Friday, September 7, 2012

Kertis Creative Creates Videos About Katrina

Just a few days after the press release about this post landed in my inbox, Hurricane Isaac took aim at the Gulf Coast. So I decided to sit on it a little while.

While Isaac caused some problems in my former hometown of New Orleans and total devastation in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, it was no Katrina. Although, really... how do you gauge this stuff? Many people whose houses withstood Katrina lost everything in Isaac. The people in Plaquemines Parish would disagree that Isaac was "no Katrina."

I'm not going to pontificate on this stuff. If you read my blog, you probably know that I moved to Louisville in July 2006 after having lived in Louisiana for 9ish years. I considered New Orleans my "forever home" and was devastated when my school couldn't hire me back as a full-time teacher. I survived what I now think of as the "Treme Season One" period in New Orleans-- moved back to the city the October after Katrina and lived there until I relocated to Louisville to teach at the Louisville Collegiate School.

I have strong opinions and strong feelings about Katrina, and Isaac tore me up.

And so did this video that local documentarians Stephen Kertis and Brett Marshalls created for the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation.

I normally hate reprinting press releases, but this one is super good:
Seven years since Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf Coast with devastating wind and flooding, low-wealth and minority communities in coastal Mississippi continue to struggle with rebuilding their neighborhoods. 

The nation’s attention has turned elsewhere, but innovative social justice groups in the region are continuing to fight to make sure these residents receive the same opportunities as their neighbors.

“I think that most of America has forgotten the extent of the damage that was done along the Gulf Coast,” said William Stallworth, the Executive Director of Hope Community Development Agency in Biloxi, Mississippi. Unfortunately national attention and resources continue to dry up. So, how do you solve this dilemma? “One family at a time,” says Stallworth. 

The FEMA trailers are mostly gone, but there are still more than 17,000 families in need of assistance. Some need affordable housing that is close to employment centers, shopping and hospitals. Others need help securing repair funds for their homes, that seven years later, still bear the scars of Katrina.

“These programs are not currently solving the needs of thousands of underserved, invisible, and increasingly desperate residents who want to build back their homes where they live. These citizens deserve better treatment than they currently have received,” said Reilly Morse, a policy director at the Mississippi Center for Justice in Biloxi.

Morse notes that low-wealth and minority communities in Gulfport and Biloxi have not received sufficient help in rebuilding, particularly when compared with what residents in wealthier neighborhoods have received. These residents are hamstrung by legacy zoning laws, red tape and a belief that enough time has passed since the storm to absolve funders of further assistance. In many cases, residents have just given up, tired of fighting for what we all want: a place to call home.

Social justice organizations such as the Hope CDA and the Mississippi Center for Justice play a critical role in keeping the recovery front and center long after the storm has passed. They have the commitment and knowledge to push for change, and they also have the trust of the communities they serve.

“Experts determined, in the early days after Katrina, that it would take 15 years for the Gulf Coast area to recover,” said Stallworth. “This is proving to be a very good estimate; while it is my belief that we are a little ahead of the curve, we still have a long way to go.”

For these groups to be successful, they need long-term investment in their programs and missions, not just from the Gulf Coast, but also from elsewhere in the United States. Funders, including the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation--whose mission is to move people and places out of poverty-- have been important to these social-justice organizations in the Gulf Coast.

When I lived in New Orleans, my go-to weekend vacation destinations were Biloxi and Bay St. Louis, both of which were nearly leveled by Katrina. So this video speaks to a happy place for me. A place where I used to go to escape the sweltering summer heat of New Orleans. A place where I could sit on the beach and read a book and pretend I was with my family on the beaches of New England.

Kertis Creative, the local force behind this video, is responsible for some of the most beautiful photography and videography coming out of this town, including the combined efforts of Kertis Creative and Michelle Jones of Consuming Louisville called Secondhand Stories. This video for the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation made me proud and made me cry.

Please share this video with others and donate to the causes as you see fit.  I met with Stephen Kertis shortly after this press release was sent to me, and he is the nicest guy imaginable. Good cause. Good people. Gorgeous video. A trifecta of reasons you should care.

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