state of New Orleans,” Ana told us the first day we arrived. Ana went on to tell us that people would fight it tooth and nail but it just left me weak, especially after we had already heard that New Orleans already was planning to close and evict literally thousands of elders from elder homes (elder ghettos, i call them but the reality is these are poor elders with nowhere else to go, many of whom have been ripped from their families in the cult of separation nation i often teach about at POOR Magazine’s PeopleSkool).

“All these gentrifiers built all these “homes” but then left folks here with mortgages they can’t afford to keep up with, so now you have hella folks losing their homes after all rebuilding flurry that hit this town after Katrina,”Ana explained as we drove through the 9th ward. It was so sad and surreal, miles and miles of manufactured homes with the different devil-opers signatures on every one. Several blocks looking just like some weird mini version of a designer home the kind they have all over post-gentriFUKed Venice beach in LA, apparently built/supported by Brad Pitt and still not paid in full so people weren’t even “safe” there. Hundreds more just sat there, boarded up and destroyed, mold infested and unusable.

 

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“Boom boom, boom,” As we were making our way through the beautiful crazy thick air that is New Orleans, we were also met with the deep sounds and sights of a marching band that represented a family lineage marching down the middle of a main street, no PoLice escort, no permits, no Bullshit, just music and rhythm and dance and love. This was the depth of strong Black and Indigenous culture that informed everything in that town. Even the post-gentriFUKEd, Post Katrina New Orleans is rich with deep and beautiful and strong African cultural deep structural norms.

 

The town is full with Black owned businesses and the knowledge that we need black owned businesses. The air is heavy with ancestors and the trees and clouds and land sings with the power of who used to be there and who is still there.

“I was one of the only people who was here in the disaster of Katrina, who was truly there for the people, for this i never got any credit or love, just lies,” Me and Leroy had the amazing blessing of meeting with Malik Raheim, the founder of Common Ground, a very grassroots, poor people-led movement in New Orleans based in his family home in Algiers.

 

“I helped over 1.5 million people stay here and stay alive, “ Malik concluded. He went on to explain the rich herstory of his Algiers neighborhood including the powerFULL resistance of the “runaway” enslaved and indigenous Maroon peoples and the fact that his family were an extremely important part of that community. As well as his involvement, support and story-telling of the powerFUL revolutionaries known as the Angola 3 - who were/are political prisoners of deeply racist amerikkklan.

 

Malik, an amazing teacher, revolutionary and Black Panther should have no issues with his home but like most of New Orleans is unstable in his housing, currently owing $40,000 in unpaid taxes and facing eviction, because he doesn’t have any money and is now an elder revolutionary with no support. I left Malik determined to include him in the Bank of Community Reparations, a completely pimp-free “fund” that supports poor/indigenous peoples to stay in their homes and communities and build/reclaim sacred land and sites. The exact same thing Homefulness and Sogorea Te Land Trust are dealing with and trying to resist with different models of land use and redistribution here in Huchuin (Oakland).

 

Malik’s friend took us to his house and on the way he talked about the tight Black community and how they work with Black politicians to restore Black businesses an Black arts.  Malik’s friend had roots in California so he was sad as we told him how gentrification has destroyed the Black community in the Bay Area. We had a chance to meet his wife and beautiful children.  He also informed us that landlords can increase your rent with no notice!

 

Me and Leroy (who don’t know how to take a break- LOL) were ostensibly there to “take a break”  and ended up doing a beautiful reading of our revolutionary children’s books (The Hard Worker and Black Disabled Art History 101) at the New Orleans Main Branch library, and also did an interview at the amazing Community Bookstore, which is truly the model of an actual “Community Bookstore”.   The Black owned, Community Book Center blew us away especially their huge children section. The owner was a media person, she pulled out her cell phone and plugged in a microphone then proceeded to interview us right there in her bookstore. She was warm and spanky. There were three other people in the store playing cards.

 

Although Leroy fell in love with New Orleans, he also knew that New Orleans ranks very low on disability services and we experience that with the inaccessible sidewalks and a Black elder came to us while we were sitting in a cafe and asked if we knew any adult services for her adult autistic sun.

 

Our final blessing was to our taste buds honored with the succulent food of Caribbean restaurant Coco Hut  As we sat in the 100 degree New Orleans heat and humidity ( which both me and Leroy loved) eating our gourmet Caribbean meal, the thick air full of so many ancestors, so much resistance and deep indigenous herstory surrounded us like a silk blanket. New Orleans is and was like nothing else in the world and its spirit and ancestors need our revolutionary love.

 

 

 

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