CDs by Charmaine Neville
It's About Time /
Up Up Up /
* * *
of Charmaine Neville's Story
by WAFB, Baton Rouge
Sep. 11, 2005
I was in my house when everything first
started. I was in my house, yes, I live in the Bywater
Area of the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. When the hurricane
came, it blew all the left side of my house, the North side of
my house. And the water was coming in my house in
torrents. I had my neighbor, an elderly man who is my
neighbor, and myself, in the house. And with our dogs and
cats and we were trying to stay out of the water, but the water
was coming in too fast. So we ended up having to leave the
We left the house and we went up on the
roof of a school. I took a crowbar and I burst the door
open on the roof of the school to help people, to get them up
onto the roof of the school. Later on we found a flat
boat. And we went around in the neighborhood in a flatboat
getting people out of their houses and bringing them to the
school. (Crying.) We found all the food that we
could and then we fed people.
But then things started getting really bad.
By the second day, the people that were there that we were
feeding and everything, we had no more food, no water. We had
nothing. And other people were coming into our
We were watching the helicopters go across
the bridge and airlift other people out, and they would hover
over us and tell us hi!; but that would be all. They
wouldn't drop us any food, any water, or nothing.
Alligators were eating people. They had all kinds of stuff
in the water. They had babies floating in the water.
We had to walk over hundreds of bodies of dead people.
People that we tried to save from the
hospices, from the hospitals and from the old folks homes.
I tried to get the police to help us,
but I realized we rescued a lot of police officers in the flat
boat from the Fifth District police station. The boat. The
guy that was driving the boat, he rescued a lot of them and
brought them to different places where they could be saved.
We understood that the police couldn't help us. But we
could not understand why the National Guard and them couldn't
help us, because we kept seeing them. But they never would
stop and help us.
Finally it got to be too much. I just
took all of the people that I could. I helped two old
women in wheelchairs with no legs, that I rolled them from
down in that Ninth Ward to the French Quarters, and I went back
and I got more people. There were groups of us, you know,
there was about 24 of us. And we kept going back and forth
and rescuing whoever we could get and bringing them to the
French Quarters because we heard that there were phones at the
French Quarters. And there wasn't any water. And
they were right there was phones, but we couldn't get through.
I found some police officers. I told
them that a lot of us women had been raped down there by guys
who had come (audio deleted) [not] from the neighborhood where
we were that were helping us to save people, but other men.
And they came and they started raping women
and (audio deleted) they started killing. And I don't know
who these people...I'm not going to tell you that I know
who they were, because I don't.
But what I want people to understand is
that if we had not been left down there like the animals that
they were treating us like, all of those things wouldn't have
People are trying to say that we
stayed an extra day because we wanted to be rioting and we
wanted to do this, but we had no resources to get out, and we
had no way to leave. When they gave the evacuation order,
if we could've left, we would have left. There are still
thousands and thousands of people trapped in the homes in the
downtown area--when we finally did get--in the Ninth Ward, and
not just in my neighborhood, but in other neighborhoods of the
ninth ward there are a lot of people who are still trapped down
there. Old people. Young people. Babies.
Pregnant women. I mean nobody's helping them.
And I want people to realize that we did
not stay in the city so that we could steal and loot and commit
A lot of those young men lost their minds
because the helicopters would fly over us and they wouldn't
stop. We'd do SOS on the flashlights, we'd do everything.
And it came to a point. It really did come to a point
where these young men were really so frustrated that they did
start shooting. They weren't trying to hit the
helicopters. Maybe they weren't seeing. Maybe if
they heard this gunfire they will stop then. But that
didn't help us. Nothing like that helped us.
Finally, I got to Canal Street with all of
my people that I had saved from back there. There was a
whole group of us. I--I don't want them arresting nobody
else--I broke the window in an RTA bus. I never learned
how to drive a bus in my life. I got in that bus. I
loaded all those people in wheelchairs and then everything else
into that bus and (sobbing) and we drove (crying) and we
And millions of people was trying to get me
to help, for them to get on the bus (crying, crying, crying).
posted 14 September 2005
* * *
My Soul is New Orleans
Singer Charmaine says city, music will come back
Neville, a singer, is a member of one of New
Orleans' great musical families. Her father, Charles Neville,
performs with uncles Aaron, Art and Cyril in the Neville
Brothers band. She estimates the musicians in her family number
well over 100. In New Orleans, she said, every neighborhood and
every family has musicians.
Many of the city's musicians
were out of town when Katrina hit, Neville said. She, however,
had recently returned from a tour.
What's more, she added, she
could not afford to leave when residents were told to evacuate.
Many others in New Orleans, home to thousands of poor residents,
were in the same boat.
"It wasn't that I wanted
to ride out the storm, believe me," Neville said. "Two
days before the storm hit, I had spent every penny I had saved
getting a new roof put on my house. I didn't have any money. I
didn't have a car.
they said the storm was coming, I barricaded myself in the house
and prayed. Many people in my neighborhood stayed because they
didn't have resources. We did not stay because we wanted to be
looters or martyrs. We stayed because we had to."
