news from the land of katrina

April 28, 2008 at 5:23 am (anti-oppression, new orleans, prisons, racism)

Dear God,

What is going on in this world?  How are they ever going to be able to give this much money 35, 000, 100,000, 150, 000 dollars back to the government?  They want to take away their homes so that a corporation keeps it stock prices nice.  Nice.  I am so sad.  And how can Nagin look at the incredilbe homeless population and say that the answer is to make it illegal to sleep in public areas?  How does that solve the homeless problem?  I cant imagine how can he sleep at night?  Well, I guess he is sleeping in a house.


By John Moreno Gonzales
The Associated Press
Sunday 30 March 2008

New Orleans – Imagine that your home was reduced to mold and wood framing by Hurricane Katrina. Desperate for money to rebuild, you engage in a frustrating bureaucratic process, and after months of living in a government-provided trailer tainted with formaldehyde you finally win a federal grant.

Then a collector calls with the staggering news that you have to pay back thousands of dollars.

Thousands of Katrina victims may be in that situation.

A private contractor under investigation for the compensation it received to run the Road Home grant program for Katrina victims says that in the rush to deliver aid to homeowners in need some people got too much. Now it wants to hire a separate company to collect millions in grant overpayments.

The contractor, ICF International of Fairfax, Va., revealed the extent of the overpayments when it issued a March 11 request for bids from companies willing to handle “approximately 1,000 to 5,000 cases that will necessitate collection effort.”

The bid invitation said: “The average amount to be collected is estimated to be approximately $35,000, but in some cases may be as high as $100,000 to $150,000.”

The biggest grant amount allowed by the Road Home program is $150,000, so ICF believes it paid some recipients the maximum when they should not have received a penny. If ICF’s highest estimate of 5,000 collection cases – overpaid by an average of $35,000 – proves to be true, that means applicants will have to pay back a total of $175 million.

One-third of qualified applicants for Road Home help had yet to receive any rebuilding check as of this past week. The program, which has come to symbolize the lurching Katrina recovery effort, is financed by $11 billion in federal funds.

ICF spokeswoman Gentry Brann said in an e-mail Friday that the overpayments are the inevitable result of the Road Home grant being recalculated to account for insurance money and government aid given to Katrina victims.

Brann said there was a sense of urgency in paying Road Home applicants, and ICF and the state knew applicants would have to return some money.

“The choice was either to process grants immediately or wait until the March 2008 deadline (for submitting Road Home applications) before disbursing any funds,” Brann said in her e-mail.

Brann pointed out that 5,000 collections cases would represent a 4-percent error rate for the Road Home that is “quite good for large federal programs.”

Frank Silvestri, co-chair of the Citizen’s Road Home Action Team, a group that formed out of frustrations with ICF, sees it far differently.

“They want people to pay for their incompetence and their mistakes. What they need to be is aggressive about finding the underpayments,” he said. “People relied, to their detriment, on their (ICFs) expertise and rebuilt their houses and now they want to squeeze this money back out of them.”

The prospect of Road Home grant collections comes less than two weeks after the Louisiana inspector general and the legislative auditor said they were investigating why former Gov. Kathleen Blanco paid ICF an extra $156 million in her waning days in office to administer the program. With the increase, ICF stands to earn $912 million to run Road Home, a contract that also sweetened its initial public stock offering, and helped it buy out four other companies. It now reaches into government contracting sectors that include national defense and the environment.

Paul Rainwater, executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, the state body that asked for the Blanco-ICF investigations, acknowledged the collections could be painful for applicants, many of whom have used up their nest eggs to rebuild.

“The state must walk a fine line of treating homeowners who have been overpaid with fairness and compassion and ensuring that all federal funds are used for their intended purpose,” said Rainwater, an appointee of new Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Upon receiving money from Road Home, grantees sign a batch of forms, including one that says they must refund any overpayments.

