September 14, 2006

Preparing to Enter the Eye of the Storm

When I think of New Orleans, these are the images that I remember. I remember last year in August sitting up until the wee hours of morning glued to the TV because I just could not believe the images on the screen. I think that was one time in history when the media almost got it right in terms of reporting the news with truth and accuracy. I remember crying and praying and wondering how could this be happening in America.

I remember the restlessness I felt while I sat in my comfortable apartment as I watched on TV thousands of people who looked like me from neighborhoods that looked like mine in utter chaos. I remember getting up for work and looking around at people on the commuter train who seemed to be living life as usual untouched by the pain of these individuals. I remember thinking how can we be so out of touch? I remember thinking how can I be so out of touch?

I remember asking God what can I do. How can I help? I remember feeling so frustrated, angry, and tired that I had a conversation on the train coming home from work with a woman I didn't know. I don't think she, nor I, was prepared for my anger as I shared my feelings about the lack of concern for those left behind in New Orleans. I remember the silence on the train as if all ears were on alert.

I remember talking and connecting with others who felt that same pain, that same urge to do something…to help those in need. I am so thankful for people like Rhonda, Jabaree, Sundiatta, Andwelle, Sis. Yaa, Bro. Sheridan, Deon, Patti, Sheena, Nathalia, Mosque # 6, State Representative Verna Jones, Heber Brown, III, the adult learners at the Learning Bank of COIL, Inc, and lots of unnamed individuals in Baltimore who helped us stockpile a truck of donated items. These individuals did what they could to make a difference and ended up helping to supply two truck loads of donated goods to displaced families from New Orleans in Atlanta, GA and for a community in Gulfport, MS. It felt good to know that we helped out, but was it enough?

So, here I am one year later in my own way coming to grips with the call that is on my life. As I sit here preparing for my flight to New Orleans this morning, I am still conflicted. As the rain falls outside my window, it reminds me of the purpose of my trip. I feel so honored to be part of this three day Environmental Toxic Tour and Hurricane Katrina Reflection Retreat sponsored by the Environmental Leadership Program Yet, I am conflicted as I wonder what real impact we will be able to make.

I remember when I first realized I would be able to participate in this Senior Fellows Retreat. I telephoned and emailed a few Environmental Justice activists I know who live in New Orleans. I don’t think I was prepared for their response. They were just like look, "We are all talked out!" Some didn’t respond at all. At first, I was like "Dang!" Then, I reflected and understood that I can't be mad at them. I don't think I will ever be able to comprehend the HELL they experienced and are still experiencing. They are angry, frustrated, and at their wits end!

My prayer is that while I'm in New Orleans that God uses me and the other Senior Fellows on this trip to help us make a difference – even if it is in a small way. My prayer is for real change, real clean-up, real community-building, real outreach, and real healing to happen in New Orleans. I pray that this experience will better equip me to help real change, real clean-up, real community-building, real outreach, and real healing to happen in Baltimore.

I'm not sure how much access to the Internet I will have since we are not staying at a hotel, but at the Dominican Sisters Congregation of St. Marya. At any rate, please keep us in prayer. Here's our agenda:

September 14th

1:00 – 4:30 pm:
Reconnect with senior fellows at retreat center (weather permitting, Errol will post directions to Audubon Park, only a short walk, at the retreat center and as participants arrive they can come join the group for reconnection in the park)

4:30 – 6:00 pm:
Historical Geography of Race and Class in the New Orleans Area by Craig Colton: This talk will give participants a historical perspective on what lead to many of the environmental/social justice issues before, during and after Hurricane Katrina

6:00 – 7:00 pm:
Discussion on the Geography of Race and Class in the New Orleans Area over Dinner

7:00 – 9:00 pm:
Voices heard: This session will allow citizens, activists, journalists and others to share their stories about life during and after Katrina with participants. Participants will get a real sense of the chaos and heroism that resulted from the storm and its aftermath.

9:00 – ‘till: Fun Time

September 15th

7:00 – 8:00 am: Breakfast

8:00 – 12:00 pm:
Through our own eyes: During this 4 hour period, participants will go on a tour of some of the hardest hit areas in New Orleans and the surrounding parishes. Participants will be able to see the destruction and the rebuilding to date through their own eyes.

12:00 – 1:00 pm: Lunch

1:00 – 5:00 pm:
Service project. Participants will be able to contribute to the rebuilding process through one of several service projects which may include: Gutting a structure or helping out a distribution center such as Common Ground which distributes both food resources and protective wear for citizens who are working on their homes.

