Saturday, July 29, 2006


Many see accused New Orleans MD as hero

We Here Our Train Comin'!

It was New Orleans hot. Blazing. Sticky.

But it was on the west side of Cleveland on July 16 where five hundred people were gathered under a tent in sprawling Lincoln Park. From the middle of the crowd, Carvell Holloway, head of music for Compton's middle schools, began to walk toward the stage playing his trumpet. The tune was only vaguely familiar. He came at the melody with angles and curves. It was unspeakably beautiful. At the mic, Ernie Perez, front man for the Boxing Gandhis, began to sing.

Oh when the trumpet sounds the call
Oh when the trumpet sounds the call
Oh Lord I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

The words were familiar, but still not the tune. Perez deliberately sang it out of time, with no resolution, to put all the focus on the lyrics. The words, he explained, were the "unknown" verses written by Louis Armstrong and brought to light by Bruce Springsteen at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in April.

When the rich go out and work
When the rich go out and work
Oh Lord I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

When the air is pure and clean
When the air is pure and clean
Oh Lord I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

When we all have food to eat
When we all have food to eat
Oh Lord I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

When our leaders learn to cry
When our leaders learn to cry
Oh Lord I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

All the pent-up pain and energy under the tent flowed toward the mic and Ernie had to take a step back while Carvell continued to prod things along on trumpet. Once Ernie regained his composure, he asked the crowd to clap and sing along. Now the tune became the familiar one and the response was immediate. Ernie dug deep into his gospel roots and his Apache past, tearing the song apart and putting it back together as five hundred people helped to push it to an end. The tent erupted in wild applause. If you listened closely, you could even hear the echoes of handclaps by the Gulf Coast artists who had wanted to be there but couldn't make it because they had gigs they had to play in the South--The Soul Rebels Brass Band; trombonist Craig Klein of Bonerama and also of the Arabi Wrecking Krewe, which helps local musicians rehab their flooded homes; and Mississippi rapper David Banner, whose Heal the Hood organization has delivered aid to thousands of Katrina victims.

This was the conclusion to the "Artists and Katrina" panel at the National Truth Commission, which brought together victims of poverty from across the country to give testimony on what is really happening to millions of Americans in the richest nation on earth. The "Artists and Katrina" panel began with Tenel Curtis and Kennieth Williams describing their film Reality TV: Live From New Orleans, the first time the post-Katrina situation has been summed up by those who actually lived through it. Their film is so raw and real that they haven't been able to show it in New Orleans. The next speaker was Antoinette K-Doe, widow of New Orleans musical pillar Ernie K-Doe and owner of the legendary Mother-In-Law Lounge in New Orleans, which was destroyed by Katrina. It has been rebuilt with considerable help from the R&B star Usher and will soon re-open. "You will have a place to show your film in New Orleans," she said. "You can show it at the Mother-In-Law Lounge."

The National Truth Commission brought together Kansas farmers, Ohio leaders of the blind and deaf, Philadelphia homeless, Detroit women fighting that city's water shutoff of 40,000 families, and mothers who've had their children taken away simply because they're poor. It brought together people from housing projects and rural byways. All races and ages. Lots of languages were in the air--English, Spanish, Chinese, French, and American Sign Language. Besides the poor, there were those being pushed toward poverty in the near future--hardhat workers savaged by health care costs and formerly middle class professionals who've lost their jobs. The testimony of several dozen people was heard by a group of Truth Commissioners from around the world, including the U.S., India, Italy, Ecuador, Colombia, and Argentina (the U.S. government would not allow South Africa's Winnie Mandela into the country to join us in Cleveland). The commissioners will quickly fashion the testimony, along with their recommendations for solutions, into a document for worldwide distribution.

The energy in the tent spun people out across the park where they gathered in groups big and small. New friends and new alliances were made. The leader of a three month occupation of the office of the Tennessee governor's office traded ideas with the head of the Labor Heritage Foundation. There was a meeting of hip-hop activists, ministers, and union leaders spearheading a drive for universal health care. There was a hook-up between artists from Chicago housing projects and New Orleans housing projects with plans for a delegation to visit New Orleans soon. After an evening showing of Reality TV: Live From New Orleans, Truth Commissioner Alexis Ponce of Ecuador jumped to his feet and cried out: "If you give me a copy of that DVD, I will make sure it gets seen throughout Latin America!"

