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Archive for the ‘Communities Rising Newsletter’ Category

Ms. Gloria Irving–known to many as Mama Glo–passed away this morning.   The following interview with her is from the July 2009 Communities Rising newsletter.

Mama Glo in the front. Behind her, from L to R: Troy Avery, Bill Quigley, Lynette Bickham, and Stephanie Mingo

My name is Gloria Irving. I was living at 1460 Milton, and they called me Mama Glo. So that’s the name I go by, Mama Glo. I’m 74 years old. Some things I can remember and some things I can’t. So you have to excuse me. But I thank God I’m in the land of the living where I can talk about some of it.

I’m always into something. I’m Captain of the Martin Luther King parade. I’m a Grand Marshall to jazz bands. I dance. Did funerals until I lost all the strength in my legs….I opened the Armstrong Park with the Olympia Brass Band. I was one of the dancers….

I knew around St. Bernard. I knew just about everybody back there….I miss the people. I miss the site. I miss everything about St. Bernard and that area. I miss everything! ….I was a part of things…. I just like helping people. I been helping people since I was young.

I told them I didn’t want to die in Houston, Texas. I wanted to come back to New Orleans where I live at to die. You shipped me out there live, you gonna ship me back live! I was glad to get back. Some people talk about they don’t want to come back to New Orleans, this or that, but you know in due time, they’re going to be second lining, doing everything on that I-10 trying to get back to New Orleans!

Article from Houston Newspaper--Mama Glo had this laminated and treasured it. She just wanted to come home.

….before they tore the projects down, we were out there fighting for them to not tear the projects down. But they tore them down anyway. Everything they did to us was illegal. I still have my door key to where I was living, my lease…..and they put us out…. Katrina came through here. And thereby they had a quick way of tearing them down, because we didn’t have nobody here. But they could have salvaged that…..Now they spent all that money to tear em down…. And they didn’t even think about where the people was going to stay after they tore them down…..

When we get ready to have our struggle, just come out and help us if you want to come home. And I miss you all, and I love you all.

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One of the major goals of Survivors Village is to fight for the right to return for every resident who lived in public housing before the government-caused disaster forced them to be displaced around the country. The birthplace of both Survivors Village and the post-Katrina public housing struggle was the St. Bernard community. Currently the developers of “the new St. Bernard” are building cheap, high density/higher profit apartments and creating all types of obstacles to prevent former residents from ever being able to return.

In order to begin to fight what we know will be a protracted struggle, we are building a base to organize from inside the community. The former New Day Community Center which previously was the heart of service to the St. Bernard community will be renamed the “FIGHT BACK CENTER” and will serve as a base to fight for peoples’ return.

Thanks to donations of time and money by many members and supporters, the process of rehabbing the center has begun moving forward. During workdays in August and September, the yard around the Center was cleared. This past week, we took another huge (and expensive) step forward with the removal of the debris that resulted from a building collapse caused by a hired contractor.  We can now begin the work of making the standing building functional and reopening the center.

BEFORE:

The side--before debris was cleared

AFTER:

After debris removal

SPECIAL THANKS to all those who have donated time & money to this effort!

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It was early January 2008.  After months of planning my return home from Houston, I was finally at the Housing Authority of Houston ready to submit my formal request to return home.  Happily I walked up to the desk and said, “I need to have my voucher transferred back to New Orleans please.”  The lady behind the desk replied, “You need to speak to the person who is currently handling transfers.”  Finally a tall slender white man appears.  Without hesitation, he said, “We are not transferring any vouchers back to New Orleans right now.”  Although I was in a state of shock I replied, “What do you mean? I need to go home! This move was only supposed to be temporary due to the storm.”

After a few minutes of going back and forth, it was clear the Houston Housing Authority had plans on utilizing my voucher indefinitely.  At that moment I completely lost it and began to cry right there in the middle of the office.  It was just inconceivable to me as to how in the United State of America you could be held hostage in a place you were shuffled to during the worst natural disaster in history.

