Wednesday, May 07, 2008

People Say! Post-Katrina Populist Funk

People say: Post-Katrina Populist Funk
Click Image to Download the VIDEO 32 mgs 9 minutes
(please be patient - it may take a minute to download)

THIS IS REPOSTED IN HONOR OF THOSE PLAYING, SINGING, VISITTING, HELPING, RETURNING, CELEBRATING, MOVING, WORKING AND DANCING INTO THE FUTURE this jazz season. I am also seeking support (video production equipment, camera, funding) for continuing this work. Anyone who would like to participate in the continuation of this phunk, please contact: LOL

New Orleans ~ Post-Katrina Populist Funk
Disastrous Hurricanes, maritial law & curfews, housing crisis, toxic earth, closed schools and hospitals, abandoned elders, centuries of festering racism, a neo-police state... while the "New" New Orleans struggles to survive and exist outside of the the American illusion of democracy, the most dynamic grass roots efforts in the country claim the streets, deliver food, celebrate, build homes and tell the truth in this visual collage set to the song "People Say" by the legendary Nola band, the funky Meters.

This is no Red Cross special:

Fight For Your Rights & Please Support Self-Determaination and Equality for the Gulf South and all Peoples.

Related Links ::: Common Ground Collective, People's Hurricane Relief Fund & Oversight Coalition, N.O. H.E.A.T., Resource Action Group, Mississippi Muslim Association, NOAH Coalition, Hip Hop Caucus, People's Institute for Survival & Beyond

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

NO Landfill!
New Orleans Begins Dumping Millions of Tons of Hurricane Debris in New Orleans East Wetlands

NO Landfill Rally at City Hall, May 10
Bayou Sauvage Tour + City Hall Rally
Click Image to Download the VIDEO 13 mgs 8 minutes

Stop the Illegal Dumping in New Orleans East!

We are one big inter-connected tidal pool of humanity floating on a gorgeous and endangered wetlands. This is a VIDEO tour of the Bayou Sauvage and Chef Mentuer Landfill Site for the new illegal dump for millions of tons of hurricane debris plus views of the May 10 rally against the landfill at City Hall.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the region is left with literally millions of tons of debris to collect and dispose of as an essential part of the recovery process. New Orleans Mayor Nagin, who is up for re-election on May 22, claimed "emergency powers" and circumvented public hearing processes and safety standards to designate and begin dumping debris in New Orleans East - not 20 yards from the Bayou Sauvage wetlands and a mile from a community of thousands of predominantly Vietnamese and African-American families.

Not only is New Orleans East a profound and unique multi-generational community that spans time and geography from New Orleans back to 3 villages in Vietnam, but it is also bordered by the nation's largest urban wildlife refuge, the Bayou Sauvage, and home to many endangered species as well as alligators, turtles, egrets, nutria and other swamp critters.

Despite massive flooding and lack of government support, the Vietnamese community in New Orleans East has accomplished profound recovery and rebuilding on their own initiative, organized largely through the Mary Queen of Vietnam Church, to account for the welfare of community members, gut and rebuild homes, and host many volunteers who have come to the region and need support for their work.

The Vietnamese community in New Orleans East is leading the fight against this landfill which Mayor Nagin approved by sideswiping law that demands community hearings before a landfill can be built. On May 10th, members of the Versaille Community and the Mary Queen of Vietnam Church, together with the Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy civil rights organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and also representatives of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network gathered together at City Hall and demanded that Mayor Nagin hear their protest. A 3 day moratorium was put on the dumping (to be lifted on Monday) until, Mayor Nagin said, he could "prove... that it is safe".

The landfill is designated to be 100 acres, 30 feet deep and another 80 feet high. See the video tour of the Bayou Sauvage and the Chef Menteur Landfill site with Father Dung Nguyen and feel for yourself the unique and interconnected landscape that is threatened by the city of New Orleans's illegal dumping.

For more info about the New Orleans East community after Hurricane Katrina, scroll down to story and view video.
For more info about the Landfill, see the story posted by Citizens for a Strong New Orleans East:::>>>
Related Links ::: FACTS ABOUT THE LANDFILL, Mary Queen of Vietnam Church

Monday, April 03, 2006

Universal Human Rights: Public Protests Impending New Orleans Elections & Human Rights Abuses During Katrina

Human & Voting Rights March: New Orleans, April 1 2006,
Click to Download VIDEO 27 MB 11' quicktime

On Saturday, April 1 2006, several thousand people marched across the Mississippi River Bridge from the Convention Center in New Orleans to Gretna, Louisiana to protest human rights abuses that occurred following hurricane Katrina and the upcoming mayoral elections on April 22.

