Greetings from the Ground Below Zero
by Andrea Garland Thursday, Sep. 15, 2005 at 7:13 AM


I just want to leave you with this - our city, our culture, our heritage, is being killed, stolen. We can not let this happen. So we are going back in and we will take it from there.

(posted by Christian Roselund)

My apologies for the long delay in getting new info onto the website and lack of blog/email updates. The communication situation here is still somewhat sketchy - the other day when I finally had some time to get online, we spent all day 'chasing the internet' from place to place, only to find out that someone had accidentally cut through a fiber optic cable in Covington, knocking out all internet and cell phone communications. Today I finally seem to be having some luck.

Each day is a deluge of information and emotion, so please bear with me once again while I attempt to impart some stories and information while still in a very scattered state of mind.

First of all, I'd like to give a shout out to Joe Capraro of Cape Cod, MA and Nikki from Marshfield, MA (apologies for not knowing her last name) for the fantastic load of supplies they got together and brought down from Massachusetts. Nikki got together all sorts of donations and Joe drove straight from MA down to Covington, LA where our relief efforts are set up, dropped off the truckload and immediately turned around to drive back to MA for work. He will be coming back down in the next week with more supplies and may participate in our neighborhood rebuilding efforts. Joe, you are one incredible guy and I can't wait to meet you in person (we were out on a supply run when Joe showed up and he had to get back to MA and wasn't able to wait around until we returned).

And a huge shout out to EVERYONE that has sent supplies, monetary donations, emotional support and love, and those that have helped spread the word about what is going on. While our government has failed us, all of you give us hope and let us know that we are not alone. Bless you all for giving us hope and faith - and please keep it up - this long journey to recovery has barely begun.

Now for the report on what Get Your Act On! has been doing and our immediate and long term plans. As many of you already know, we have decided to return to our home in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans and start relief efforts and community rebuilding. It is taking us a day or two longer than hoped for to return, but we are almost through taking care of the things we need to take care of and expect to be back home in 2-3 days at the latest. Tomorrow, a team of helpers from Algiers who have been helping Malik Rahim set up and run his community rebuilding project, will be meeting us at our house in the city in the morning to start cleaning up our flooded out downstairs area so it can be used for relief efforts. At this point we have several people ready to move back into their homes and possibly a number of people from other cities interested in coming down and living in New Orleans for a period of time to assist in rebuilding efforts. Our immediate efforts will be concentrated on setting up a medical clinic with the assistance of the anarchist medics who have set up a very successful clinic in Algiers and a free food kitchen with the help of Food Not Bombs so we can help the few people left in the area and encourage others to return. The first few days/week will be spent laying the ground work for these efforts and scouting out our neighborhood and the 9th ward communities across St. Claude from our house and assessing immediate needs.

One of our new friends, Randall Amster, from Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment in Arizona intends to bring down a group of students to assist in our community rebuilding efforts. They focus on sustainable, ecologically sound community building and will provide a great asset to our efforts. We are very grateful to have them on board. A few other groups have expressed an interest in coming down to New Orleans and joining us in our rebuilding efforts - they are well aware that what has happened and continues to happen could happen to their communities and cities if we do not make a stand here in New Orleans - and again, we are thankful for and welcome their support.

We also have a couple of fantastic documentary film makers from New York city who were down here last week documenting our efforts and others who have just committed to spending a year with us, documenting the rebuilding process and helping get to the bottom of what has happened. These committed ladies are actually dropping their lives in New York and have rented an apartment in Baton Rouge - but will be spending most of their time in the city with us. We are so very grateful for their commitment - not only does New Orleans' story need to be told, but they will also provide us with a measure of security, as at the moment, it is far safer to be in the city accompanied by the press. Ladies, you know who you are and we love you.

Now for the down and dirty - and, once again, I apologize - this will be a bit short as I am running out of internet time (curfew coming up).

I have been in to the city 3 times in the last 5 days. Whole neighborhoods are basically fine - minor storm damage with the occasional worse damage, but nothing worse than here in Covington where the power is back on and stores and restaurants are open and life is quickly returning to normal. Yet, the dry neighborhoods in New Orleans (all along the river) are deserted, with no signs of clean up or other work. But when you get into the Central Business District and the French Quarter, there are all sorts of private contractors - mostly sitting around, doing nothing but eating catered food. Blackhawk Security is there, as well as something called 'Incident Catering.' Meanwhile, the residents are still refused food or assistance. Once back out of the Quarter, we return to desolate neighborhoods.

We checked out our house - it is fine. The first floor flooded and it's a bit of a mess, but nothing that a couple of days of clean up and some bleach won't take care of. Most of the area is like that. But we are not allowed in. National Guard patrols our area - they are very nice, but it is extremely disconcerting to find your home in the middle of a militarized zone. There are army camps all over - at the high schools, at the zoo, at the Walmart. Water was starting to trickle out of the faucet of our friend's house - that is a good sign. Power is still out, but we are used to that in New Orleans - this isn't the first hurricane that has hit us. Basically, there is no good reason people can't be allowed back in. The white suburbs are being cleaned up and people allowed in - so why not the high and dry areas in the city?

Let me tell you - because I've heard from friends in the 'outside world' that the impression you get from TV is that Canal Street is still under water and dead bodies floating everywhere. Canal Street? It is high and dry - it is media row.

Yes, there are parts of the city that are very damaged - we went into the Treme, the oldest free black neighborhood in the country, where we ran into Chief Al, of the Skull and Bones Gang. I asked him how many people were left in the Treme - he was the last one. Went into the 6th Ward, dry now but flood devastated. This is one of the poorest neighborhoods, but close to the French Quarter - we've known for awhile it is slated for gentrification - now, the neighborhood is deserted - no police, no national guard, no people - primed and waiting for the developers to come in and build new houses for the rich white folks and who cares where the people that used to live there are or if they have a place to come back to.

I have to cut this short, sorry, but the bar with the internet has an earlier curfew than the rest of town. Please check out the gallery - lots of photos, no captions yet, but I'll get to them as soon as I can. I just want to leave you with this - our city, our culture, our heritage, is being killed, stolen. We can not let this happen. So we are going back in and we will take it from there. Please keep checking the website for updates and please keep supporting New Orleans.


Peace and love -

Andrea

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Reposted from NO indymedia. Please spread widely. jamie