Katrina killed those already dying!
By Joe Williams III
I was raised in the Ninth Ward of New
Orleans. It wasn't a pretty picture then, and it wasn't a
pretty picture before Katrina hit. The Ninth Ward is a
holding area of America for reserve laborers, or workers.
It is a place where the poor suffer until death. It is
known for its drug traffic, unemployment, gangs, and nightclubs
that are open all night. It was the home of one of
America's worst housing projects, the Desire Projects, which was
closed a few years ago. Adjacent to the projects was
George Washington Carver High School. I dropped out of
Carver in 1960 to enlist in the military. I entered the
military because I needed to be circumcised, and badly needed
some dental work done. The military, like the projects and
Carver High, was just another avenue for me to rebel against my
I was in Carver High when it first opened.
It was like a training ground for crime, gangs, and drugs.
One of the worst prisons in America was Angola Penitentiary. In
our second year in high school, some of the inmates from Angola
Prison were released, or paroled, into our classrooms at Carver.
I knew a lot of those ex-convicts, so it was not a shock to be
sitting next to them in class. After all, I was tugging
with their younger brothers, or sleeping with their sisters.
One of the ex-cons started dating my Spanish teacher; she was a
few years younger than him. We used to go off the school
grounds for lunch and drink white port and lemon juice.
One day, my buddies and I got rounded up by the principal. We
made the mistake of cutting our heads bald at lunchtime and
going back to school drunk. My English teacher was also a
policeman. I guess he was also a cop in the English class.
Because he was the one who took all of us bald guys into the
One day, a group of clowns from across the
Industrial Canal, the area where the level broke during Katrina, one
of these across the canal guys jumped my brother and bite him
real bad, a knife wound, also. When I heard it, it was wartime.
The whole school was at war that evening.
Our high school was a sort of training ground
for Angola prison. It was where many of the youth in the
Ninth Ward ended up, or 6 feet under from a violent death,
usually from gun shot wounds. Sometimes, we made our own
pistols from car antennas, clothespins, rubber bands, and nails.
But shotguns were always around in the projects.
The projects housed a reserved work force.
It was flooded by water every few years. We just thought that
that's how life was. Every once in a while, someone would die in
a flood, but it was just the way we lived. Many of men in the
Ninth Ward would do day work unloading ships on the
(Mississippi) riverfront. It was good money, but seldom
could you work all week.
New Orleans was not built as an industrial
city. In fact, it functioned as a stop-off area for plantation
workers (cotton and sugar cane) who were trying to go north and
east to places like Chicago and St. Louis to make the industrial
dollar bills from the factories. New Orleans was more a
welfare town, or domestic labors. If you were standing on
the corner without proof of employment or I.D. you was on your
way to jail, usually 30 to 60 days.
In 1965, there was a small hurricane named
Betsy. Betsy flooded the Ninth Ward. It was rumored that
the city government blew a hole in the level so the water could
flood the Ninth Ward. The rationale was that if they
didn't blow up the level, the whole city would have gone
underwater. My grandmother was caught in that flood.
She was a good domestic worker, and a faithful Christian.
She worked in the rich folk's homes, and a few times when my dad
was arrested for drunken driving, she would call her rich
bosses, usually a judge, and my father would be released within
minutes. My grandmother died shortly after Hurricane
Betsy. The neighbors said that she would sometimes walk
after midnight in the middle of the streets in her night
clothes, shortly after the flooding she died.
Today, my father is trapped in the waters of
Katrina, like my grandmother lost her life to Betsy. My
father is 87 years old, I have not heard from him since the
flood started. I am a pastor and social activist today.
I go out and feed the homeless, visit prisons, do
sick-an-shut-in work, and minister to the youth. I have
turned my life around, but my peers in New Orleans are all dead.
Our whole life experience has been one of tragedy.
Americans don't know the real story of New
Orleans, the projects, the hoods, the violence, the prison
cells, the rapes, the murders, the Aid's cases, the rock
cocaine, the heroin needles, the welfare checks that made it
illegal for the father to be home, the real bodies
floating in my mind every since I was born. America, I
charge you with genocide. -- firstname.lastname@example.org
posted 8 September 2005
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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
As for the source
of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their
own bodies during slavery given that they were being
auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless,
it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate
the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate
* * *
A Wreath for Emmett Till
By Marilyn Nelson; Illustrated by
This memorial to
the lynched teen is in the Homeric
tradition of poet-as-historian. It is a
heroic crown of sonnets in Petrarchan
rhyme scheme and, as such, is quite
formal not only in form but in language.
There are 15 poems in the cycle, the
last line of one being the first line of
the next, and each of the first lines
makes up the entirety of the 15th. This
chosen formality brings distance and
reflection to readers, but also calls
attention to the horrifically ugly
events. The language is highly
figurative in one sonnet, cruelly
graphic in the next. The illustrations
echo the representative nature of the
poetry, using images from nature and
taking advantage of the emotional
quality of color. There is an
introduction by the author, a page about
Emmett Till, and literary and poetical
footnotes to the sonnets. The artist
also gives detailed reasoning behind his
choices. This underpinning information
makes this a full experience, eminently
teachable from several aspects,
including historical and literary—School
* * * * *
The White Masters
of the World
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
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If you like this page consider making a donation
* * *
Negro Digest / Black World
Browse all issues
* * *
Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /
George Jackson /
* * * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding
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