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Q has a bed in his own house.  The military has been bringing by food. He's had water to drink, and

he'd clearly had his share of beer. Why would he leave that to go into a tent? His word, not mine. 

He'd heard the stories of children being raped.  He'd heard the stories about folks being trampled to death

 murdered and generally exploited.  And perhaps most importantly, he hadn't heard from his family. 

If he leaves New Orleans, he said to me, "Where the hell I'm gon' be after that?!"



Plan Designed to Take Treme

for the Benefit of Rich People?

An Anonymous Report 


Just wanted to give a brief report.  As you know, I went into New Orleans Wed. and I stayed until early yesterday evening. It is inhabited almost solely by the military, firefighters, and media.  I say almost because there remain pockets of life, defiant pockets.  Maybe I'm just sick in head, but the arguments given by people determined to stay in New Orleans started sounding mighty persuasive.

After attending the daily press conference at City Hall Thursday, I walked over to the Central Fire Station on Decatur and talked to Dist. Chief Gary Haydel who was overseeing not only his own folks but people who've come in from everywhere else to help.  And since I was in the French Quarter, I thought it was only fitting that I walk over to Treme and see what was up there.

You should know that when the person ostensibly in charge of our "New Orleans bureau" reached me on the phone he wanted to know why I was hiking toward Treme, which I interpreted (rightly or wrongly) as a kind of "Who cares?" kind of question.  I said, "Well, it's the oldest black neighborhood in the country."  It wasn't like I was paying all that much attention to him anyway (or observing a chain of command).  So I shrugged off his question and walked into my old neighborhood.

Some things don't change.  And I'm glad about that.  That level of concern that sometimes borders on nosiness proved really helpful to me on my trip.  For example, when I turn off onto St. Claude, I see two men sitting on a stoop directly across from where poet Kysha Brown Robinson was staying. Kysha had recently been hosting the NOMMO Literary Society out of her apartment.  

The man I spoke to—he'd only give Chief Al as his name—said "Yeah, I know her.  And her husband.  Freddy, I think his name is.  Nice people, man. Real nice people."  Al is chief of the bone gang, the black parading organization that wakes up folks Mardi Gras morning, and he spent a little time telling me why he and Sunpie Barnes (who used to be in his gang) split ways.  To reduce his tale down to a sentence:  If you want to wear stilts and grass skirts, you might as well join Zulu.

Anyway, Al ain't leaving.  Neither is his friend Jim "Lucky" Osborne or the other man who didn't say a word the whole time I stood there.  When I asked about the Backstreet Cultural Museum, which houses some suits from big chiefs of the past, he said that he was keeping watch over it.  "I'm the security for the Backstreet and 'OZ," he said.  He was referring to WWOZ, the public radio station in adjacent Armstrong Park.  There wasn't anybody in Treme I knew or had heard of that Al didn't.  

Kalamu (who used to work out of there, both with NOMMO and 'OZ), both Lolis Elies (the civil rights attorney and the columnist for The Times-Picayune), Father Jerome Ledoux of St. Augustine Catholic Church and Jerome Smith of Tambourine and Fan.  I knew the Elies were okay because I'd seen Lolis Eric, his mother and his sister.  Chief Al told me that Jerome Smith was fine and that Father Ledoux was packing up because he'd been sufficiently frightened by the armed people saying that everybody had to clear out.

"This not communism," he told me.  "I don't know where in the hell (Mayor) Nagin gets off thinking he can do that," i.e. make people leave.  He believes the evacuation plan is designed to take Treme for the benefit of rich people.

I wanted to see my old house.  So I walked down Treme toward Barracks.  Lolis Eric Elies' houses (where we used to meet for NOMMO) look fine.  But during my stay in N.O. lots of houses looked fine that I know are not. So I can't say with any certainty.  Wendell Pierce had an apartment on the opposite side of Lolis' and I guess he still does. Like 1110/12 Treme, 1114/16 looked okay.

St. Augustine suffered some wind damage, a portion of the second floor wall had fallen away exposing the skeleton of the building, but it didn't look all that bad.

At the corner of Treme and Barracks, I came across another group.  I heard a generator running and I saw a man running a grill.  I talked to Q.  I told him I couldn't print what he told me with just Q, so he gave me Robert Thomas.  At least I think so.  Could have been Thomas Robert.  He had had a lot of beer and seemed to be excited just to tell someone (someone else, at least) why he wasn't leaving.

And here's the part that, to me, made a disturbing amount of sense:  Q has a bed in his own house.  The military has been bringing by food. He's had water to drink, and he'd clearly had his share of beer. Why would he leave that to go into a tent? His word, not mine.  He'd heard the stories of children being raped.  He'd heard the stories about folks being trampled to death, murdered and generally exploited.  And perhaps most importantly, he hadn't heard from his family.  If he leaves New Orleans, he said to me, "Where the hell I'm gon' be after that?!"

