New Orleans. Charles, my Haitian cab driver, escaped Katrina, and quickly came back to work in the city. Quite the irony but more on that later.
I told him I’d returned about the same time seeing few women but plenty of male contractors and military. I shared with him that I was afraid seeing so few women around and smelling death.
Haiti. He told his story in a more matter-a-fact way. Charles escaped Haiti many years before the recent earthquake and cholera outbreak on the island.
New Orleans. He returned to transformed a limping distressed Crescent City two months after the hurricane and the flood waters had receded. He told me he got good pay but faced a housing shortage. A friend of a friend got him an hotel room.
Haiti. When I asked him more about Haiti. A fraught weighted silence filled the car signifying that his life had surely been troubled in Haiti, perhaps more so than his experiences in New Orleans before, during and after Katrina. As many have said to me, “Katrina was a bad girl.” Based on Charles’ heavy silence,the troubles in Haiti seemed a wicked step-sister in comparison
The irony: Charles escaped tragedy in Haiti but found another sort in New Orleans. He seemed happy though, grateful to be working and alive in New Orleans.
I feel in some way that I contributed to objectifying the Houma, Native American people during a visit to Grand Bayou, Louisiana on January 8, 2011. That made me sad during my visit. With pride mixed with humility and graciousness, they continue to accept help and support; BP destroyed the Houma’s ecosystem when oil spewed from the ruptured Event Horizon and in turn the latter’s livelihood of fishing, crabbing, and shrimping. The Houma have been reduced to giving tours of the Grand Bayou and inviting strangers like myself into their lovely homes. I thought, what would it be like if I had constant streams of people in my front yard and in my house? I am sad about by the dark grim times faced by these beautiful self-sufficient people.
So I honor the Houma with a few photos in hopes of keeping the Gulf of Mexico on people’s minds. Can I counter BP’s inhumanity in this small way? Can I reverse the lousy under-handed treatment of the Houma fishermen, oyster-men, shrimpers, and their families by BP? That’s a tough one since money promised for lost wages like the presence of the global company in the region has long evaporated.
The disaster is a tragic study in how a global corporation–a story that keeps repeating itself–has exploited and continues to exploit people who only want to live off the land and ocean.
Photos by Dianne Glave
Zulu Parade, Mardi Gras, 2005
I am feeling a little melancholy, which is a familiar feeling at this time of the year. It is the five year anniversary of Katrina. I wonder should we use memorial rather than anniversary since the latter suggests a celebration like a wedding anniversary?
I evacuated New Orleans five years ago. I’d been living on Perrier Street in the Garden District for a year, and loved being in the city. When Katrina started swirling in the Gulf of Mexico, Mayor Ray Nagin called for the people to evacuate.
I haphazardly threw some things into my car because I had evacuated the summer before in 2004 returning quickly to the city. I was working on a book so my files and computer were more important than my clothes.
I went to my brother in Stone Mountain and kept CNN on during all my waking hours. At first, the city was safe, the hurricane had passed. But then the levees breached. There was nothing but chaos in the CNN coverage. They were even showing the faces of missing children but then stopped.
I did not return to live in New Orleans as I did that first year. I stayed in Atlanta struggling with painful emotions in the aftermath for a number of years.
Mardi Gras. Audubon Park. Studio in the Woods. River Road. Algiers. Lower Ninth Ward.