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Lets Applaud the Working Class of New Orleans

I haven’t said much about Katrina. 

New Orleans was the place of my birth but I can’t call it home. I left as a baby. But I was born in a small house with black neighbors in a place that just got wiped out. My parents refused to label me on my birth certificate, so I am not “officially” caucasian.

I have spent many pampered hours in the Convention Center, at CA-World. It was in New Orleans that I met president Jimmy Carter, a peacemaker, a driving force behind Habitat for Humanity and a man with real empathy for the less well off. 

Patrick Dryden is an old friend of mine. I worked with him at Illuminata. He is a real star. The last few years he has given himself to god, and spent a great deal of time working for Habitat for Humanity. He gets his hands dirty, and builds structures to help people with their most basic needs-housing. He just emailed me.

He is trying to help people still stranded in the greater New Orleans area, still getting no help from the Feds. There is evidently no registry for the camps set up to help the displaced.

Anyhow he sent me this article, another first hand account of the disaster. This section struck me forcefully.

We also suspect the media will have been inundated with “hero” images of the National Guard, the troops and the police struggling to help the “victims” of the Hurricane. What you will not see, but what we witnessed,were the real heroes and sheroes of the hurricane relief effort: the working class of New Orleans. The maintenance workers who used a fork lift to carry the sick and disabled. The engineers, who rigged, nurtured and kept the generators running. The electricians who improvised thick extension cords stretching over blocks to share the little electricity we had in order to free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots. Nurses who took over for mechanical ventilators and spent many hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen who rescued folks stuck in elevators. Refinery workers who broke into boat yards, “stealing” boats to rescue their neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood waters. Mechanics who helped hot-wire any car that could be found to ferry people out of the City. And the food service workers who scoured the commercial kitchens improvising communal meals for hundreds of those stranded.

Most of these workers had lost their homes, and had not heard from members of their families, yet they stayed and provided the only infrastructure for the 20% of New Orleans that was not under water.

Lets spare a thought then for these folks, and think about the quiet dignity involved in helping your fellow man. Its not about photo opportunities or political opportunities, its about humanity. And humanity should be colour blind.

You can contribute to Habitat for Humanity here. It is thinking long term.

Love to Patrick. Keep up the good work, man.

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One Response

  1. James, excellent piece – so you and Degas both spent time in New Orleans? By the way, IBM is doing a lot to help – this from our intranet site:
    IBM’s humanitarian efforts
    IBM is making a $3.2M donation of services and technology, matching what IBM provided earlier this year for the tsunami relief effort.

    The IBM Crisis Response Team is now in Baton Rouge, La. where they are providing ongoing technical assistance to state and federal officials. IBM’s Corporate Community Relations team has been working with local governments and not-for-profit organizations throughout the affected area. In addition IBM is also:

    Creating a new job search web site with the US Chamber of Commerce, local Chambers in the Gulf Region and not-for-profit partners to list job opportunities for evacuees who have lost their jobs.
    Developing a new application with the City of Houston to track and manage temporary housing, match individuals with appropriate facilities and provide for an efficient assignment process.
    Providing the Louisiana State curriculum online for teachers outside the affected areas who will be accepted tens of thousands of new students. IBM will also provide experienced trauma specialist to provide those teachers with expert advice and practical information on how to welcome and transition their new students.
    Providing web development and hosting for major web sites including the Salvation Army, the State of Louisiana, and CNN.
    Donating several hundred ThinkPads to state agencies, relief agencies and local not-for-profit agencies and schools.

    Tom CurranSeptember 13, 2005 @ 6:47 pmReply



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