Melanie Ehrlich, co-chair of Citizen’s Road Home Action Team, which has documented Road Home cases that appear littered with mistakes, said she had no confidence that ICF had correctly calculated overpayments. She charged that the company was more likely using collections as retribution against people who had appealed their award amounts in effort to get the aid they deserved.

“I think they are looking for ways to decrease awards and that’s part of dissuading people,” she said.

Brann said applicants are told an appeal could boost or diminish their award. She called Ehrlich’s charge “a totally unfounded assertion.”



By Rick Jervis, USA TODAY

NEW ORLEANS — The homeless population of New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina has reached unprecedented levels for a U.S. city: one in 25 residents.

An estimated 12,000 homeless accounts for 4% of New Orleans ‘ estimated population of 302,000, according to the homeless advocacy group UNITY of Greater New Orleans. The number is nearly double the pre-Katrina homeless count, the group says.

‘ROUGH GOING’: Homeless still feeling Katrina’s wrath

The New Orleans ‘ rate is more than four times that of most U.S. cities, which have homeless populations of under 1%, said Michael Stoops, executive director of the Washington-based National Coalition for the Homeless. The cities with homeless rates closest to that of New Orleans are Atlanta (1.4%) and Washington (0.95%), he said.

A USA TODAY 2005 survey of 460 localities showed one in 400 Americans on average were homeless.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin appealed to federal lawmakers this past week to provide funds and housing vouchers to help the city’s homeless problem.

The percentage of New Orleans’ homeless is one of the highest recorded since U.S. housing officials began tracking homelessness in the mid-1980s, said Dennis Culhane, a University of Pennsylvania professor who has studied homeless trends for more than 20 years.

“In a modern urban U.S. city, we’ve never seen it,” he said of New Orleans ‘ homeless rate.

Many of the homeless are Katrina evacuees who returned to unaffordable rents or who slipped through the cracks of the federal system designed to provide temporary housing after the storm, said Mike Miller, UNITY’s director of supportive housing placement.

There are also out-of-state workers who came for the post-Katrina rebuilding boom but lost their jobs, and mentally ill residents in need of services and medication, he said. Many of the city’s outreach homeless centers and public mental health services have been closed since Katrina.

Nagin has pledged to move the homeless from encampments around the city to more permanent shelters. Last year, the city and humanitarian groups found shelter for nearly all of the 250 people living in an encampment across from City Hall.

Nagin has suggested reinstating a city ordinance that would make it illegal to sleep in public places. Homeless advocates say the law would just crowd the jails.

“It just shows a real disconnect” between the city and the problem, said James Perry, head of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center. “The answer is not going to be jails.”

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Letter to Black America on Palestinian Rights & June 10 March

May 23, 2007 at 6:57 pm (palestine, racism)

Letter to Black America on Palestinian Rights & June 10 March

by US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
May 19, 2007

On 15 May 2007, 22 Black American professors, writers, religious figures, and other leaders issued a call to Black America to join in the June 10 March and rally, and break the silence on the injustices faced by the Palestinian people.




To Black America :


It is time for our people to once again demand that the silence be broken on the injustices faced by the Palestinian people resulting from the Israeli occupation.


On June 10th, the national coalition known as the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation ( will be spearheading a march and rally to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.


We, the signatories of this appeal, ask that Black America again take a leading role in this effort as well as the broader work to bring attention to this 40 year travesty of justice.


United Nations resolutions have called for the Israeli withdrawal, yet the Israeli government, with the backing of the USA , has ignored them. The Israeli government has appropriated Palestinian land in open defiance of international law and overwhelming international condemnation.


Within the USA anyone who speaks in favor of Palestinian rights and justice is immediately condemned as being allegedly anti-Israel (and frequently allegedly anti-Semitic), shutting down legitimate discussion. A case in point can be seen in the current furor surrounding former President Jimmy Carter who was criticized for his assertion in his best-selling book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, that Israeli obstructionism lies at the root of the failure to achieve a just Palestinian/ Israeli settlement.


