Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hillary Has Officially "Lost It"

And I'm not talking about the election.... reports that Hillary is comparing the fight to seat Florida and Michigan delegates as a Civil Rights Movement.

BOCA RATON, Fla. - Hillary Clinton compared her effort to seat Florida and Michigan delegates to epic American struggles, including those to free the slaves and win the right to vote for blacks and women.

The current stalemate over the two states' primary votes threatens to replicate the disputed 2000 presidential election in Florida, she warned an elderly crowd in Palm Beach County - one of the jurisdictions where Democrats allege voters were disenfranchised in 2000.

The pointed speech marked the kick-off of a last-gasp effort by Clinton to prolong her Democratic presidential campaign by making the states count, which would cut into rival Barack Obama's leads in popular votes and pledged delegates.

"In Florida, you learned the hard way what happens when your votes aren't counted and the candidate with fewer votes is declared the winner," she said. "The lesson of 2000 here in Florida is crystal clear: if any votes aren't count, the will of the people isn't realized and our democracy is diminished."

Clinton, at times sounding like a modern history professor, praised the abolitionists, suffragettes and civil rights pioneers and talked about her own efforts to fight legislative redistricting and voter identification initiatives that she said dilute minority voting power.

"This work to extend the franchise to all of our citizens is a core mission of the modern Democratic party," she said. "From signing the Voting Rights Act and fighting racial discrimination at the ballot box to lowering the voting age so those old enough to fight and die in war would have the right to choose their commander in chief, to fighting for multi-lingual ballots so you can make your voice heard no matter what language you speak."


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Who Is Helping the Lower 9th Today?

While volunteering this weekend at the Broadmoor Fest, many of my students came away with a sense that Broadmoor had gotten on its feet and was moving forward in its rebuilding effort. They were told of the fundraising efforts for both the Library and the School, and were told by residents as well of their individual rebuilding efforts (and headaches). Given these observations, they wanted to know if all the money raised by Broadmoor this weekend was going to the Lower 9th Ward to help them recover. They were surprised when I told them that what funds might be left-over from the Festival after paying bills would probably go towards the Library. They wanted to know why Broadmoor (and other neighborhoods) aren’t helping other worse-off neighborhoods get back on their feet.

I tried to answer their questions critically, trying to dispel their “taken-for-granted” approach that Broadmoor had received Federal and State Aid (and insurance money) to recover. Many of you who have experienced the Road Home or FEMA or Insurance Adjustors or the SBA know that the “recovery” has been born on YOUR shoulders. New Orleans residents have, for the most part, been totally ignored by the Federal and State governments. What my students see in Broadmoor, I told them, is a reflection of the work by many residents who were first challenged and threatened by the prospect that Broadmoor didn’t matter and was going to be turned into one big Greenspace. We in Broadmoor defended ourselves from outside threats to a community we all felt a strong sense of place and identity in. We cared about not only how we were going to recover but also how our neighbors were going to recover and how we all would work to bring back our neighbors and our neighborhood. The students also heard that the level of recovery needed in the City was beyond the level that even neighborhoods and their residents should bare totally by themselves. Non-profits also cannot completely rebuild New Orleans—it takes a gargantuan national will and funding effort through governmental institutions to make the city fully recovered and safe again.

What I also told the students is the incredible injustice the Lower 9th Ward experienced before and after the storm. The dispersal of these residents makes it incredibly difficult to organize efforts to rebuild the neighborhood and community. The fact that many are still fighting the government(s) and insurance for restitution is another example of this injustice. I told the students that there were other significant impediments to rebuilding the Lower 9th Ward. But when it came to Broadmoor, we were in the middle of a fight for our own neighborhood and this occupied much if not all of our efforts.

For the “occasional” readers of the Blog—those of you who I call friends from New Orleans--what can I tell my students about how you feel about Broadmoor’s (or any New Orleans neighborhood’s) relationship to the Lower 9th Ward in their recovery efforts? What role do other New Orleans neighborhoods have or need to have in helping advocate for the rebuilding of the Lower 9th Ward and other devastated areas in New Orleans?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Broadmoor Fest and My Students

I am back in New Orleans this weekend with 25 student volunteers for the weekend. Our project—helping set up and work the Broadmoor Festival. Isn’t it nice to have power?  Anyway, we got in on Thursday night and will be heading back to Killeen on Monday. The students are in my annual Community Development course. It is my little contribution to making more people learn the story of Katrina and how New Orleans is recovering post-Katrina. There is no better place to study how to “develop” community than in a place that lost so much but has worked so hard to rebuild and recover.

You all know what makes New Orleans special. But for me, it is great to see others get it. It doesn’t take long for the students to begin commenting on what an incredible place this is. The variety and historical significance of the housing and buildings. The incredible food (we’ve had po-boys at Parkway, snoballs at Hansen’s, and dinner at Jacque-imos for example). The friendly and helpful people. The great music (I took them to Vaughan’s on Thursday night). The “free” lifestyle. Many of them “get it.” And, for a class this large, it is nice to see so many of them get it.

We worked the Broadmoor Fest as our service project for the trip. And, though some might say that having them work to help repair houses might have more significance, I would say that this has been the first time I have been able to help MY neighborhood with my students. And, given the comments by my friends who organized the event, we were much appreciated. It was great for me to see so many friends. The students got a chance to sit and talk with many residents about their struggles and joys in the recovery. I am really looking forward to reading their journals next week.

I will post more later, with pictures. It has been rather “exhausting” managing a group this size (at times, its like herding cats). But as I begin my walk through the Quarter today, I will let the sun and the river help me recover.

It’s all good.