When people tried to cross this bridge, the "Crescent City Connection", while fleeing the city and the rising floodwaters immediately following hurricane Katrina last September, they were turned back at gunpoint by police from the city of Gretna.

Protestors marched on this symbolic bridge to also protest the upcoming elections for New Orleans mayor. With less than half the city returned, and most of the residents relocated to new addresses, displaced voters, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), Rainbow Push Coalition, and other national and local civil rights advocates called for the post-ponement of the elections until equal access to the candidates, information about the election, and actual voting places can be guaranteed to all residents. In particular, voting rights advocates pointed to satellite voting opportunities given in the United States by the government to Iraqi and Bosnian citizens that are being denied to tens of thousands of displaced residents of New Orleans. Many protestors compared the expense and burden on poor and predominantly African-American residents to travel back to New Orleans just to vote for mayor to the poll taxes and Jim Crow laws that historically prevented African-American peoples from representation in electoral politics in the Southern United States.

The NAACP has set up a hotline for New Orleans voters:
1-866-Our-Vote (1-866-687-8683).
Pass it on.

This past weekend's protest in New Orleans coincided with some of the largest protests in U.S. history. In other cities around the United States, hundreds of thousands of protestors also marched against anti-immigration legislation and immigrant worker policies. To look more at both these protests and larger movements in relationship to universal human rights and equal representation, see related links:
Democracy Now! Monday April 3 2006, New Orleans indymedia

More video for a Free New Orleans and Peace On Earth at::: www.N.O.Tv

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Voices of the Evicted: Housing Rights and Homelessness in Post-Hurricane New Orleans

Voices of the Evicted Video.
Click Image to Download the VIDEO, please be patient: video is 40 MG, 42 minutes .mov quicktime.


VOICES OF THE EVICTED follow-up information:

Thanks to the Louisburg Square apartment tenants, the hotel residents, and the housing rights activists who support displaced residents and human rights. Thanks also to the Peoples Video Network & Glass Bead Collective for supporting this video.


The tenants still residing at Louisburg Square Apartment were ordered to vacate by court order of Jefferson Parish Civil Court Justice of Peace Wiltie, final exit date the end of December 2005. Tenants Rights activist Jeremy Prickett reports that protest actions by the Boston Tenants Coalition against Trustee of LES Realty Trust, Inc., which owns Louisburg Square Apartments, Leonard J. Samia in Boston prompted him to agree to offer displaced tenants their old apartments after remodeling at the old price. No agreement has been made to compensate tenants whose belongings were thrown in the streets.


92 Hotels in the greater new Orleans area have contracts to accept residents displaced from their homes who have been issued hotel vouchers paid for by FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency). Housing Rights advocates are in negotiations with the Decatur Hotel Group, which owns the Cotton Exchange Hotel and others, to allow tenants to stay until the FEMA deadline of February 6, 2006. The Decatur Hotel Group receives payment from FEMA for 1800 rooms in 11 hotels which have been dedicated to receive payment for FEMA voucher hotel rooms for displaced New Orleans residents; although definite numbers of displaced residents with vouchers or of total area hotel rooms paid for by FEMA are not available, activists estimate that the Decatur Hotel Group statistics to be representative of the other 81 hotels.

After pickets and court injunctions by eviction defense activists, Decatur Hotel Group owner Frank Quinn voluntarily agreed to maintain housing for people with FEMA hotel vouchers until February 7th; however, as of January 28th, 2006, the Decatur Group and Frank Quinn have not returned phone calls to attorney Tracey Washington. Tracey Washington is a leading attorney who advocates on behalf of tenants and migrant workers and represents the displaced residents in hotel issues in the federal case McWaters vs. FEMA.
McWaters vs. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
McWaters v. Federal Emergency Management Agency , No. 2:05-cv-5488 (E.D. La. January 12, 2005) [Clearinghouse Number 55,992]

When grass roots housing rights advocates from Common Ground were asked if they were in negotiations with FEMA representatives as well about housing for the displaced residents, they reported that they did not have access to decision makers within the agency about the issues of evictions.