As Nobel prizewinner Archbishop Desmond Tutu has written, “People are scared in the US , to say ‘wrong is wrong,’ because the pro-Israeli lobby is powerful–very powerful. Well, so what? For goodness sake, this is God’s world! We live in a moral universe. The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists.”


Many of those who most outspokenly agree with President Carter and Archbishop Tutu are American Jews. And many American Jews, including the national organization Jewish Voice for Peace, will be among those rallying for Palestinian rights on June 10th – as will many other Americans, including member groups of the leading anti-war coalition United for Peace and Justice.


Leaders from Black America have repeatedly and historically been among the most outspoken proponents of justice for the Palestinian people. Our leaders have defended the Palestinian people’s right to full self-determination and an end to the Occupation as central to peace in the region. Our leaders have not criticized the Jewish people but they have expressed outrage at the Israeli government that collaborated with the apartheid South African government (including in the development of weapons of mass destruction) and emulated South Africa ‘s treatment of its Black majority in its own treatment of the Palestinian people.


As we struggle to build our country’s support for Palestinian human rights, we widen the door for both Arab and Black Americans to deal with the issues that join them together, as well as those that separate them. We will help to energize – and to heal – both communities.


June tenth and Juneteenth: will our struggles lead the way to a new emancipation of others? Our own integrity as a people, let alone our own experience with massive injustice and oppression, demand that we step forward, speak out, and insist on a change in US policy towards the Palestinian people. Since when have an illegally occupied people been wrong in demanding and fighting for their human rights and land? Since when have such people and their cause not been worthy of our support?


Please join us on June 10th!


Signed by (affiliation for identification purposes only)


·        Salih Booker, former Executive Director of Africa Action

·        Khephra Burns, author, editor, playwright

·        Horace G. Campbell, Professor of African American Studies and Political Science

·        Dr. Ron Daniels, President, Institute of the Black World 21st Century

·        Bill Fletcher, labor and international activist, and writer

·        George Friday, United for Peace and Justice Co-Chair, National Coordinator, Independent Progressive Politics Network

·        Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, Senior Minister, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ; National President, Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice of the United Church of Christ

·        Mahmood Mamdani, Herbert Lehman Professor of Government in the Departments of Anthropology, Political Science and Public and International Affairs

·        Manning Marable, Professor of Public Affairs, Political Science, History and African-American Studies

·        George Paz Martin, National Co-Chair of United for Peace and Justice and Green Party U.S. Activist

·        E. Ethelbert Miller, literary activist; board chair, Institute for Policy Studies

·        Prexy Nesbitt, speaker and educator on Africa , foreign policy, and racism

·        Barbara Ransby, Associate Professor of History and African-American Studies

·        Cedric Robinson, Professor, Department of Black Studies

·        The Rev. Canon Edward W. Rodman MDiv.LCH,DD. Professor of Pastoral Theology and Urban Ministry at the Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Ma.

·        Jamala Rogers, Black Radical Congress

·        Don Rojas, former director of communications for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

·        Zoharah Simmons, human rights activist

·        Chuck Turner, Boston City Councilor

·        Hollis Watkins, Former Freedom Singer and staff member of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; human rights activist (1961 – present)

·        Dr. Cornel West

·        Emira Woods, co-director, Foreign Policy In Focus, Institute for Policy Studies

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curiosity me first

September 18, 2006 at 2:49 am (anti-racism, racism)

so i said ‘yes’ to going to the undoing racism training in chicago.  i am not sure why i said yes except that i am very curious about what is going to be presented.  and yes curiosity killed the cat but ive got 9 lives and got to use them up some how.

and plus i wanted to see some friends.

i also realized that that i love my live.  not because it is fabulous.  it isnt.  but because it is precious.  a little sappy…okay…lets just say that my life to me is a highly valuable process.  and a lot of fun.  and the whole idea of being ‘that white chick’ while i may not have the energy to perform it for three days at an undoing racism workshop, would make an excellent 3 minute performance piece.  or better yet a zine.

when you are kicked out of a country and have to start your life back over again, i think it is a good idea to do what you love the for the most part.  all of those you’s are addressed to me…first.  me first…did i mention that i am most likely having an aries child?

