May 2011

On a beautiful late afternoon in early May, Dedrick Benison and Michael Calvin are quietly surveying the house that came crashing down around them just a week before.  On April 27th they were watching a movie here, a neighbor’s house on the catfish farm where the men live and work, near Forkland, Alabama.  Moments later a tornado collapsed the roof and ripped off the kitchen wall, sending furniture and splintered wood flying.

“I hate disasters,” Derrick Evans has said grumpily and repeatedly over the past several days.  As a resident of coastal Mississippi and a Gulf Coast advocate, Evans has been through situations like this before – Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike, BP, to name a few. 

More than a month after returning home from her walk to Washington, D.C., Gulf Coast mom and advocate Cherri Foytlin thanks all of the people who made the trip possible. She walked to D.C. from New Orleans to call for action to end the BP oil disaster.

My name is Baley Martinez. I am from the community of Grand Caillou, in Dulac, Louisiana (south of Houma). I am a part of the 17,000 member tribe United Houma Nation. I was born and raised in this community and I am currently 18 yrs old.  Already in my lifetime, I have seen the drastic changes in the bayou region of South Louisiana.

A diverse coalition of 154 groups, including Waterkeeper Alliance, United Houma Nation, Greenpeace and 69 different Waterkeepers organizations, representing hundreds of thousands of community members around the country, Mexico and China, sent a letter to EPA Administrator Jackson and HHS Secretary Sebelius demanding action on the growing public health crisis on the Gulf Coast.

Like Holt-Peterson Road near John Wathen's place outside Tuscaloosa, I have seen total destruction in nearby Alberta City and Crescent Ridge Road, in Birmingham's African-American community of Pratt City (approximately 7,000 homes), and elsewhere.
 
The question that folks who want to volunteer or send relief must begin to ask is not "how hard was xx hit?", but "where is there NOT a steady flow (or even an over-abundance) of relief?"
 

Just a week after the anniversary of the nation’s greatest oil disaster, Congress is set to vote on legislation to open up virtually all federal waters to drilling, while cutting governmental oversight and safety measures at the same time.

That’s sort of like telling the designer of the Titanic to forget about the icebergs and just build more ships. Full speed ahead!

I recently had the opportunity to speak with several neighboring friends and associates that are from New Orleans, but now living in Houston.  Two I met, and they became a part of my life, while I was residing in Houston after Hurricane Katrina.  I wanted to know, more than five years after leaving New Orleans, why were they still in Houston?  Did they consider themselves displaced?  What did they think about New Orleans and returning home?

My dad used to work at one of the chemical plants in the Point Comfort/Port Lavaca area in Texas, about a two and a half hour drive southwest from Houston. The plant produces plastics and PVC pellets which are used to make anything from sandwich bags to molded products. My father was a waste-water operator. They repeatedly had him send contaminated water out into our bays.  Many of these contaminants are cancer causing agents.

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