First Report From Mayday DC/I-News Relief Effort in New Orleans

September 9, 2005; 6:45 pm CDT

by Chuck Munson
Infoshop News (news.infoshop.org)

New Orleans – The Mayday DC/Infoshop News relief van arrived in New Orleans this afternoon and immediately started distributing supplies outside the Masjib Bilal Mosque in the Algiers neighborhood, across the Mississippi River from downtown. The van's crew includes activist Jamie “Bork” Loughner, two EMTs, and one street medic. They managed to get through several checkpoints without any problems.

As soon as the van arrived, neighborhood residents who are doing volunteer relief work at the mosque started helping the Mayday DC volunteers set up their wellness tent, which is being dubbed the “Mayday Mutual Aid Medical Station.” The wellness center will be open during the hours that the curfew isn't in effect.

The residents of the neighborhood say that the van is the first medical help of any kind that has been set up in the community since the hurricane and the floods. As soon as the wellness tent was set up, several residents and a pair of levee workers dropped in to ask about tetanus shots, blood pressure medicine, and insulin. The streets are being patrolled by the military and private security companies, including OmniPinnacle and Instar. There have been some quick drops of supplies, but Algiers residents are angry that the aid so far has been condescending and inadequate. The government response so far has confirmed the widespread feeling that the local, state and federal governments have abandoned the people living in Algiers. People also feel like they aren't being offered any future alternatives.

Bork reports that some of the police are saying that the corporations are going to exploit the situation. One sheriff told her that FEMA and Red Cross are hindering the relief efforts to the poor.

She notes that there is a critical shortage of insulin in the neighborhood.

Infoshop News talked to several local residents, a street medic, and an EMT. Imanda Brown, Rsuaw Diarra, and others have spent most of the afternoon cleaning the mosque and setting up relief for their community.

Imanda Brown is a resident of Algiers:

“The situation here is detrimental. There is a lack of health care. Our own city officials aren't helping--they are making the situation worse. They aren't bringing food in or providing health care of any kind. The residents have had to rely on people from out of state. The children are in need of help. People are streaming in from other parishes and parts of town. Is the government helping the people or hindering the people? Do they have some kind of ulterior motive?

“They say they are helping people, but you have to call a number to get help. How are people without phone service supposed to call a number to get help? People in the community are donating their own personal items to help each other.”

“Other parishes are closed off. You need an ID to travel—how many people have ID? The curfew is hurting efforts to get supplies and help. Can't get ice. They are blocking people from arranging help. The government does nothing now and has done nothing in the past to help us. They don't care about educating the children. People who aren't educated can't help themselves. All these relief people want to go on TV and show how they are helping people. Where were you when the storm hit? The officials were in hiding. They don't care as long as their families are OK”

“We are very fortunate that some people are caring.”

“There is no insurance for the people. They push people to the side. They elect people who take care of the people with money. People are sitting in their comfortable homes. They aren't putting up community centers. People here don't have money to rebuild.”

Rsuaw Diarra is a 12-year resident of Algiers. She wants outside people to know that her mother, the storyteller Queen Mother Suma Diarra, is “is alive and kicking.”

“I'm one of the survivors of the hurricane and the flood. This is the first help we've seen since the hurricane. I've been lucky as a person who is somewhere between poor and middle class. We were left here. Maybe they wanted it this way for us.”

“People need medication. There's no way in or out. The curfew makes it hard to move around. We've got senior citizens here. The government is taking their time bringing in food. At least the soldiers stopped the looting and killing. You can't even imagine this situation.”

“The missionaries treated us like dirt. They dropped stuff in a muddy field and then left. These places are hard to get to with soldiers telling you where you can't go. How are you supposed to know about a drop in some field when you have to walk a long way to get the stuff?”

“I've had a pain in my stomach for several day, so I'm grateful for the herbal remedies that arrived (via the Mayday DC van). I'm a teacher at a local alternative school. We are trying to organize education for the kids in the neighborhood. They say that the schools will be unavailable for a year, which is bad for kids who are already under served.”

“We tried to get a U-Haul truck so we could move my mother and her stuff. We gave up on that because the police will see us returning to the neighborhood with a U-Haul truck and shoot us as looters.”

“There are around 500 people still left here in Algiers, including families, kids and elderly. We have running water but no electricity. There are still dead bodies lying in the street.”

Malik Rahim, New Orleans Organizer of Public Housing Tenants:

“All progressive people need to come together and address this problem. A people's health clinic is up and running here. We are going to set up a people's school and a people's cultural center. It's important for people to understand that people are here and they shouldn't be abandoned.”

Noah is an EMT with the Mayday DC relief van:

“We drove through Jefferson Parrish and Algiers today and saw people who have been abandoned by the government. We desperately need doctors and nurse practitioners who can write prescriptions. People here need high blood pressure medicine, insulin, psychiatric medicine, tetanus shots, and methadone for addicts who have been forced to quit cold turkey this week. There are carloads of people wanting tetanus shots. They need EMTs who can go door to door.”

“They need people to come help the community survive so it's turned into condos. Some of the aid groups have been rude and disrespectful to the local residents. People here want solidarity not charity.”

“We are just two EMTs and a street medic. We are the first medical care the community is getting since the hurricane. We plan to do first aid and medical training for the community. We are getting bikes so we can get around.”

“Lots of power lines are still down. Water is on, but not potable. An electrical crew has shown up at the mosque and hopefully they can turn the power on.”

“There are just some supplies we can't get without doctors, so we need more medical help.”

The Mayday DC/Infoshop News relief van and the Mayday Mutual Aid Medical Station can be reached at:

Masjid Bilal Mosque
1401 Teche St.
New Orleans, LA 70114
504-361-9659 (land line that does work right now)

Bork asks that people send insulin to the Food Not Bombs people, or to try to get it to one of the caravans passing through Nashville this weekend. Supplies can also be sent to the mosque (editor: status of mail delivery is unknown). The medical volunteers are strongly urging other medical people to come help out.

If you want to donate to the Mayday DC/Infoshop News relief effort:

1) Directly to Bork ( jamieandjoe@mutualaid.org) via PayPal.
2) Via Infoshop.org (Look for the donate button at
 http://news.infoshop.org/)
3) Check or money order, made out to "Alternative Media Project", sent
to AMP, PO Box 7171, Shawnee Mission, KS 66207. Please note on the check
that your donation is for "Hurricane Katrina Relief."

More resources:

Mayday DC
 http://maydaydc.mahost.org/

New Orleans Indymedia
 http://neworleans.indymedia.org/

Cafe Mawonaj - Katrina Relief Fundraiser Today
 http://dc.indymedia.org/newswire/display/129755/index.php

Radical Reference: Socially Responsible Hurricane Katrina Relief
 http://www.radicalreference.info/

Directory of Grassroots/Low-income/People of Color-led Hurricane Katrina Relief
 http://www.sparkplugfoundation.org/katrinarelief.html

Hurricane Katrina Mutual Aid Relief
 http://www.infoshop.org/hurricanekatrina.html

Infoshop News, Anti-copyright 2005

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