On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, with New Orleans facing the greatest devastation. More than 1,800 lives were lost and 600,000 people were left homeless. With the ten-year anniversary of the storm looming, now is an important opportunity to reflect on the ways New Orleans has changed since Katrina.
Today, Advancement Project and Families of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC), have teamed up launched KatrinaTruth.org, according to a press release. The website details how African Americans in New Orleans have been left behind in the city’s recovery efforts and focuses on the decade-long displacement and neglect this community has suffered. Advancement Project is a national civil rights organization and Friends and Families of Louisiana’s Incarcerated is a grassroots juvenile justice organization based in New Orleans.
“KatrinaTruth.org is a direct response to the erasure of Black struggle post-Katrina,” said Judith Browne Dianis, Advancement Project Co-Director in a press release. “The facts and data presented on this website invite a more nuanced look at the progress in New Orleans following the storm. What you will see is that the progress touted by the city and state completely disregards the lack of progress for Black New Orleans. This is both nonsensical and reprehensible.”
“What we saw during Katrina was abandonment of the Black population in New Orleans,” said Gina Womack, Executive Director of FFLIC. “Black people faced the storm alone ten years ago and have faced the recovery alone today. We cannot and should not forget that in the days following the storm, Black people were targeted as looters, were shot at by police and racist vigilantes, and rounded up and held in horrific conditions in the Superdome.”
The website provides information on eight issue areas: housing, education, criminal justice, income inequality, environmental justice, LGBT, health and the overall state of Black New Orleans.
Nowhere is it more apparent that Black New Orleans has not recovered than in the area of education. Three months after Katrina, the Louisiana legislature passed Act 35, which allows the state-run Recovery School District (“RSD”) to take over 107 New Orleans public schools previously controlled by the Orleans Parish School Board (“OPSB”). In May 2014, RSD closed the last five public schools, becoming the first all-charter district in the nation.
“Under the guise of education reform, corporate profiteers and politicians zeroed on New Orleans after the storm,” said Thena Robinson Mock, Project Director of Advancement Project’s Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track Campaign, in a press release. “Today, most Black students are still trapped in failing or near-failing public schools and experience a deeper, more severe form of charter school "push-out" through suspensions and expulsions.”
“Hurricane Katrina destroyed so much and there is still much work to be done,” said Browne Dianis. That is why we must counter any narrative that whitewashes or fails to highlight the lived experience of Black New Orleanians.”