These Housing Rights activists also report that hotels are turning away people w/ FEMA vouchers. As more people return to the region, the residents in need of housing with vouchers are estimated to outnumber of rooms available. And as Mardi Gras approaches, an influx of tourists puts greater demands on the economically powerful Hotel industry, which journalist Rebecca Mowbray describes as a "logistical nightmare" which could make thousands homeless in days in an article for the Times Picayune posted at
"But for hotels in Orleans and Jefferson parishes, which, according to FEMA, have evacuees staying in about 4,900 of their 22,000 rooms, the ruling could be a disaster". "Court is scheduled to resume Feb. 23. The case is Beatrice B. McWaters et al v. Federal Emergency Management Agency"
("Storm victims can stay put in hotels: Inns put in bind as Carnival nears" Friday, January 13, 2006 by Rebecca Mowbray, business writer: or (504) 826-3417).

In New York City, the final date given for FEMA vouchered hotel rooms for evacuees of hurricanes Katrina and Rita is March 6, 2006. Tens of thousands of displaced residents of the Gulf South who cannot return home, have not been supported in returning home, or have no more home to return to, stay in hotel rooms paid for by FEMA around the country. Uncertain futures and another circumstance of homelessness face thousands of hurricane survivors.


Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund has been supporting Scout Island migrant workers in advocating on behalf of migrant worker rights and better living conditions and placing the camp's tenants' demands before City Park officials and contracted management.

The Apaches paid "a white woman" who had come to the White Mountain Reservation to solicit labor, money to bring them to New Orleans with a promise of work and housing. She kept their money and left them at City Park without paying the rent for their camp site or returning to arrange work. Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund helped negotiate rent and conditions for the Apaches with City Park officials.

Vie Kessay spoke with Tiokasin Ghosthorse about the Apache camp in New Orleans, how the Apache Nation members came to work in New Orleans and what their living and working conditions are like on WBAI's "Wake-up Call" in New York on Friday, January 27th, 2006. She also said that many of the Apache Nation members camped at City Park are returning to the reservation. In January (19th or 20th), Storm Force Inc., the contracted Scout Island camp management tried to break up a meeting between tenants and organziers and stop press recording. Over the weekend, the Apache Nation camp was relocated to another part of City Park, "under an overpass", reported Vie Kessay of the Apache nation. Apache Elmer Rolland Jr. was reported arrested on Thursday January 12th by members of his family. Family and legal assistance have not been able to locate him in the prison system, and he has not been heard from since.

Self-determination and collective and social well-being is essential to democracy. Please support the housing rights of all people, all peoples' right to return home, and the re-opening of public schools in New Orleans.


To reach Housing Rights activists in New Orleans regarding public housing defense, housing rights advocates and eviction defense, please contact:
NO-HEAT (New Orleans Housing Emergency Action Team), especially regarding Public Housing: 504-883-8225
Common Ground Eviction Defense at:
Louisburg Square Apartment and other eviction defense also at:
Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund and Oversight Coalition: 1-888-310-7473 or go to
Attorney Tracey Washington represents many tenants rights in these issues and the Mississippi Workers Rights Alliance provides support of eviction defense as well. Jennifer Lai of the Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund and other volunteer law students are also involved in supporting migrant worker and tenants rights. The Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance works on behalf of immigrant workers rights throughout the Gulf South Region.

Related Links ::: Common Ground Collective, N.O. H.E.A.T., People's Hurricane Relief Fund & Oversight Coalition

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

New Orleans East: Sustaining Our Elders & a World Community in a Neglected Disaster Zone

Mr. Ollie Jackson, New Orleans East Senior Citizen who stayed during hurricanes Katrina and Rita with no contact from government aid for 5 months and counting.
Click to Download the VIDEO 23 mgs 8 minutes

Mr. Ollie Jackson is living in the same circumstances in New Orleans East, without electricity and drinking water. His health is worsening and he needs heart medication and medical care. He does not have transportation, a telephone, mail delivery and he cannot read or write. He still needs assistance accessing his benefits and the relief due to him as well as finding safe housing in his community. To provide support for Mr. Ollie, please contact:

New Orleans East: October & November 2005. New Orleans East is a large part of New Orleans and totally flooded and devastated by Hurricane Katrina. This predominantly African-American and Southeast Asian community to this day remains in the shadows of house-high piles of trash and waste. Utilities, including water and electricity, are intermittant - if at all, and residents openly ask for recognition and aid. Some community elders, who stayed since the hurricane, remain without governmental aid, including contact with Red Cross or FEMA. Neighbors and community members are the first responders, with relief support from grass roots organizations and the Mary Queen of Vietnam Church, which drew thousands of Versailles community members from Houston and other evacuee areas to its re-opening in October. This video documents some of these stories and the relief efforts of Resource Action Group.
(contact: and

