Exhaustion – Rest – Organizing
The low power radio station by/for Katrina Astrodome survivors went on the air yesterday, noon. More on that later.
Rebuilding after Katrina is daunting, but it is an opportunity for positive change. After a rest and prayer….time to organize.
I’m guided by these ideas:
1) As far as possible, make every assistance effort a support of the agency (Webster:the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power) of the poor. Solidarity does not happen when we help the poor. It happens only when the poor invite you to collaborate with them in their project.
A small and simple example of this can be seen at the Astrodome tech center where we stepped back from the keyboard so that the Katrina survivor could enter information and do the searches herself. Many insisted that we work with the keyboard because they were too exhausted or they did not know how. It was they who decided.
2) This video from NAACP Louisianna urges that shelters organize democratic committees. It seems unrealistic in many cases, given the tensions and struggle to find shelter, but in the final analysis the task of rebuilding is a task of empowerment. Any organizing effort that supports the innate agency of the poor should be lauded.
3) I’ve been contacted by the US National Conference of Catholic Bishops and by another national church to help with the production of videos around the theme of Katrina. My thinking is: As far as your imagination allows you the freedom to do so, take steps to enable the Katrina survivors themselves to make the video. It will take a little longer, but it will be real, and prophetic. What organizational steps can a church take to move from “put the camera/mike in front of the Katrina survivor” towards “give the Katrina survivor the camera/mike.” That is how a church can lead. Think of media not as tools for dissemination of ideas. Rather, they are cultural vehicles by which communities come to awareness and make visible who they are, who they want to be.
4) Race and Class morph into each other constantly. When racism becomes too obvious for public discourse, it morphs into economic class:”poor white people also suffered, so it can’t be racism.” At every turn, take steps to own up to the inner racial attitudes that live within our US psyche. Even here in Houston where mostly white volunteers give so generously, tearfully, to black survivors, there is an opportunity to identify racism rather than pretend it does not exist. This is the way to grow towards racial equality.
If you have other guiding ideas, I’d love to hear them.