i am

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harlem, usa
same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. mjt975@msn.com.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Surviving Hurricane Katrina: Does Anybody Really Care?

I've been wanting to write about the wrath of Hurricane Katrina for weeks now. I didn't know where to begin, so I didn't write at all. Of course, that strategy didn't work. I felt guilty for not writing. I don't like feeling powerless. I'm left w/ conflicting emotions about what happened, our government's lack of response to what happened, as well as the apathy of some folks in our community who don't recognize the human tragedy which could befall anybody, depending on where you live.

Do human beings really care about each other?

Initially, the news media gave us disparate images of helicopters rescuing folks from roof tops, National Guardsmen patrolling the streets, truckers dropping off food, clothing & medical supplies, as well as images of survicors looking defeated, torn & weary, as their property was swept away by torrential winds exceeding 100 miles an hour. Watching the horror unfold on television, one is quickly reminded of the World Trade Center collapsing on September 11, 2001, just four short years ago, the result of terrorist planes crashing into New York City's largest money buildings.

Trying to gather the news is a job in & of itself. There was a time when all we had was ABC, CBS & NBC. America has since made great technological advances, yet we still seem to be unable, or unwilling, to feed the hungry, house the homeless & employ the poor. What really angers me is the blatant disregard for Black life, particularly among the marginalized communities in Alabama, Louisiana & Mississippi.

Five days went by w/ out any assistance for the people in the Gulf. Imagine being permanently dislocated by a natural disater - subsequently going w/ out food, water, medical supplies, soap, toiletries, electricity or adequate shelter. The Superdome became an emergency shelter where safety & sanity were not on the list of priorities. Reports of lootings, rapings & shootings intensified the growing mass hysteria. People who sought to evacuate were asked to remain. Dead bodies & dead animals were everywhere.

When natural disaster strikes, the last thing people want to talk about is race. I contend there is only one race - the human race, but that analogy would simplify a complex problem, a problem most Americans are unwilling to acknowledge as a painful reality. Kanye West was recently quoted as saying, "George Bush doesn't care about Black people." I don't think Bush cares much about white folks either, but the fact remains that the images of Black & whites were reflected striking differently as the story unfolded.

Some reporters referred to the survivors of Katrina as 'refugees.' In doing so, their status as American citizens is no longer credible. An article in the Con-stitution specifically states negroes are 3/5 of a human being. But I digress. Black people in the Gulf are portrayed as dangerous, ignorant or useless, while whites were seen as charitable, gracious & powerful. Still, we are expected to come together as one: one nation, under water, indefensible, w/ libel & injustice for all.

I've been attending weekly community forums sponsored by the New York City Chapter of the Millions More Movement. The forums are free, open to the public & held at Abyssinian Baptist Church on Tuesday evenings from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March, which was held in Washington DC, October 16, 1995. As a proud participant of that historical event, I'm deeply invested in the lives of Black people.

The Millions More Movement is dedicated to the liberation of Black people. The people in the Gulf States are our family. We are demanding accountabilty from the government, as well as from organizations like the American Red Cross & Salvation Army, who've recieved up to one billion dollars of disaster funds - generally by default - which will probably never make it into the hands of poor Black people traumatized by Katrina. In the spirit of Umoja, Ujima & Ujamma, we will care for our own.

We meet each Tuesday to exchange information, raise awareness & strategize for the upcoming event. I find the meetings transforming, in that we learn the truth about what happens to our people. We share the truth you will never hear on CNN, read in the New York Times or view on the Internet. The Millions More Movement recently loaded up several trucks in downtown Brooklyn w/ food, clothing & medical supplies. Though not covered by the local media, I was delighted by the community's response: three full blocks were lined up w/ goods & services headed to the people.

A town hall meeting is taking place this evening in Queens. A number of people, including NYC Chair Bob Law, will highlight growing news disparities, in addition to letting folks know how they can get involved through grass-roots organizations. Another event will be held Saturday afternoon - also in Queens - a tribute to ABC journalist Gil Noble, a lone beacon on the airwaves for 35 years, to shed light on the darkness surrounding our brothers & sisters.

I serve Black Men's Xchange New York (BMX NY), a Harlem-based, same gender-loving, Black men's empowerment organization. BMX NY is chartering a bus for folks to travel to the event. Round trip tickets are $40. Also, BMX NY is lobbying for Cleo Manago, the social architect & CEO of BMX NY, to speak at the event. Manago was slated to speak at the Million Man March, but due to time constraints & party politics, no doubt, was left off the dais. While we clearly value our voice being heard at this historic event, his presence, unlike that of some gay-identified folks, is not a condition of our investment.

The honorable (Nation of Islam leader) Minister Louis Farrakhan has stated, "the time has come for us to address the social conditions of our people. We cannot wait for others to do for us what we must do for ourselves. Our people are suffering & we need to heal or we will soon perish." Perhaps the wrath of Hurricane Katrina will serve as a wake up call. At the community meeting this week, Bob Law said, "the righteous must stand up against wickedness."

Often in times of great need, people feel overwhelmed, fully burdened w/ the day to day stressors of life on its own terms. Others spring quickly into action, ready, willing & able to do whatever it takes to help by any means necessary. Some people, disconnected from humanity, don't view the tragedy in the Gulf States as 'their problem.' Helping others is one of the greatest aspirations of the human heart. I wonder: do we really care about each other? We all can't do everything, but we all can do something.


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