Related Links ::: Resource Action Group

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Death to the System! Populist History & Spoken Word Healing with Kalamu ya Salaam

Kalamu ya Salaam announces Listen to the People radical history project & blows the roof off NYC Bowery Poetry Club Katrina benefit with a poem perhaps described as Superdome Systems of Thought - Death to the System!
Kalamu ya Salaam announces Listen to the People Project & blows the roof off NYC Bowery Poetry Club w/ superdome poem
Click Image to Download - please be patient, the VIDEO is 37 mgs and 25 minutes

Announcing a Call to Action! Listening to the People + Superdome Systems of Thought
Kalamu ya Salaam on listening with compassion & the power of the spoken word to make history.

Help reclaim history in the making: anyone can participate in the databased oral history project called Listen to the People, directed by New Orleans own radical historian-dj-educator-activist "neo-griot" truth-teller poet, Kalamu ya Salaam.

"I don't want Bush and Cheney and secretary of defense Rumsfeld and that guy Brown to write the official record," Kalamu explains, announcing the Listen to the People oral histories project for the Gulf South diaspora. This project will be data-based in a demographic grid representative of the diversity of New Orleans, in particular, to be made accessible to the public for non-commercial purposes so that histories, lives, understanding and relief can be better understood and served.

Many thousands of people face cold, isolation and uncertainty in the coming year; much FEMA and Red Cross housing support expires, and in addition, a lack of rebuilding progress, the strange scarcity of trailers, and a cut-throat housing market compound the shock of disaster. Not only does the "Listen to the People" project serve history, but the process of story-collecting itself is a valuable tool with which people in other places can reach out to the peoples displaced by hurricanes Katrina & Rita. "Anyone can participate," Kalamu encourages - even if you don't have a cheap tape recorder, "just reach out and talk to someone". We can embrace the humanity of others whose humanity was so denied in the Days of the Superdome.

Tape it, film it, write it down or just be human and talk with folk; this project needs good people in the rest of the states to help reach out to the displaced and connect their stories into history in the making. For more information contact Kalamu ya Salaam & the "Listen to the People" project at

Kalamu ya Salaam himself explains this epic project & its meaning in the first 2/3's of the accompanying video - please help put the Word Out! The last part of the video is a "poem"... it is untitled and indescribable -just prepare for the roof to blown off your hearts and minds.

"Death to the System!"

& may this New Year be filled with friends & family, old and new. In the spirits of Aung San Suu Kyi and Martin Luther King Jr, may the courage to speak, listen and care replace weapons, fear and apathy. Love, Health & Peace on Earth - Salut!

(This video was recorded live at the Bowery Poetry Club for a poetry Katrina relief benefit on September 30, 2005 in New York City. To use this material or to contribute to Listen to the People, please contact Kalamu ya Salaam at

Related Links ::: Kalamu ya Salaam & the Listen to the People Project

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Losing A Free School Legacy In Neo-Colonial Orleans

0 Click thumbnail for full size.

Jose Torres Tama/ Performance Artist, still from solo show “The Cone of Uncertainty; New Orleans after Katrina” Photo by Javier de Pison,

Introduction by M.Black, Essay by Jose Torres Tama

After a year of brazen wheelin’-n-’dealin’ by Government, Corporate and non-Profiteers, New Orleans harbors a grief that continues to compound and reverberate through the soul of this fragile metropolis. With the majority of the city’s former housing still uninhabitable, triple rents and increased utilities on what is left, and the drastic reduction or outright elimination of public services, including hospitals, schools, public housing, legal services for the poor & public transportation, New Orleans runs the risk of becoming an architectural minstral show in insult to one of the richest treasures of the United States’ own culturally complex cities.

As those of us here fight for a place once-called home and to redefine community in the shadowy abscenses of the once familiar, commonplace, and beloved, the fact is, the majority of residents simply cannot return. And in their abscences, a litany of loss continues to flood the city beneath the shiny devolopment plans of Ivy League urban planning experts and their corporate development counterparts. These losses are losses to the entire country - We are losing the opportunity to celebrate and see in our complex and conflicted pasts examples of freedom, compassion and resistence that could guide us into a future in which tolerance and courage are celebrated instead of fear, conformity and complicity with Corporate Uber-Amerikkka. Now it looks like shiny new condos are in the works on property held in trust by the Catholic Archdiocese of Louisiana for what was, until last month, home to Bishop Perry Middle School, one of the oldest schools for children of color in the entire country, founded by a free woman of color of African descent.