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Blakk Indian realities

September 16, 2006 at 4:11 pm (aboriginal, anti-racism, racism)

The following is an excerpt from the book “Understanding The Connections between Black and Aboriginal Peoples”

The Blakk Indian Hiphop Connection and modern day Blakk Indian realities (Toronto, San Francisco)

I broke up the long bus journey to Berkeley with a short stop in Washington State. There I hooked up with Pablo B an aboriginal filmmaker, traditional dancer and a hip hop industrial musician. Music labels especially aboriginal companies rejected his work because they found it strange that an aboriginal kid would be composing industrial music mixed with hip-hop.

That night Pablo and a Black anarchist friend jammed in his living room. I watched as they created a new track with Pablo rapping as the anarchist quickly scribbled lines for him for a piece that railed against the FBI campaigns against Black and Aboriginal
….Activists like Geronimo Pratt, Leonard Peltier and Anna Mae Aquash. Over raw jagged hip-hop beats Pablo rapped lines that were very pertinent at the time. “State police power increasing every hour, black men shot with their hands held high.”
….The high number of fatal shootings of unarmed black men in Canada and the United States weighed very heavily on people’s minds.
….Frequently during my travels in North America, I

would encounter aboriginal youth who were hip hop fans and rappers who were also heavily influenced by black political figures like the Black Panthers and Malcolm X. Aboriginal rappers like Julian B and his CD “Once Upon A Genocide” and Funkdoobius were just few of the aboriginal rappers emerging at this time. At a Toronto Pow Wow I was blown away by the knowledge of an aboriginal hip-hop designer named Cyril Sunbird who was conversant in radical Black politics.
….As we spoke he revealed to me that his aboriginal father had grown up in the American Deep South. Not having a chapter of the American Indian Movement in his area his father joined the local Black Panther chapter. What can occur when hip-hop radical black politics and conscious aboriginal youth converge was further illustrated by what I witnessed one night on a downtown Toronto street corner.
…. A group of aboriginal youth was hanging out after a concert. Among them was ‘Hip Hop Mohawk.’ We had met after an aboriginal sovereignty meeting. While I was leaving the meeting, I noticed that the person walking beside me was wearing a baseball cap with a beaded Public Enemy insignia on it. I inquired where he got his cap. He responded that he had beaded it himself because he was a long-standing fan of the rap group and hip-hop in general. ‘Hip Hop Mohawk’ (who was indeed from the Mohawk nation) was also well versed in the spiritual practices of Black and Aboriginal people.
….One of the other aboriginal youth present that night was my friend, Sid Bobb. He had been buying Public Enemy records from a very young age. In fact I used to pass on Public Enemy paraphernalia that P.E.’s Chuck D had autographed for Sid. Both of Sid’s parents had been heavily involved in radical aboriginal politics. His mom Lee Maracle used to work with the Black Panthers when they would travel to Vancouver.
….That night after the concert another aboriginal youth whose uncle was a cop started attacking rappers who were against the police. Sid answered him back with one of the most articulate defenses of rappers with anti-police stances that I have ever heard. Sid had no delusions about the police and their role in propping up the status quo regardless of their colour. He understood that often when rappers attacked the police they were also exposing deeper issues of racism and injustice.
…. That night after the concert another aboriginal youth whose uncle was a cop started attacking rappers who were against the police. Sid answered him back with one of the most articulate defenses of rappers with anti-police stances that I have ever heard. Sid had no delusions about the police and their role in propping up the status quo regardless of their colour. He understood that often when rappers attacked the police they were also exposing deeper issues of racism and injustice. Everyone stood quietly in awe as Sid dropped science about this quoting Malcolm X and the Black Panthers in the process.