5:00 – 6:00 pm: Free Time

6:00 – onwards:
Dinner (TBD) and free time to spend catching up each other.

September 16th

7:45 – 8:45 am:

8:45 – 9:00 am:
Check-in and overview of the day

9:00 – 10:30 am:
A panel composed of ELP Senior Fellows and Associates who have contributed to the rebuilding of New Orleans. Fellows and associates will talk about their experiences and contributions to the rebuilding of New Orleans and surrounding parishes

10:30 – 10:45 am:

10:45 – 12:30 pm:
Workgroups Session #1: participants will breakout into workgroups of 10 – 15 participants (made up of ELP Senior Fellows, local activists, university students/academics, journalists)

12:30 – 2:00 pm:

2:00 – 4:00 pm:
Workgroups Session #2

4:00 – 5:00 pm: Break

5:00 – 6:00 pm:
ELP discussion on The Year of The Network

6:00 – onwards:
ELP Sponsored Dinner at Franky & Johnny’s located at 321 Arabella Street

September 17th

7:45 – 8:45 am:

8:45 – 9:00 am:
Check-in and overview of the day

9:00 – 12:00 pm:
Group reports and next steps: Given the significant experience fellows have had over the last few days, what can we bring back to our own work, and communities, and how can we contribute to the rebuilding effort of New Orleans.

Oh yeah, get Ready! Cause you know that when I return I will be contacting you to help organize another support drive for families displaced by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, LA and in Gulfport, MS. So, be prayerful and be ready!

September 9, 2006

A Hurricane Named Katrina: What an Eye Opener

A Hurricane Named Katrina:
What An Eye Opener

Submitted by Shanta Hendry

FATHER I STRETCH MY HANDS TO THEE.....After Watching several documentaries on one of the biggest natural disasters in my time; Hurricane Katrina; it is one year later and my heart is still heavy and my eyes still weep at the lack of responsibility taken by the government. We are supposed to be one of the richest countries in the world, yet our government is like a mother on crack that has abandoned her children. Our government is so busy trying to impress the whole world by getting into everybody else’s business (you know that’s how you always get your feelings hurt) but not realizing that these other countries are probably laughing behind your backs for your stupidity. “You Take Care Of Home First”.

As I sat and watched these programs; between wiping away tears; I really didn’t see a lot of compassion on the face of the President. To me it was like “hold on, we are going to do something for you people, just hold your horses there are more pressing issues. “What The F**K!!!”see when you never had real rain, or a storm to fall into your life then you have no concept of what is happening. This is where the President’s best work should have came in and things should have been handled in a timely and orderly fashion.

NO OTHER HELP I KNOW.....For all of those who didn’t know, know now that if you are not one of the “Good Ole Boys” or in a certain class of folks; don’t depend on your government, insurance companies or any other bastards that collect tax dollars and monthly premiums. As you have seen the people’s money that has been collected doesn’t mean a thing when trouble comes. Everybody is shifting the blame; is it the President’s fault, FEMA’s fault, the Mayor’s fault; “Shut The Hell Up And Fix The Mess!!!”. You know I am writing this and I am really angry because this could have very well been you or I. As Americans, we need to step up so that this will not happen again.

IF THY WITHDRAW THYSELF FROM ME.....Many felt that this was a racial issue; that help was not immediate because the majority of the people were poor and Black. These are the same people that the President and other elected officials go to for votes. Wow...good enough to vote, but not good enough to save a life. I don’t care if you have one eye, one arm and a broken pencil; when the time comes cast your VOTE. What was up with the military and police with their guns drawn? The slow, disorganized response should be a worry to all Americans; after 911; we should be prepared for any type of disaster that may occur. So this episode is evident that there is too much golf playing, fly fishing, shoe buying and bullshiting going on with the people that are suppose to be controlling things; especially when you are given warnings before the disaster strikes.

TELL ME WHERE, TELL WHERE WILL I GO.....It has been a whole year and there doesn’t even seem to be a dent in the devastation. The people of New Orleans are still in waiting; waiting for help to rebuild homes, get on their feet to basically start their lives over, and to rebuild their city. Why are insurance companies debating about hurricane insurance or flood insurance. The hurricane caused the flood, period end. If it doesn’t say the right insurance coverage on the paper, change it; I won't tell if you won't. Everybody that was caught up in this disaster is not on public assistance or just lazy not doing anything; you have people who are hardworking taxpayers that have worked all of their lives to get a little piece of the pie; so what is the problem?