One of the most remarkable things about the National Truth Commission was its heavy emphasis on culture. As Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign director Cheri Honkala put it: "Art and culture are the most important part of our struggle. They carry us past our pain, they unite us, they spread information, and they inspire us with visions of a world without poverty." To that end, there was a constant parade of performances in between the testimonies on July 15. And July 16 was designated Arts and Culture Day. There was spoken word from Mike the Poet, Sarah Cruse, Tamika of Yale Divinity School, award-winning New York playwright Tim Dowlin, Hip-Hop Congress president Shamako Noble, Pawnee/Seminole rapper Quese IMC of Oklahoma, and dozens of others. There were the gospel stylings of Togo and Donnie, there was the World Peace Drum Ensemble, and there was Joe Uehlein, union leader and professional musician. A group of Los Angeles artists assembled on stage while photographer/poet Charles "Bomani" Watson read the following statement, signed by 47 L.A. artists:

"Most people have an image that artists in Los Angeles all live like rock stars. They party it up in their mansions and travel around town in limos. It's one glittering opening, party, or shopping spree after another.

"Those of us who actually are creating in Los Angeles and trying to survive know a very different reality. We have trouble getting health care or paying for health insurance. It's a constant struggle to pay the rent, buy food, and keep a car running. We have to spend time we should use for creative pursuits hustling gigs or grants or, even worse, working one or more dead end day jobs.

"As artists, we are the conscience of the world. Through our creations we spread joy and make people think. We should not be struggling to make ends meet in the richest nation on earth."

There was an art and photography show nestled among the trees next to the tent. There was live graffiti painting. There was a mini film festival and an open mic that went on late into the night. World-renowned hip-hop journalist Davey D was there to speak, to make connections, and to do a number of interviews for international distribution. To top things off, there was a Shakespeare festival going on in the park in the evenings.

The bottom line of the National Truth Commission is this: The combination of the poor, their allies, those being pushed toward poverty, and culture isn't just a winning combination, it's the winning combination. If we embrace it on a vast scale, everything is possible.

Rock A Mole Productions (

NOLA Stands Against Israeli War Crimes

New Orleans Organizations Stand Together Against Israeli War Crimes
by Jordan Flaherty

July 21, in downtown New Orleans more than a hundred demonstrators protested US diplomatic and financial support for the Israeli seige of Lebanon and Gaza. The demonstration linked local issues with the current horrors in the Middle East. "Gaza, New Orleans and Lebanon, People die while Bush looks on," was one of the chants.Representatives of the community appeared on almost every local TV station and also local radio, as well as in the Times-Picayune newspaper (see below for links). The demonstration clearly got the attention of local authorities. Volunteers from the ACLU of Louisiana and National Lawyers Guild reported that they had never seen so many law enforcement agents at a demonstration.During the demonstration - outside the Hale Boggs federal building in downtown New Orleans, where local congressmen and Senators have their offices - members of the community took a letter to the representative's offices.

The letter read, in part, "just as we, the people of New Orleans, deserve equality, human rights and fairness under the law, so to do the civilians of Lebanon and Gaza. As our elected representative, we ask that you commit to hold Israel to account for its killing of civilians and destruction of civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip."The protest was organized by a wide coalition of Arab and Muslim groups, standing together with local grassroots social justice organizations. Muslim and Arab organizations that sponsored the event included the New Orleans Shura Council, New Orleans Muslim American Society, Palestine American Congress of New Orleans, Tulane Muslim Student Association, and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of New Orleans.

