Hurricane Katrina made landfall on August 29th, 2005. Poor communities throughout the Gulf Coast saw their homes destroyed and their livelihoods wiped out. In urban centers like New Orleans and in smaller fishing communities like Bayou La Batre, Alabama and Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, people came together to find ways to survive the storm and its aftermath. That aftermath wasn’t just about the damage Katrina caused, but the actions taken by governments and businesses in the name of “recovery.” From the beginning, it was clear that the priority wasn’t rebuilding and strengthening the communities that had lived and worked on the Gulf Coast. Instead, the people in power saw an opportunity to profit handsomely from the destruction: subsidizing new casinos and other luxury development when people were still homeless; privatizing public schools; and profiteering off of money meant for low-cost housing for survivors.

Ten Years After Katrina

Gulf Coast communities have been fighting back every step of the way, demanding that their lives take precedence over the development fantasies of the people in power. They’ve also been building grassroots efforts to meet the needs that the people in power refuse to recognize. The January after Katrina hit, the Poverty Initiative led an immersion in the Gulf Coast for community and religious leaders coming from Union Theological Seminary to meet, learn from, and build relationships with those leaders. We gathered reflections, sermons, and photographs from the trip into a book, “Katrina: Listening With Our Hearts”. Today, we’re making available extended excerpts from the book, in honor of the ongoing work of Gulf Coast communities fighting for their survival and for a national and global movement to transform our society. You can download those excerpts here.

Ten years after Katrina hit, the politicians, the “business leaders”, and the institutions tied to them are celebrating a false recovery that’s left out thousands and thousands of people. On the other side, the people of the Gulf Coast are taking action to expose the reality: people are still making money off of the death, destruction, and dislocation caused by Katrina, and the climate crisis is only getting worse. Unless we’re able to build the power we need to dramatically change the direction and the priorities of our global society, Katrinas are coming for all of us. This week, please support the work being done by leaders in the Gulf Coast committed to social transformation and to a real recovery for their own and for all of our communities.

Here are some of the organizations that we’ve met over the years who are doing that kind of work:

In the Fall, we’re returning to the Gulf Coast as a part of a global social movements convening in Biloxi, Mississippi. Bringing together social movements from countries around the world, including Sri Lanka, Nigeria, South Africa, India, Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, and the Philippines, this gathering of the Social Movement Working Group of the International Network for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights will focus on building relationships with organizations in the Gulf Coast and in other parts of the US, exposing the reality of poverty here in our country, and building towards a global Poor People’s Campaign in 2017-2018.