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alternative media | katrina aftermath

Review of Finding Common Ground in New Orleans

a mini-review of the film, which was played last night at Hollywood Theater
The context of this film is important: Hurricane Katrina and its after math are supposed to be resolved issues now, in terms of the media focus, and in terms of what the government and society learned from the disaster, (which we can surely guess was not enough, or in the case of the government probably nothing).

The mainstream media is more likely to approach New Orleans now as a story of statistics, (how many people have returned), of the allocation of federal relief money and the problems associated with that, of developer's dreams for the city, etc...These are all important issues, but they don't give a continuing, lasting picture of the Dust Bowl-like tragedy of the Gulf Coast region in the aftermath of Katrina.

The media reports that I remember, mostly from the Newshour, didn't give quite the on-the-ground perspective and grit that this film does. Throughout 2006 the Newshour gave many reports from the Gulf Coast, which is commendable, but they weren't incredibly motivating. They tended to show some images of flood damage from the region, then a town hall-like gathering with N.O. citizens and a hapless FEMA representative, then a few personal looks at how single individuals were faring.

From what I remember, Katrina was presented as a regional story, and not something that affects all of us in this country.

Walidah's film gives the on-the-ground perspective that I, personally, haven't seen on the topic of post-Katrina New Orleans, save for one or two Nation articles, and possibly some other journalists' reports. We all need to sense what it's like to drive (or walk) through a landscape of chaos like that, passing by military vehicles.

It was unlike anything in U.S. history: first, the neglect of the disaster. Second, foregoing disaster relief for occupation. The media spewed out some exaggerated stories of people out of control, so disaster relief and control became tragically intertwined.

What I saw in the film was not just a sense of being there, but also the filmmaker's connection to New Orleans and what was happening there. I was struck not just by seeing a film that brought a new perspective to post-Katrina New Orleans, but also by the music, the sound of the wind, and the lasting imagery: bright sunlight coming into a wrecked church, the badly decomposed body of a dog, a flooded out cemetery with caskets scattered everywhere.

The early scene in the film that shows Malik Raheem, founder of Common Ground, walking his dog is encouraging. In the midst of chaos, he was able to do a normal, everyday thing.

Far from being a resolved matter, post-Katrina New Orleans is a matter that needs to be continually looked at from new perspectives such as the one that this film brings.

Thanks to Walidah and Suncere for presenting the two films and for the after-film discussion.

Katrina 25.May.2007 15:09

Katrina (not the hurricane)

I thought the discussion afterwards was very powerful as well. My favorite memory was Walidah's statement to the effect of "A lot of people believe that the US Government blew the levy. It's important to recognize that that is something that people not only in New Orleans, but all over the country are willing to believe very easily, given the daily lived experience of black folks. Whats most important, is that it doesn't really matter whether or not the US Government specifically acted to blow the levvies, fifty years of neglect, knowing that a category five-storm would blow them, the outcome is exactly the same. They just managed to save themselves that certain amount of dynamite or c4 that they can instead drop on Iraq."

Slavery PAST/PRESENT. 28.May.2007 10:41

A.GUYTON. 504Guyton@hotmail.com

Went ever the word Slavery come up the feeling of Rage/Shame start to play apart in mylife that block's me from the truth on dealing with this issue.Then there is the Stereotypes that also overcast the truth as well,and at the same time there are those who promote the myth that Slavery has been put to rest along time ago,rigth?
Slavery is something that pre-date America,it would do you some good to check out "The Geopraphy of Slavery"or
Money&Exchange in Europe and America 1600-1775.
Also there is the Francis Morre acount of Senegambia where the detail plays a big part on the foundation of slavery in America.For example since 1420 The Portugusese,has played a great role in this form of slavery and formed a bond with the Mundingoes people that became know as "Creole",and the term of Nergro was a term only used for Slaves.
Also doing the time of his account he was working for R.A.C.E (Royal African Company of England)who later formed the London Company then the Virgina Company in which later formed a number of States/Colony's in the New,World.
Now 70 year's before Francis Morre account in Virgina there was a servant by the name of "John Post" in 1642 he ranaway to two other men who were caugth in Maryland where the two men recived 30 lashes and a aother year to there term,but John Post recived Life,thia act start's,and redefine slavery in to colorcodes.
Before this,you would work a set number of years, recive or purchase some land a pay your tax to England.
By 1682 there where a number of "SlaveCodes" for all color, the protection of" Slave Property" was set in place,an act that Respecting Fugitive from Justice and person escaping from servitude of their "Master".
Shall and should be returned to their "Master"and from 1683-1776 a code as a whole was not set in place,but controll and the effect's on convicts being imported to the New,England on July,9,1767 the Maryland Assembly passed a law designed to limited the effect's of diseased convicts being shipped to the new colony in 1767.
Ten years before we became Americans?
In fact in Washington D.C 32 years after it's war for freedom leader's of that day set in place a "BlackCode"
it is called the WashingtonBlackCode of 1808 and there is OhioBlackCode of 1804 and what pre-dates that is the BlackCode in New,York 1712 that was pass when the Dutch lose the war to England.
1808 was a year after Great Britian and America pass in to law "Prohibit the importation of slaves into ant ports or place within the jurisdiction of U.S...from any foreign kingdom,place or country".
Tensions rose between States as the status of a New State was debated,on who was Free and who was a Slave.
In which a agreement was reach to where each State would Vote,By 1860 Slavery is a maket of wealth and also the norm,so when the war began it was 10 years of Fear,only and happy day's were short lived and the term Slavery took on a nwe name title:Convict Leaseing Program founded in 1848 in Ala,by the time the war began it was the main source of the State Profitt's.
As 13th-15th act's Citiznship for all where again short lived,and blocked by a new term of living title:JimCrow
then in the 1920 there was aother system in place to protect this labor "ChainGangs",which can take us to 1964-68 when Civil Rigths could have made Freedom a reality but again was cut short, by 1974 being deprived as a community became the norm and proverty has touch more than 37 million American in one form are aother.
2 million behind bars and at the way things are going Slavery is just the norm of the past as it is the present..

Mixed Feelings 29.May.2007 11:48


I have mixed feelings that my review was featured--it wasn't very well thought out, because I ignored the major themes of the film, such as the injustices to mostly black and poor people in New Orleans, who were the chief victims of the flooding, the inherent racism in the government's neglect of the disaster, the hopes of some people for a smaller, whiter New Orleans, and the efforts at the grassroots level to provide relief and reconstruction.

And this hate-speech comment above, "Slavery PAST/PRESENT" brings more attention to the review...but it also shows what's on some people's minds out there. It likely took an hour for somebody to write that, so it shows how committed some people are to getting their message out there. (I use "message" loosely here, as there isn't really a coherent message, just an attention grabbing flurry of words).

I focused on the artistry and imagery in the film, which is what I remembered most. After rereading the Alliance review by Chris Kaminski, "Hope amidst devastation," I was reminded of the broader themes in the film.