Once the tears dried I went into survival mode, thinking “I will not be held somewhere against my will while someone else cashes in on my despair!” The fight was on! I proceeded to call every agency from Washington to New Orleans screaming “I want to go home and I refuse to be held here any longer!”  After three months of getting the runaround, losing my lease and moving into a hotel for another two months, the call finally came.  The Housing Authority of New Orleans had received my paper work.  I was free!

How could this happen?  Why was there no plan for us to get back home?  Why were there no city officials from New Orleans demanding the release of their citizens?  How many more people are stranded in places all over the U.S.?

They are many of us out there, unable to get home, beaten down physically and financially, while New Orleans needs them to fill vacant houses, to fill job openings by locals who deserve their jobs back and to reinvest resources along with a commitment to rebuild our beautiful city.  Why haven’t we made a way to save our people?  We should be tired of others coming into our city only to make money and complain about the crime, the residents, elected officials etc… while taking money out of the city, only to invest it in their perfect little neighborhoods.

Step up New Orleanians!

Fight to regain control of your city!

Come home with a commitment to rebuild our city, and those of you who are home, stop complaining and actually “do some work” to make things better in your community! We are proud, smart, resourceful people! Let’s show the world that side.

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The power that controls the city of New Orleans has always consisted of an all white political elite and their black political vassals. Since the middle 70’s until now, the city has been an almost perfect example of a neocolonial state as defined by Kwame Nkrumah.  Though blacks were titular heads of state, the real power brokers have always been white men. This group has always had a fantasy that at some time they would have the opportunity to take New Orleans back in time to what they perceived as the good old days. Removing poor blacks from the centrally located,valuable land on which public housing developments were built was always high on the must do list.

Katrina gave these power elites the golden opportunity to implement their plan.  The attack upon public housing was both immediate and total.  Congressman Richard Baker (R, Baton Rouge) was quoted as stating “We couldn’t get rid of public housing in New Orleans, but God did it for us.”  Soon after this, Alphonse Jackson (the Bushie head of HUD with prior business dealings with the company given the contract to redevelop St. Bernard) stated “New Orleans will never be majority black again because black people do not own anything.”  The Times Picayune which serves as a major propaganda organ for the economic elite, published an editorial arguing that opening public housing in the same state as it was prior to the storm would be a major mistake along with a front page article entitled:  The (New) New Orleans:  Smaller, Whiter and more Affluent. Finally, Jackson delivered the death blow by announcing that the four major public housing units in New Orleans would be demolished!

Though this was always the plan of the major players in the city, they were too cowardly to attempt it when the people were here.  It was no surprise that they would use a disaster brought about by a total disregard for the poor and black to further victimize those same people.

These people have no conscience, no morals and no regard for humanity!!

What they do should not surprise us!!!

THE REAL QUESTION IS WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?

A very tough battle was fought for almost three years, culminating in an act of repression that has not been seen in a major Southern city since the 1960’s.  The decision by the Mayor and City Council on December 20, 2007 to taser, pepper spray and arrest those who came to speak out in favor of reopening public housing shows how far they are willing to go in order to exclude the poor, the black, and renters from the city’s recovery.

NOW WE MUST DECIDE HOW FAR WE ARE WILLING TO GO!

AS I WRITE THIS ARTICLE, OVER 150,000 NEW ORLEANIANS, MOSTLY BLACK AND POOR HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO RETURN TO THE CITY. Most are living in strange cities separated from family and lifelong friends.  They are in this situation not because they don’t want to come home but due to the fact that either their homes have been demolished or the state, city, and federal governments have created other impediments and withheld support because they were not property owners.

THOUGH WE HAVE LOST BATTLES, THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES!!

  1. We must insure that residents have the right to return and occupy as many of the rebuilt units as possible.
  2. We must fight for residents participation in the rebuilding of their communities and share in the economic benefits (something required by federal regulations).
  3. Since only a small part of the land has been funded for development, we must start now to assist in organizing residents to rebuild the rest of their community in their own image.

FIGHT BACK NOW!!

We must be aware that at some point, FEMA assistance to aid our citizens in these far away cities will end.  Let’s not wait until this next crisis occurs to start the battle.

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