My skin started to prickle as I drove into the underpass. Of course I was secure in my car even if it was dark and I was in a new neighborhood but, I was still thinking of my evening conversation. That guy on the bridge was there for seven days.
His name was Freddie and I was driving home from a program put together by the Humanities Council. The focus was on the five year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and two authors were spotlighted. I live hundreds of miles from New Orleans and while I had an idea about the impact of the storm, what I discovered listening to these authors was new and disturbing.
I’ve been to Louisiana. I remember going through the drive-through daquiri place on my first visit. And that there were still pockets outside of Lafayette where the ESL programs were teaching kids who learned French as their first language. Truly, it was the most different place that I’d been inside the borders of my own country. But it was so foreign, that when the hurricane hit, I didn’t relate. I saw CNN. I read about it. I’ve never visited the 9th ward but I heard about evacuees making their way to Phoenix and Los Angeles and Nashville and Denver. Our church even had a mission project to support a congregation in the same spot.
The faces in the photos are black and old and female and those of children. This natural act of God did not cut across racial and gender lines in a natural way. Rather the devastation disproportionally affected lines that had already been drawn by the community there.
The stark beauty of the work created by Hogue and by Whitaker is two-fold. First, Hogue introduces us to individuals by telling their stories in their own words but she does so with such grace that we refer to it as documentary poetry. The corresponding Ross photos accentuate the words. Whittaker on the other hand approaches the topic from a historical perspective. How did the 9th ward come to be so black and so female and so old with handfuls of poor, white, single mothers thrown in? Do we even use the word segregated any longer?
And while we all support the notion that acts of God are not about race, this one brought race to the forefront. There’s a blessing in that for all of us. If you have room on your holiday list for a book, When the Water Came or Hurricane Katrina: America’s Unnatural Disaster will enlighten you and cause you to think – perhaps about things that we haven’t thought about often enough.
- 4 bunches fresh mustard greens
- 2 to 3 cups sauterne wine
- Olive oil
- Fresh green hot pepper or Louisiana Hot Sauce
Clean greens wells. Cover bottom of pot (preferably an iron pot) with about 1/8 inch olive oil. Place greens in pot and pour wine over them. Put one whole pod of green hot pepper or one teaspoon of Louisiana Hot Sauce (cayenne) in pot. Salt to taste. Cook until greens are tender and seasoning has permeated them. If additional liquid is needed, add water. (When I first posted, I hadn’t made this. Tonight I did and enjoyed it but it’s a strong flavor.)