Huey Long’s populist message for the people of Louisiana was “Every Man a King.” Wouldn’t it be something if we updated that to the idea that every man, woman and child in these parts should emulate Martin Luther King?
King was a great American philosopher, perhaps the greatest. It pains me to realize how little we’ve learned from his teaching. His birthday has become a day to celebrate black pride. I’m all for black pride, believe me, but I think this sends the message to whites that King has nothing to say to them. That’s wrong. Worse, to some, his birthday has become just another day off work. In pre-Katrina New Orleans there was usually a parade that resembles a rehearsal for Mardi Gras, with plenty of glad-handing politicians and messages of peace and justice relegated to the margins.
Last year thing were different. Real different.
Tomorrow, Xy & I are thinking to participate in this event:
MLK DAY 2007
People’s Reopening of Public Housing
On MLK Day 2007 public housing residents and other supporters of the right of return will conduct a people’s reopening of New Orleans public housing. Drawing upon the same spirit that galvanized Martin Luther King Jr. in his life’s quest for social justice public housing residents and their allies will challenge the immoral and criminal lockout of Katrina survivors from their homes in public housing. That 6,000 desperately needed units of affordable housing sit empty while New Orleanians endure the most severe housing shortage in the city’s history is an obscenity. That Katrina survivors die almost every day from heartbreak, at least in part, because the government and its corporate paymasters refuse to respect their right of return, is a reality.
Let’s put an end to this ugly reality. Join us on January 15th 2007. We shall rally. We shall march. We shall reopen!
January 15, 2007 (MLK DAY)
3838 St. Bernard Avenue
For information contact:
Sharon Jasper (504) 324-3657
Lynette Bickham (504)-723-4893
Stephanie Mingo (504) 529-3171
Sponsors: New Orleans Public Housing Residents, United Front For Affordable Housing and C3/Hands Off Iberville.
PLEASE FORWARD ASAP.
The cause is just. We produced a silly little video about this issue six months ago, but the subject is a serious one. I know lots of neighbors are afraid of the public housing developments, afraid that re-opening them will recreate pockets of concentrated poverty and crime. I’ve got reservations myself, as public housing developments resemble concentration camps to me. But the answer to that is to revise the social contract with public housing residents, not to demolish thousands of habitable apartments at a time when the city’s suffering a massive shortage of housing. More to the point, not reopening these units seems to be further destabilizing our city.
My skepticism regards the organizers. On two separate occasions over the last year, groups I’m working with have been criticized by some of these folks for not joining their struggle. No attempt to build alliances or coalitions, no attempt to reach out, just harsh words and strident rhetoric. They’ll probably denounce me as a bourgeois accommodationist if they ever read this. Still, I’d like to think we can work together.
I’m also not ready for another day of rage. My heart is still heavy and I’m in a kind of emotionally fragile state.
But the above event seems to be the only thing planned in Orleans Parish. So we’ll probably go, but I’d be interested to know of anything else.
Update: We went, and it was an inspiring event indeed. Residents opened the fence and reclaimed their apartments. No one was arrested. I helped carry out a refrigerator. There’s so much that should be said about this event but time as ever is slipping away, so I refer you to photos by dsb nola and narrative by Dangerblond and The Book, in two parts, plus video.