Amr Ahmed of the Muslim American Society led the rally in chants and spoke to the assembled crowd, defending Islam against media bias and calling the crowd to action. Local antiwar groups, including Pax Christi New Orleans and New Orleans Palestine Solidarity were also sponsors. Representing Pax Christi, human rights lawyer Bill Quigley spoke out against US complicity in Israeli war crimes. Jews, Christians and Muslims stood together at the rally. Dana Kaplan, a local organizer on criminal justice issues who has been to Palestine, told the assembled crowd, "As a woman of Jewish descent, its especially important to stand here and say, no, not in New Orleans, and not in the middle east...No to racism and militarization."Grassroots organizations that co-sponsored the event included New Orleans INCITE: Women of Color Against Violence, The New Orleans Women's Health & Justice Initiative, Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, and C3/Hands Off Iberville. INCITE representatives shared their organization's statement in solidarity with the palestinian struggle. Lauren Bartlett of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights linked US racism in its domestic policy - particularly in New Orleans post-Katrina - and US policy in the Middle East.

This was perhaps the largest demonstration the Muslim community of New Orleans has had, and the first time such a wide coalition has come together to protest US suppoort for Israeli aggression. Many in the assembled cord said that this was just the beginning. From the stage, Amr Ahmed of the Muslim American Society told the crowd, "A lot of people have seen the news and felt despair. I didn't feel that. I felt that I had to act."

New Orleans and Lebanon

July 21st, in downtown New Orleans more than a hundred
demonstrators from a wide range of organizations protested US diplomatic and
financial support for the Israeli seige of Lebanon and Gaza. The
demonstration linked local issues with the current horrors in the Middle
East. "Gaza, New Orleans and Lebanon, People die while Bush looks on,"
was one of the chants.
Link to some of the radio coverage of the demonstration:

Hear Left Turn Magazine founding editor Bilal El-Amine reporting from
Southern Lebanon at:

More news from Lebanon and Palestine at:

See more information about New Orleans Palestine Solidarity, including
a new short film by Roxane Assaf about the Arab community in New
Orleans at

Check out the newest Palestinian hiphop from New Orleans at

Toxic Trailers

Are FEMA trailers ‘toxic tin cans’?

Private testing finds high levels of formaldehyde; residents report illnesses

3 arrested in New Orleans hospital deaths

Feds confirm fears of New Orleans flooding

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Saudi help to NOLA and other news

Weddings at fever pitch in New Orleans

Religious leaders quit Katrina Fund panel

It's hard to stay here, but harder to leave

Mr. T sheds gold after Katrina destruction


The Saudi ambassador tours N.O. and discovers signs of optimism
Thursday, July 13, 2006

By Gwen Filosa

Prince Turki Al-Faisal, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, toured the devastated neighborhoods of New Orleans on Wednesday, representing the oil-rich kingdom that has given more than $250 million to Hurricane Katrina efforts.

Even in plain sight of 2,000 dying trees in City Park, FEMA trailer parks lining St. Claude Avenue and the vastly abandoned Lower 9th Ward, the prince said he found optimism and hope for recovery.

"It must have driven people to the end of their wits," Turki said after taking in the ruins of the Lower 9th Ward. "But to see how much people want to come back, that gives you all the hope you can aspire to as to the nature of human beings. The things I have seen are so admirable."

The Saudi people, who began donating in December by giving $2.88 million for clothing, household goods and furniture to the St. Vincent de Paul Council, continue to keep the New Orleans region on their charitable list, the prince said.

"I bring you the friendship of the Saudi people," he said. "The kingdom is here, making contributions in kind. It is an Arab custom to take those in need and give them shelter without asking questions of anything in return. From jazz to jambalaya, New Orleans has made important contributions to the global community, and now the global community is making contributions to New Orleans."

The Saudi kingdom has for the past 10 months contributed to relief efforts such as Habitat for Humanity, Second Harvest Food Bank, Louisiana State University Health Science Center and the American Red Cross.

Turki spoke earnestly of helping a poor, battered city recover and restore its place in the world.
"We especially want to see Charity Hospital restored," he said of the once integral health center washed away by the floodwaters of Aug. 29.

The prince spoke at a luncheon at the Plimsoll Club, 30 stories above the French Quarter, before taking an extensive tour that included City Park, Bayou St. John, the Lower 9th Ward and stretches of neighborhoods in between.

In an elegant speech at the white tablecloth luncheon, Prince Turki included quotations from Robert Kennedy and Herman Melville. He also tapped Bob Dylan, saying that in New Orleans, "the past does not pass away so quickly here."