Spike Lee’s documentary “When The Levees Broke” really gave me a full inside look at the heartache, despair, misery and horrifying ordeals that News Orleans has gone through and are still going through. When Katrina hit last year, the world watched in awe; helpful, angry and in disbelief at what we were seeing. It was like this city was in a foreign country. But it is when the dust settles that you get the real gripping inside look at the whole picture. The news reports gave us flashes of people on rooftops and people dying; everything was so hectic and they were trying to cover every end of this nightmare. It is not until you really sit down and watch this disaster unfold; seeing the houses and cars destroyed, people on rooftops and in attics with babies and children. But the most horrifying to me was to see the dead bodies floating down the street; in the middle of the main street and seeing people talk about how their family and loved ones died right before their eyes. I would have never is a million years thought that this could be; not in America where billions are spent to help other countries; fight wars; and to look for someone who is apparently much smarter than our President because he has not been found yet and it is almost 2007.

True this is a human issue, but the majority of the people affected were Black Americans. Our people have endured through many years of heartaches and pains since our existence. Our ancestors were slaves and endured pain and suffering throughout their lifetime; but somehow they overcame and continued to move forward. So I am sure that in 2006, we should have the capabilities to take control of our own destiny. As Black Americans, we need to stop all of the violence amongst ourselves; because we are going to need each other to run this race of life. This turn of events surely makes it clear that there is no real concern about Black America. The government will look into it, but sure as hell are not going to concern themselves with our problems.

The roots of the Black people are so deep in New Orleans that they are knocking on Mother Earth’s door. So we can not just mark this day, August 29th; and just remember it; this is a continuous process. If we don’t continue to push forward on this matter; then it to will be swept under the rug.

So after I have gotten this off my chest and asked the Lord to forgive me for the bad words that I have used, this is my personal prayer:

Father I stretch my hand to Thee

No other help I know

If Thy withdrawn thyself from me

Oh tell me where will I go

Father I thank you for the lives that you have spared.

I ask that you give a resting place for those that did not make it through this storm.

I ask that you touch the hearts and lives of all of us who had to helplessly witness
or live through this devastation.

Give us a mind to come together to help repair the broken hearts with laughter and kindness.

Touch their lives with hope and prayer; and help to rebuild with loving hands.

I ask for these blessings through your son Jesus Christ.


September 4, 2006

Art is a Powerful Tool for Change!


"Art is a powerful tool for change and I am committed to using it for positive change." - Warrior Richardson

Warrior Richardson is a warrior for Christ. He has coordinated art programs at various detentions centers across the country. Richardson started an art program in a detention center in New Orleans until Hurricane Katrina. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, Richardson lived in the lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans - three blocks from where the levee broke and where twenty-seven foot waves covered homes in that area. Richardson lost everything that could not fit into his Ford Escort and has since relocated to Dallas, Texas.

Richardson is a talented artist with a wealth of experience sharing his craft. He has completed a number of artists’ residencies and his illustrations have appeared in various books, magazines and newspapers (including the Louisiana Weekly, San Francisco Bayview, and Data News). He is also the author of the "Hey, Whoodi" comic strip. Richardson has authored editorial cartoons for the Washington Afro-American and other newspapers in Washington, DC, which involved caricatures of political personalities.

Richardson blessed with the talent of art has many other talents, as well. He has performed as a jazz saxophonist. He has served as a columnist for the Louisiana Weekly. He has worked as a professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Black Studies Department. He has worked as an economist at the Agency for International Development, and he has worked as a math teacher.

Richardson is also the author of "The Voice of God" Gospel Tract. He sends free copies of his gospel tracts to anyone who requests them. If you would like to request free tracts or if you would like to purchase multiple copies to support his ministry, please see the price list below:

Quantity Price
500 $500
1,000 $705
2,000 $1,064
3,000 $1,372
4,000 $1,679
5,000 $1,987

Delivery can take between 2 - 4 weeks; so, so please be patient.

For more information about Warrior Richardson, visit or contact him directly at,

Warrior Richardson
1320 Pennsylvania Avenue #201
Dallas, TX 75215
(214) 458-6340

September 1, 2006

A Thought for Today

I will not die an unlived life.

I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.

I choose to inhabit my days
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.

I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.

--Dawna Markova (excerpted from September issue of O Magazine"