The following commentary is reprinted with permission by long-time resident of the New Orleans cultural resistence, the shamanistic street performer, revolutionary artist and committed educator Jose Torres Tama. Jose Torres Tama has been bringing a multi-lingual, revolutionary consciousness to the streets and arts scene of New Orleans and to stages, cultural centers and classrooms around the country and indeed the world for 20 years. I hope that he will not become another casuality of Katrina, forced to relocate by untenable housing, economic colonization of local culture, and attacks on civil liberties and Free Culture in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. For more multi-lingual intersections of magic and political resistence, go to Jose’s site, -M.B.Black


Since 1987, I have lived in the Fabourg Marigny of New Orleans, the first “suburb” that was founded by free people of color in the early 1800’s. Expanding downriver and east from the French Quarter, it has the unique historical distinction of being a neighborhood where free women of color owned property during the days of slavery, even when white women had not been accorded such privileges by their male counterparts. One of these women was Marie Couvent, a former slave from West Africa, and in 1837, her will and testament declared that her inherited lands at the corner of Dauphine Street and Touro be used to establish a free Catholic school for the “colored orphans of the Fabourg.”

In 1848, a school was finally founded at this site, and the most recent facility that was carrying out Madame Couvent’s wishes was Bishop Perry Middle School. It was offering a gratis education to some of the brightest African American boys from the Lower Ninth, Gentilly, and East New Orleans, whose parents might not have been able to afford such schooling otherwise.

But a few weeks ago on the Friday afternoon of July 21, 2006, the school closed its doors. Without anyone to protest its post-Katrina ill-fated destiny, and without any press conferences, or community gatherings to bring attention to its significance, another institution of African heritage has vanished before our weary eyes.

To offer further perspective on the profound nature of this loss, imagine having the first ever free Catholic school for the education of black children, erected during slavery when it was outlawed to educate colored people of any age in the South of these United States, become extinct without a single utterance from your mayor. For greater irony, imagine that mayor being of similar ethnicity and expected to, perhaps, be present and shed a tear or two, as the chain link fence was locked permanently and its sacred grounds never to hear the sound of students’ laughter during recess.

How can this be happening with Mr. “chocolate city” sugar Ray all awash in his re-elected skin color, who obviously used race to engage the support of African American voters? Was this just a political minstrel show? Because I am finding it difficult to laugh! Is this school not part of his “chocolate” vision? It was certainly offering bountiful opportunities to the children of his constituency. What are we to conclude when a legacy of this magnitude is eradicated on his watch while he remains silent and invisible?

The Couvent School represented a resistance to the extreme racial prejudices of pre-Civil war New Orleans back in 1848, and even now in the devastated environment of the public school system, Bishop Perry was a priceless jewel because “free” and “Catholic” are normally not associated terms.

Currently, the property is in the hands of the Catholic Archdiocese, and it is difficult to have any trust in this body. Only a few months ago their unholy and rather abhorrent decision to close St. Augustine Church, which was established in 1842 by free people of color and slaves in the historic Fabourg Treme, engaged the black community in a high profile cultural struggle. At a time, when we could all use more Christ-like compassion, the Archdiocese justified their decision to close this treasured spiritual center for financial reasons.

Apparently, Saint Augustine was not producing enough services such as communions, weddings, and funerals to satisfy the church’s coffers, yet its parishioner base had slowly been increasing after the storm. Faith in a greater spirit beyond the physical damages we have suffered is important to our hope of rising again. The community did win a reprieve, a stay of execution for the next year and half, but Saint Augustine’s reopening did not come without a substantial lengthy battle. Even Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton came to town and vocalized their support for this symbolic holy edifice.

We are left to speculate that the silence of Bishop Perry’s closing is a welcoming sound to the Archdiocese, and its desires to have the disappearance of this school go unnoticed.
In the process, we are bearing witness to a social nightmare of proportions that begin to resemble cultural cleansing, or is it just another tragedy of the “new” New Orleans after Katrina, or both?

I continue to mourn for this city as we approach the ominous anniversary of a natural disaster that has spawned an even greater man-made calamity, one that is washing away the heroic efforts of people like Marie Couvent, who envisioned a free education for children who were denied this basic right.

Jose Torres Tama & ArteFuturo Productions

Related Links ::: Jose Torres Tama & Arte Futuro Productions,