The Quran teaches that it is good to be charitable in public, but that it is preferred to do good works in secret, he said.

"We are all human; we need warmth and shelter, food and clothing," Turki said.

"Little else matters without that which allows simply to live. . . . You can't simply erase the spirit of a community," Prince Turki told the group of business and political leaders. "You have picked yourselves up to rebuild your families and your lives. "

Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, state Sen. Derrick Shepherd, The Rev. Luke Vien of Mary Queen of Vietnam Church, attorney and former mayoral candidate Virginia Boulet and Charles Baquet, a former ambassador to Djibouti now at Xavier University, were among the local dignitaries receiving the Saudi ambassador.

One glaring omission from the guest list, however, was Mayor Ray Nagin. Spokesman Terry Davis said, "The prince's schedule team made previous arrangements" to meet the mayor, but he wouldn't say why Nagin did not attend the luncheon.

City Council members Shelley Midura, Cynthia Willard-Lewis and Cynthia Hedge Morrell each spoke to welcome the prince on behalf of the city, Midura beginning her remarks with a greeting in Arabic. Willard-Lewis later rode beside the prince in one of the minivans that carried a group of local leaders through the battered remnants of the Lower 9th Ward.

In a wheat-colored hat and sunglasses, the prince absorbed the sights of devastation with the respectful awe that other leaders have shown. It was his first visit to New Orleans.

The prince stopped to greet a woman and her two grandchildren, who left their temporary trailer to catch a glimpse of visiting royalty in the 1400 block of Caffin Avenue.

Turki, the youngest son of King Faisal, who attended a New Jersey preparatory school and Georgetown University, knelt to say hello to 4-year-old Kiante and her grandmother, Stephanie Andrews.

Later, after learning what the spray-painted rescue messages on vacant, gaping houses meant, and that the floodwaters rose to 18 feet in the Lower 9th Ward, the prince marveled at meeting Andrews and her family. Amid collapsed homes and debris piles, the woman greeted him with warmth.

"She was smiling," Turki said.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Drought in the Swamp Lands?!

Of all the things I thought Louisiana would suffer from...

Drought makes La. feel more like Texas

Monday, July 10, 2006

Ynet: "Look who's been kidnapped"

Ynet: "Look who's been kidnapped"
July 5th, 2006

Hundreds of Palestinian 'suspects' have been kidnapped from theirhomes and will never stand trialby Israeli reservist Arik Diamant, Yedioth AhronothIt's the wee hours of the morning, still dark outside. A guerillaforce comes out of nowhere to kidnap a soldier. After hours of carefulmovement, the force reaches its target, and the ambush is on! Inseconds, the soldier finds himself looking down the barrel of a rifle.A smash in the face with the butt of the gun and the soldier falls tothe ground, bleeding. The kidnappers pick him up, quickly tie his handsand blindfold him, and disappear into the night.

This might be the end of the kidnapping, but the nightmare has justbegun. The soldier's mother collapses, his father prays. Hiscommanding officers promise to do everything they can to get him back, his comrades swear revenge. An entire nation is up-in-arms, writing inpain and worry. Nobody knows how the soldier is: Is he hurt? Do his captors give himeven a minimum of human decency, or are they torturing him to death bytrampling his honor? The worst sort of suffering is not knowing. Will he come home? And if so, when? And in what condition? Can anyone remainapathetic in the light of such drama?

Israeli terror

This description, you'll be surprised to know, has nothing to do withthe kidnapping of Gilad Shalit. It is the story of an arrest I carriedout as an IDF soldier, in the Nablus casbah, about 10 years ago. The"soldier" was a 17-year-old boy, and we kidnapped him because heknew "someone" who had done "something."

