Xy and I ventured to the Lower Ninth Ward Monday morning. Caffin and Claiborne is where the Martin Luther King Day parade traditionally begins. In the past, this parade has seemed like a rowdy dress rehearsal for Mardi Gras, almost completely detached from anything recognizable as a legacy of Dr. King.
But this year things were different. The official parade was moved to another location. The event in the Lower Ninth Ward was mostly attended by white political activists. (We were solicited on behalf of the Revolutionary Communist Party as soon as we arrived.) Considering that the Lower Ninth Ward is such a celebrated black community, I found this pretty depressing. Of course, the setting was also depressing. The Lower Nine is in bad shape these days. Houses are falling over or falling apart. Many have floated off their foundations and sit cockeyed, in another yard or in the street.
All of this might have been offset by messages of hope, but those were few and far between. Most of the voices raised were raised in anger. People were angry about many things, but mainly at the suggestion that the Lower Nine might not be rebuilt. King’s demand for justice resonated, but his message of universal love was not in evidence. I understand the anger, and the confusion, but I’m skeptical that this event and the attendant rhetoric helped anyone much. Still, there was such passion that I think this neighborhood will be rebuilt, somehow, someway.
Meanwhile, at the “official” parade, Mayor Nagin appeared to lose his mind entirely. He claimed to have spoken to Dr. King himself that morning. He said that the hurricanes we’ve suffered through were God’s punishment for our military presence in Iraq. Maybe he and Pat Robertson should form a club.
(You can listen to the mayor’s speech and decide for yourself if he’s crazy or not.)