While the people I talked to aren't necessarily looking out for the best interests of the government, they did say repeatedly:  just bring me by food and water, and I'll be fine. They find that option to be both more cost efficient and less emotionally rending than the thought of leaving their homes.

My old house at 1310 Barracks looks the same way it looked when I left. Little People's Place, the bar a few doors down, looks the same, too.  Lolis Edward Elie's place always looked like a fortress to me, and it looked like it weathered the storm well.  Going back up St. Claude, I stopped in front of the Backstreet Cultural Museum.  The huge metal awning was no longer attached, but its placement directly in front of the door looked like it was probably the work of Chief Al and not the work of Katrina.

At Ursuline and St. Claude I spoke to Carmen Montana, Toby Clark and her husband William Auchterlonie.  They wanted the same thing Q wanted:  food, water, and freedom.  Toby and her husband wanted to be together, and they didn't think that would necessarily be the case if they agreed to leave.  Some families had been separated, and they weren't gonna risk that.  "That's the worst case scenario," William said. "That could happen."

"We have so little money," Toby said. "We leave with that we're gonna come back with nothing."

No one believed they were risking their health by staying.  When I told the first group that the mayor said it was unsafe and that the water was filthy, Lucky said, "I been drinking it for days. Just put a little booze on it and it's okay," he said.  Carmen was especially dismissive. "Jesus Christ, I know that!" she said when I mentioned the alleged health risks. "Just make us sign a release form or something. Don't make us leave our home."

She told me that she had voted for Nagin, despite her being a Republican, but "I'm disappointed with him."

"Just leave us alone," she said more than once.

I realize that I moved past brief a long time ago, and there's still much to say, including news of three buildings at Dillard burning down and a couple trips I made into the lower 9th Ward.  I personally did not make it into the East, but one reporter who went along Haynes said it was so dry it was dusty.  Not that it hadn't flooded, but it had been so brutally hot since then that driving past it's not easy to see how high the water got.

So I'll send more soon.  But please know that I am safe and out of New Orleans.  And thanks to everybody who asked about me. Till then . . . .

September 2005

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

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#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

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#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

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#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
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#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

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#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

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#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

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Civilization: The West and the Rest

By Niall Ferguson

The rise to global predominance of Western civilization is the single most important historical phenomenon of the past five hundred years. All over the world, an astonishing proportion of people now work for Western-style companies, study at Western-style universities, vote for Western-style governments, take Western medicines, wear Western clothes, and even work Western hours. Yet six hundred years ago the petty kingdoms of Western Europe seemed unlikely to achieve much more than perpetual internecine warfare. It was Ming China or Ottoman Turkey that had the look of world civilizations. How did the West overtake its Eastern rivals? And has the zenith of Western power now passed? In Civilization: The West and the Rest, bestselling author Niall Ferguson argues that, beginning in the fifteenth century, the West developed six powerful new concepts that the Rest lacked: competition, science, the rule of law, consumerism, modern medicine, and the work ethic. These were the "killer applications" that allowed the West to leap ahead of the Rest, opening global trade routes, exploiting newly discovered scientific laws, evolving a system of representative government, more than doubling life expectancy, unleashing the Industrial Revolution, and embracing a dynamic work ethic. Civilization shows just how fewer than a dozen Western empires came to control more than half of humanity and four fifths of the world economy.

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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What This Cruel War Was Over

Soldiers Slavery and the Civil War

By Chandra Manning

For this impressively researched Civil War social history, Georgetown assistant history professor Manning visited more than two dozen states to comb though archives and libraries for primary source material, mostly diaries and letters of men who fought on both sides in the Civil War, along with more than 100 regimental newspapers. The result is an engagingly written, convincingly argued social history with a point—that those who did the fighting in the Union and Confederate armies "plainly identified slavery as the root of the Civil War." Manning backs up her contention with hundreds of first-person testimonies written at the time, rather than often-unreliable after-the-fact memoirs. While most Civil War narratives lean heavily on officers, Easterners and men who fought in Virginia, Manning casts a much broader net. She includes immigrants, African-Americans and western fighters, in order, she says, "to approximate cross sections of the actual Union and Confederate ranks." Based on the author's dissertation, the book is free of academese and appeals to a general audience, though Manning's harsh condemnation of white Southerners' feelings about slavery and her unstinting praise of Union soldiers' "commitment to emancipation" take a step beyond scholarly objectivity.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The 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  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 25 March 2012




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Related files:  The Conspiracy to Whiten New Orleans   The Impact of Katrina Race and Class    Plan Designed to Take Treme