We brought him tied up, with a burlap sac over his head, to a Shin Betinterrogation center known as "Scream Hill" (at the time we thoughtit was funny). There, the prisoner was beaten, violently shaken andsleep deprived for weeks or months. Who knows.No one wrote about it in the paper. European diplomats were not calledto help him. After all, there was nothing out of the ordinary about thekidnapping of this Palestinian kid. Over the 40 years of occupation wehave kidnapped thousands of people, exactly like Gilad Shalit was captured: Threatened by a gun, beaten mercilessly, with no judge or jury, or witnesses, and without providing the family with any information about the captive.When the Palestinians do this, we call it "terror." When we do it,we work overtime to whitewash the atrocity.


Some people will say: The IDF doesn't "just" kidnap. These peopleare "suspects." There is no more perverse lie than this. In all theyears I served, I reached one simple conclusion: What makes a"suspect"? Who, exactly suspects him, and of what?Who has the right to sentence a 17-year-old to kidnapping, torture andpossible death? A 26-year-old Shin Bet interrogator? A 46-year-old one?Do these people have any higher education, apart from the ability tointerrogate? What are his considerations?

I all these "suspects"are so guilty, why not bring them to trial?Anyone who believes that despite the lack of transparency, the IDF andShin Bet to their best to minimize violations of human rights isnaïve, if not brainwashed. One need only read the testimonies ofsoldiers who have carried out administrative detentions to be convincedof the depth of the immorality of our actions in the territories.To this very day, there are hundreds of prisoners rotting in Shin Betprisons and dungeons, people who have never been -and never will be- tried. And Israelis are silently resolved to this phenomenon.

Israeli responsibilityThe day Gilad Shalit was kidnapped I rode in a taxi. The driver told mewe must go into Gaza, start shooting people one-by-one, until someonebreaks and returns the hostage. It isn't clear that such an operationwould bring Gilad back alive.Instead of getting dragged into terrorist responses... we shouldrelease some of the soldiers and civilians we have kidnapped. This isappropriate, right, and could bring about an air of reconciliation inthe territories. Hell, if this is what will bring Gilad home safe-and-sound, we have aresponsibility to him to do it.

Arik Diamant is an IDF reservist and the head of the Courage to Refuseorganization

From Gaza by Mona al-Farra

THE IRONY IS almost beyond belief. Since the capture of an Israeli soldier on June 25, the Gaza Strip has been subjected to a large-scale military operation, what Israel calls ``Summer Rain." Because Israel bombed the power plant, and the area needs electricity to pump water, most of Gaza now has almost no access to drinking water. In the heat of summer, rain would be a blessing far more welcome than the ongoing bombings.I am already starting to lose track of days and nights, of how many bombs have dropped. Since the main power plant was destroyed, we have had to live with no electricity.

What we do get is patchy, and barely enough to recharge our mobile phones and our laptops so that we do not lose all touch with each other and with the outside world.As a physician, I fear for our patients. Twenty-two hospitals have no electricity. They have to rely on generators, but the generators need fuel. We have enough fuel to last a few days at most, because the borders are sealed so no fuel can get in. The shortage of power threatens the lives of patients on life-support machines and children in intensive care, as well as renal dialysis patients and others. Hundreds of operations have been postponed. The pharmacies were already nearly empty because of Israeli border closures and the cutoff of international aid. What little supplies were left have gone bad in the absence of refrigeration.

Food too is spoiling without refrigeration, and food supplies are low. West Bank farmers threw away truckloads of spoiled fruit after sitting for days and then being denied Israeli permission to enter Gaza. Children grow hungry as we watch the food that could nourish them thrown into the garbage instead. More than 30,000 children suffer from malnutrition, and this number will increase as diarrhea spreads because of the limited supply of clean water and food contamination.As a mother, I fear for the children. I see the effects of the relentless sonic booms and artillery shelling on my 13-year-old daughter.

She is restless, panicked, and afraid to go out, yet frustrated because she can't see her friends. When Israeli fighter planes fly by day and night, the sound is terrifying. My daughter usually jumps into bed with me, shivering with fear. Then both of us end up crouching on the floor. My heart races, yet I try to pacify my daughter, to make her feel safe. But when the bombs sound, I flinch and scream. My daughter feels my fear and knows that we need to pacify each other. I am a doctor, a mature, middle-aged woman. But with the sonic booming, I become hysterical.This aggression will leave psychological scars on the children for years to come. Instilling fear, anger and loss in them will not bring peace and security to Israelis.Ostensibly, this bombing campaign started because of the soldier's capture.