* * *
Charmaine Neville Stands by Story
Rapes, Alligator Attacks during Katrina
By Donna Britt
As famed New Orleans singer
Charmaine Neville prepares to take the stage on opening day of the 2006
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Friday, she stands by
her chilling account of rapes, alligator attacks, and stealing a city
bus to rescue herself and others from the horrors of Hurricane Katrina.
On September 2, 2005, just hours after Neville says she drove out the
city on a stolen city bus packed with people from her beloved city of
New Orleans, the singer shocked many by showing up at the newsroom of
WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge.
Visibly shaking, dirt in her hair, wearing a dirty shirt, and
crying, Neville spoke with Archbishop Alfred Hughes, who happened to be
in the station's newsroom at the time. Hughes heads up the Catholic
Archdiocese in South Louisiana.
As a news camera rolled, Neville told Bishop Hughes she and others had
just been through a living hell. "Alligators were eating people, they
had all kinds of stuff in the water," Neville said. "They had babies
floating in the water. We had to walk over hundreds of bodies of dead
people," she said.
Minutes later, Neville told the same story during a live interview
broadcast during WAFB-TV's continuous coverage of Hurricane Katrina and
Neville, who is set to perform at Jazz Fest Friday afternoon, performed
at an outdoor concert in Lafayette earlier this month. After that
concert, she again spoke with WAFB 9NEWS, and said she stands by the
harrowing story she told eight months earlier.
"I have had people come up to me and say, did that really happen?"
Neville said, when asked that question, she often replies, "I'm glad you
weren't there, but had you been there, you would know."
Neville says, while trying to head to higher ground after the levees
broke, she was raped. "I'm not going to say that it has changed me,
because one person hurt me, not everybody, but one person," Neville said
during the interview earlier this month. "I'm not mad at him, I
forgive him," the singer said. "I don't know what made him do what he
did. He didn't just do it to me. He did it to other women. I know
that he will be caught. And he'll get what he deserves."
Dr. Louis Cataldie, the coroner in charge of recovering the bodies of
Hurricane Katrina victims, says, of the 1,296 victims recovered so far,
none showed evidence of alligator bites. It is, of course, possible the
people Neville says she saw eaten alive were never found. He also
says, while recovering more than a thousand coffins in St. Bernard
Parish, he saw several alligators, but they never attacked.
Neville says her most haunting memory of Hurricane Katrina is not the
rapes and not the alligators she insists were eating humans alive near
her home. She says her most haunting memory was being behind the wheel
of a stolen bus, packed with people, and having to pass by others who
were pleading to get onboard. "Driving that bus and seeing all those
people with their arms up saying take me, take me!" "I can't get that
out of my head. I'm being honest here. I could not fit any more
people on the bus."
Neville is now rebuilding her home where it stood in the Bywater
Neighborhood of the Ninth Ward. After performing at Jazz Fest, she
plans to spend the summer performing in Europe. And, she plans to pick
back up a dream she had before Katrina devastated New Orleans. A dream
of opening a business called Charmaine Neville's Just Desserts, which
would serve dessert such as 3-crust deep apple pie, a treasured family
recipe. As far as coffee, she says, the restaurant would only serve
coffees from the state she loves and cherishes: Louisiana.Wafb
* * *
Charmaine Neville (born 31 March) is a member of a
New Orleans music family which includes the
Neville Brothers. The daughter of Charles Neville, she is currently
the leader and lead singer of the Charmaine Neville Band, a jazz/funk
band based in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Ms. Neville was in international news due to the
Hurricane Katrina, when the failure of the Federal levees swamped
the city of New Orleans with up to 18 feet (5.5 m) of water in some
locations. Her tale of survival, rape, and eventual escape via a
commandeered transit bus were widely reported in the South Louisiana
* * *
Papers is not your average memoir. It is a fusion of
many kinds of writing, including intellectual
autobiography, personal narrative,
political/cultural analysis, spiritual journal,
literary history, and poetry. Though it is the
record of one man's experience of Hurricane Katrina,
it is a record that is fully a part of his life and
work as a scholar, political activist, and
professor. The Katrina Papers provides space
not only for the traumatic events but also for
ruminations on authors such as Richard Wright and
theorists like Deleuze and Guattarri. The
result is a complex though thoroughly accessible
book. The struggle with formthe search for a
medium proper to the complex social, personal, and
political ramifications of an event unprecedented in
this scholar's life and in American social historylies at the very heart of The Katrina Papers. It
depicts an enigmatic and multi-stranded world view
which takes the local as its nexus for understanding
the global. It resists the temptation to simplify
or clarify when simplification and clarification are
not possible. Ward's narrative is, at times, very
direct, but he always refuses to simplify the
complex emotional and spiritual volatility of the
process and the historical moment that he is
witnessing. The end result is an honesty that is
both pedagogical and inspiring.Hank Lazer
The Katrina Papers, by Jerry W.
Ward, Jr. $18.95
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update 20 April 2010