Black Ties and Bulldozers

Written by a colleague in the struggle for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, an article/letter/emotional outpouring as her social justice organization loses the lawsuit over New Orleanians’ right to return and, four days later, HUD approves the demolition of 5,000 units of public housing.

I urge you to read it, because in all my heartfelt unwinding and yelling and cajoling and informing and lecturing here, I hardly ever write about the people I work with/for.  Anita, the author here, has found grandmothers and role models and wants you to know them too.  I hope you’ll read it because, whether I’m transferring or not, I feel in this letter her pain at losing this battle, and can easily visualize her activism as she/we wait to see whether we’ve also lost whatever war we’re fighting: be it to save New Orleans, to protect the human rights of the vulnerable, to pursue social, political and economic justice in Gulf Coast recovery, or in the world. 

I also suspect she felt as giddily, energetically angry and righteous circling a black tie event in this flimsy little trailer (when I climbed in on Sat morning, it felt about as sturdy as a port-o-potty, like I could knock it over if I hurled myself against one wall long enough) – as I did crowding Vitter’s aides in the hallways of Hart last week.  I barely know Anita, my familiarity extends to seeing her in meetings, but I’m smiling at my computer right now, in solidarity.  After last week’s visit to the Hill, I’m about ready to admit how political I am and how politicized I’ve become.  I can almost drown out the sheepish words of my aunt Phyllis at lunch a few months ago: “I know you’re not supposed to talk about politics…” before she went on to criticize Bush and Iraq.  As Anita writes in her closing paragraph:

“Call [driving a FEMA trailer around the CBC black tie] an existential gesture toward the void, and I would be hard-pressed to argue. But we cannot advance civil rights by merely serving as eyewitnesses. The government and the people who permit unjust governance have to be made accountable, up until the bitter end. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.’ Success is also to know that even one politician has breathed harder because you have protested.” (my emphases)


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