To the outside world it might seem like an easy decision for Palestinians: Let the soldier go, and the siege will end. Yet for Gazans, even in the face of this brutal violence, another decision comes, not with ease, but with resolve. He is one soldier who was captured in a military operation. Today, several hundred Palestinian children and women are locked in Israeli prisons. They deserve their freedom no less than he does. Their families mourn their absence no less than his family does. So while Gazans endure Israel's rainstorm, most want the soldier held -- not harmed -- until the women and children are released.

Most Gazans also believe that Israel's latest assault was pre-planned, that the soldier's capture is merely a trigger. Israel dropped thousands of shells on Gaza, killing women, children and old people, long before his capture. This time, Israel attacked Gaza within hours of a national consensus accord signed by Fatah and Hamas, which could have led to negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. That would have pushed Israel to give up control of Palestinian land and resources.

Gazans believe that the goal of Israel's military campaign is the destruction of both our elected government and our infrastructure, and with it our will to secure our national rights.Though we do not now live with ease, we live with resolve. Until the world pressures Israel to recognize our rights in our land, and to pursue a peace that brings freedom and security to Israelis and Palestinians, we both will continue to pay the price.Mona El-Farra is a physician and human rights advocate in the Gaza Strip.

And Now...A Man Made Disaster

In Gaza's rocket rain
What follows are excerpts from the blog of Mona Elfarra, a Palestinian physician and women's rights activist who lives in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. You can see much more of her personal reporting online on her Website:

July 6, 2006

The power is still off. It comes on and off irregularly. The electricity company is trying hard to supply power to 1.5 million people who used to get electricity from the power plant that was completely destroyed two nights ago.Tonight another electrical generator was attacked and destroyed completely. I tried to explain to my daughter the complicated mechanisms of power distribution and how the electrical company is trying hard. But she was so frustrated to learn that we will be receiving patchy power for another three months at least.They are attacking Gaza City right now, Jabalia and Beit Lahia. The emergency room at Al Awda Hospital received seven casualties (moderately injured). They launched at least 15 missiles, and the noise of the jet fighters and Apache helicopters interrupted my already interrupted sleep. I am fully awake now. I have not gotten good sleep for four days.

Saturday, July 1

My friend Hoda lives next to the Ministry of Interior building in Gaza, which was hit last night with two rockets. The attack occurred at 2 a.m. yesterday. (Please forgive me about the accuracy” I am starting to lose track of days and nights, and how many times we were attacked).Hoda told me that her whole building was shaking. She went out in her pajamas, and all the residents were out in their nightwear; children's faces were too pale, some of them were crying hysterically. The fumes filled the place. I live 150 meters [about 164 yards] from Hoda's place. Nobody is safe, no one is immune.

The power is still off. We had it for three hours yesterday, enough to recharge my laptop and mobile phone and to do some cooking. I am highly concerned about the hospitals; the fuel supply to run the local generators is running down. The medication and medical supplies are running down too. Water is scarce too. We need to ration our water use. We are going through a big humanitarian disaster.Sonic booming happens when the jet fighters go quickly through the sound barrier. We experience this sort of terrifying raid at least seven times during the day and night. How can I let you know my personal feelings during these raids?

If I am sleeping, my bed shakes tremendously; my daughter jumps into my bed, shivering with fear and then both of us end up on the floor. My heart beats very fast. I have to pacify my daughter; now she knows we need to pacify each other. She feels my fear. If I am awake, I flinch and scream loudly; I cannot help myself. OK, I am a doctor and a mature middle-aged woman with a lot of experience, and an activist too, but with this booming I become hysterical” after all we are all humans and each have our own threshold.

Monday, July 3

We in Gaza face great pressure. For those who need to be reminded, since the start of this intifada (in September 2000), Gaza's economy has been severely affected by the continuous Israeli atrocities: roadblocks, border closures, destruction of agricultural areas and home demolitions. The current rate of unemployment more than 50%. The vast majority of Palestinian families are living on humanitarian aid, and an increasing number of families live under the poverty line. Gaza is just 360 square kilometers [about 139 square miles] with nearly 1.5 million residents, so we have a very high population density.After four months of economic sanctions, we in the health field face a collapsing health system. We do not have medications in our stores and have had to prioritize surgical operations due to lack of medical supplies. The last thing we needed is the power cut off.