…. I spoke with Bob Manning a black counselor who does extensive work with aboriginal and black street kids. He provided me with his insights into the affinity aboriginal youth have for hip-hop. According to him there is a great need for aboriginal youth to have that arrogance that black people have on television. Just recently I was in the Squamish nation in British Columbia, I saw a lot of Malcom X shirts and a lot of flap jackets. These were aboriginal kids imitating black kids in ghetto communities that they see out of Detroit television. Aboriginal kids are going through the same things black kids are. A search for identity, the anger, the need to make something that’s theirs -whether its their own name, their own gang its that need to reach out for the extended family, just like black kids try and do. Some end up in gangs, which become their extended family. Aboriginal youth tend to look to black people as a model because black people are the first to come out with that arrogance. It was the same thing in the sixties -when the Black panthers came out other groups like the American Indian Movement started following the Panthers. Some black people are very quick at saying, “Hey we don’t like this and we are going to change it and if you don’t like the changes -fuck you! It’s this arrogance that got black people out of slavery and which stimulated numerous slaves revolts. It’s the attitude of people refusing to be controlled. The need and want to be free. So when an Aboriginal kid in Squamish sees a black kid in Detroit being arrogant, wearing a flap jacket and saying “Hey, this is me and I’m going to get in your face, I’ve had enough of this, I am going to fight right here, I’m going to take a stance. “Aboriginal kids relate to that and more and more are adapting that stance as we witnessed at the standoff at Oka.
…. When I arrived in San Francisco there was intense political activity as people geared up to protest the Gulf War that was about to erupt. I stopped off at the anarchist book store Bound Together Books to meet with anarchist hardcore band M.D.C. in regards to a Blakk Indian project. I left with the brilliant book, Black Wheels of Anger about radical activist, Tom Mooney by the anarchist writer Peter Plate who distributed his books free of charge in the tradition of the Diggers: anonymous radical activist of the sixties who use to hand out free goods to people in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
….I met with Michael Franti who was also preparing to take part in a Gulf War protest. Speaking with Michael was one of the key reasons I had journeyed to Berkeley. We had become acquainted while he was still with his first band, the Beatnigs. Now he was getting ready to launch his new band Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. Michael had just recently discovered the fact that he was of Blakk Indian heritage. He introduced me to two Blakk Indian women Amelie Prescott and Akiba Tiamaya. Both had fascinating life stories to speak about.
…. Amelie began by telling me “When I was growing up I was told I was Creole but my parents never spoke what that mixture really was. As a child some people asked me if I was Black. I lived in Maryland in the fifties and there was still a lot of segregation going on but I never took it personally. It was just kind of interesting to me when I got sent to the back of the bus. So my Mom made me wear a little Aboriginal bracelet at the beginning of the summer so I could show I had a tan so I didn’t have to go to the back of the bus or have to go to the coloured bathroom. In the early sixties I was living in San Francisco and teaching a mixed classroom in Sausilitio. I taught a pilot program in Black studies and sex education. For my Black studies course I felt it would be good to have some of the black Panthers I knew come over and talk about the subject. I spoke to them and they agreed. Twice a week they came and taught Black studies. Now, they used to ask me to decide what race I was because there was going to be a revolution and I would have to take sides. They would say ‘Are you Black or White?’ and I would say ‘I’m brown, I’m aboriginal, I’m black, I’m French, I’m a mixture.’ That was my first introduction talking about that because those things weren’t discussed. Aboriginal people weren’t in fashion then’.
….Her encounters with the Black Panthers prompted Amelie to further investigate her Blakk Indian heritage. She began to teach in East Oakland and discovered that a lot of her students were part aboriginal. As she taught about aboriginal ways, parents of students would approach her and say that someone back in their family was aboriginal but it wasn’t something that was spoken about.
….Wondering about this silence prompted Amelie to do some research. What she discovered was the history of escaped slaves going to aboriginal reservations where they would be together and have babies. Then the army could come and say, ‘Everybody out.’ Everyone would go but Blakk Indians had no tribal rights so they couldn’t say, ‘I’m half Choctaw. I’m half this.’ Those tribal rights were gone and that is what the army and government wanted.
…. Amelie stated that during those times “it was very dangerous to be an aboriginal person so if you could pass for Black you didn’t mention you were part aboriginal since you could get killed because of that or have your children taken away to missionary schools. They would often take the children away and put them in white homes. A lot of children who are mixed Black and Aboriginal don’t know. People like Michael Franti who was adopted, didn’t know until I told him and he went and found his birth mother and she told him he was.”
