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Recent Natural Disasters Shouldn't Make Us Forget Katrina

by Todd A. Smith

Make Sure Your House is in Order

 

          We have been inundated with news coverage over the last week by the horrific tsunami that devastated Japan, sweeping away property and tens of thousands of lives in the process.

            Recent natural disasters like the Haitian earthquake, and specifically the Japanese tsunami, have rightfully persuaded countries and individuals to give to assist people who are suffering so much through this devastating time.

            However, after recent natural disasters, Americans begin to forget about our own devastating disaster that took the lives of 1,800 people, mostly in New Orleans, in 2005 and begin focusing on people from other countries more than people that live next door.

            “It pisses us off,” said New Orleans resident Kellen Daranda about the quick response to aid those in other countries in contrast to the extremely slow process after Hurricane Katrina.  “How come y’all are rushing to send aid (to) the other end of the world and …y’all don’t help people in your own backyard.”

            While Daranda, like other New Orleans residents, understand the need to correct the slow Katrina response so that travesty does not occur again, he simply wants people to realize that certain neighborhoods in his hometown still resemble a Third World nation like the images showed in 2005.  In his neighborhood, certain areas are completely covered with grass with only one house in the subdivision, because only one family could afford to rebuild.

Some residents have even been forced to live in abandoned homes because they cannot afford to rebuild their lives and houses, according to The New York Times.

            “It’s just crazy,” Daranda explained.

            Despite the coverage of recent natural disasters, according to the Discovery Channel, 705 people remain categorized as missing as a result of Hurricane Katrina.  The storm is the costliest in United States history and more than 70 countries pledged monetary donations after the hurricane with Kuwait making the largest single donation of $500 million.

            Nevertheless, the horror that we watched live through the media’s eye has long become an afterthought because it was almost six years ago and it is important that recent natural disasters do not overshadow the fact that Americans are still suffering, despite the lack of media coverage.

            In February, the New York Times reported that 2010 census data showed New Orleans is 29 percent smaller than 10 years ago.  However, the city has seen its population shrink since 2000.  Nevertheless, the Census Bureau said that the city had 343, 829 resident in April of last year, approximately five years after the devastating hurricane hit the Gulf Coast.

            Statistics also show that the city has 118,000 fewer African American residents; a demographic that once accounted for two-thirds of the city’s population is now down to 60 percent of the population.  And although the percentage of Whites calling New Orleans home has risen to 30 percent, the total number of White New Orleanians is 24,000 less than before Hurricane Katrina.

            The lack of people in New Orleans can also mean a lack of representation in government as well.  That scenario has been described as “likely devastating,” by James Perry, executive director of the Greater New Orleans Housing Action Center and former New Orleans mayoral candidate.  Political pundits predict the lack of representation could lead to cuts in federal funding for housing, infrastructure and public health initiatives while the city still struggles to recover from the storm.

            So while we continue to pray for the victims of recent natural disasters, let us all remember that recent natural disasters become forgotten tragedies if we do not stay vigilant and motivated, just ask the survivors from the Crescent City.

Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men's Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.

This article was published on Thursday 17 March, 2011.
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