January 2011

All individuals have the right to equality, equal opportunity, fair treatment and an environment free of pollutants. What we have seen in the Gulf, and around the world, is an infringement upon both our civil rights and our human rights.  So the question is: What are you going to do about it?

To the people of the United States of America:

When I heard that The Daily Show was sending one of its "correspondents" to Turkey Creek (in coastal Gulfport, Mississippi), I tried to imagine how a brief satirical “news” segment might shed light on a story I take seriously, and one that I've been documenting on video for more than a decade (read about the Turkey Creek documentary here).

Acy Cooper is a proud native son of Venice, LA, a storm-battered fishing and oil service town at the end of the bayou south of New Orleans.  Acy calls this "God's country," home base for some of the best shrimping and fishing in the country. This is where he cut his teeth as a commercial fisherman, just as his father did before him. But after the BP oil disaster spewed nearly 200 million gallons of crude into his fishing grounds, Acy isn't so sure what the future will bring.

In November we reported on a new program to help low-income Mississippi residents rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina.  The program was the result of a settlement reached between a number of local housing advocates and their public-interest lawyers, the U.S.

Drive down this short stretch of St. Bernard Avenue, and you will see signs of a struggling neighborhood in despair. Bars, blighted homes, metal-grated storefronts, and the still-shuttered Circle Food Store tell the story of this strip.  Here in New Orleans’ 7th ward, hope and sustenance have been drained by Katrina’s floodwaters, and by decades of racism’s insidious trend of sapping vital resources from a community.

For a thousand years, Rosina Philippe and her aunt Geraldine Philippe's families fished and hunted in the Louisiana bayou. As members of the Atakapa-Ishak Nation, they have thrived along the lush marshes and canals of Mississippi River delta, surviving on the fertile environment that sustains and nurtures their lifestyle.

Then the BP oil disaster struck last summer, and things have never been the same.

Last week, Hurricane Katrina survivors packed two Greater New Orleans churches and voiced some of the frustration, anger, and hurt that they’ve been nursing over the “Road Home” recovery program.  The public meetings, in St. Bernard parish and New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, were held to inform residents about inequities and corruption in the housing program.


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