….Amelie’s friend Akiba Tiamaya had some further observations about this according to her. Amelia said aboriginal people were considered nothing so a lot of time they would be in the Black community and hide out there. They were considered black. “A lot of black people today haven’t seen the necessity to come forth. Its like, so what? My grandmother was aboriginal, so what? It wasn’t any big deal”.
….Akiba herself had experienced some difficulties as she tried to reconnect with the aboriginal side of her heritage. At various times she hadn’t felt welcomed in aboriginal communities. A very spiritual person, she was proud of the fact she was a sun dancer but even in that she had to overcome obstacles from aboriginal people. In conversation with me Akiba disclosed something that I have heard echoed by many Blakk Indian people. She said that she had experienced a lot of inner turmoil because in this time when it seemed to her so many people were falsely attaching themselves to aboriginal culture, she didn’t want to be perceived as being part of that bandwagon.
….She was also acutely sensitive to the possibility that aboriginal people might think that she was claiming this part of her ancestry in order to have access to certain economic rights aboriginal people have. Like so many Blakk Indian people I have spoken to, Akiba felt aboriginal people had been so mercilessly exploited that in no way did she want to participate in anything that could possibly further exploit them. As a result many Blakk Indian people are very quiet about the aboriginal side of their heritage.
….After speaking with Amelie and Akiba, Michael and I went to San Francisco where intense preparations were taking place for a massive demonstration against the US. Bombing of Iraq. Accustomed to and aware of the practice of police brutality and the reality of class warfare at demonstrations some activists were practicing their tactics to deal with the police.
….Later that night as Michael and I took part in a gigantic march, we discussed what Amelie and Akiba had spoken to me. As Michael put it to me, “I have tended to identify mostly with being Black because that is predominantly what other people’s perception of me is. But I’ve always had a sense of a fact that I’m Native American. Being both Native American and African American I feel as though part of me was stolen from my country and I had my country stolen from me.
….The keynote speaker at the march was Angela Davis renown Black activist and professor at the university of Berkeley. Angela gave a rousing speech. I would later find out that she was very aware of the Blakk Indian connection.
….According to her, “It’s really important for us as Black people to stand together with our American Indian sisters and brothers because they really helped us during slavery. A lot of our ancestors were able to escape and set up maroon communities that were created by fugitive slaves that were the result of the work our Native sister and brothers did for us and of course a lot of us have Native blood. I don’t think it makes any sense to talk about it if you aren’t going to do something about it. We have to say that the genocide that was perpetuated against the original inhabitants of this land came around to Africans. We were all together then and we ought to be together today.”

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September 8, 2006 at 2:00 am (anti-oppression, anti-racism, racism, Uncategorized, women of color)

One group of students were asked whether they lived in a single-sex or coed dorm. Previous studies found even this benign question unconsciously activated male and female stereotypes, McGlone said.

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September 8, 2006 at 1:57 am (anti-racism, palestine, racism, Uncategorized, women of color)

or two years, i volunteered with a peace and social justice, christian non -profit org . for a year and a half i was the ‘undoing racism’ and ‘undoing sexism’ trainer for the organization. i was that chick. that black chick. i had to quit.
so now 9 months after i left cpt , they have extended an invitation to the latest ‘undoing racism retreat workshop’ in chicago. god help me. goddess throw a girl a bone.
cause i need to take off my ‘native informant‘ hat. i could chose not to go. that is the sane option. the only problem is that my friends are going to be there and i dont know when i will see them next. i am like ribbons tied on a pole blowing in the wind.
the other option is to go to the workshop. and refuse to be a native informant. actually i was thinking of going and identifying as white.
then i could be ‘that white chick’.

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