Wednesday, July 5

1:45 a.m.

Big explosion, very big and so loud; I'm fully awake, and so is Sondos. We hardly can see anything. It is very dark. The drone hit the Ministry of Interior building again with a missile. That completely destroyed the building, according to the news from the radio.I contacted Hoda, who lives next to the building, and found her hysterically screaming and shouting in pain, trapped under her broken windows, all the windows of her flat broken, the fumes filling the place. She is waiting for the emergency team to evacuate her.I can hear the hysterical sounds of her neighbors over the phone. I feel helpless and don't know what to do. Five of her neighbors were injured, some of them the terrified kids I mentioned in one of my previous blogs.

When I visited Hoda four hours ago, we both were tense. A third friend asked us to talk about anything but not politics or what is going on in the Palestinian scene. We tried to but couldn't. I left her, walked home.I have no analysis. Maybe you can try to help me to know why they would hit an empty building twice. I see it as desperation, eagerness to revenge themselves.It is not because of the soldier. They dropped thousands of shells on Gaza, killing women, children and old people, even before he was captured. Fatah and Hamas signed a national agreement. There could have been negotiations.But Israel would have to give up control of our land, our resources. They want to destroy our government. They want to destroy our will to get our rights, to live a normal life in our land.3 a.m. It is dark. Sondos is asleep. I cannot go to bed. I have no batteries for my transistor. I do not know where Hoda is. My mobile needs to be recharged. I have no power; I am restless, anxious and helpless. My laptop is gasping too.

For Palestinian arts and culture:

For more information on Palestine and Palestine solidarity

News sites for first-hand updates from Palestine:

Overall news:

Linky Loo

Other Resources for information and action:

Reconstruction Watch

New Orleans Network

Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children

A Fighting Chance

People's Organizing Committee

Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund

Justice for New Orleans

Common Ground

Color Of Change

Black Commentator


Evacuees encounter obstacles in job hunt

The People United: Worker’s Rights Organizing in New Orleans

By Jordan Flaherty
July 6, 2006

According to a powerful new report released today by the Advancement Project, the National Immigration Law Center and The New Orleans Workers Justice Coalition, Black and Latino workers in Post-Katrina New Orleans have faced a shocking catalog of abuses, including wage theft, widespread and massive health and safety violations, racism and discrimination, law enforcement violence, and more.

Through first hand accounts, the report paints a detailed and dramatic picture of declining worker’s rights in the city. Despite a huge need for labor to restore the city, and billions of dollars spent on rebuilding, Black and Latino workers have been pitted against each other in a race to the bottom, while well-placed businesses and contractors have gorged on huge profits. With housing still unavailable for many, profiteering and displacement has been the rule.

Pre-Katrina, Latinos made up 3% of New Orleans population (although a larger percentage in New Orleans’ suburbs). Most were long-term residents, and there was very little in the way of social services and infrastructure specifically for the recent immigrant community. When thousands of immigrant workers arrived for work in the city’s reconstruction, they faced hostility and exploitation, with few allies and very little infrastructure of support. Simultaneously, African-American workers from New Orleans have faced personal loss and displacement, combined with a legacy of workplace exploitation that goes back to New Orleans' status as a center of the southern slave trade.

The demonizing of immigrant workers, while blatant violations of worker’s rights were ignored, set the stage for the abuse that followed. In October, Mayor Nagin asked a gathering of businessmen, “how do I ensure that New Orleans is not overrun by Mexican workers?” Later, in a mayoral debate, he added, “Illegal is illegal, so I'm not supportive of illegal aliens or illegal immigrants working in the City of New Orleans.” For the most part, the New Orleans media has followed this same framework.

Progressive organizers in the Black community have also expressed reservations about the new arrivals. “I’m not disputing the desirability of all oppressed peoples uniting against a common oppressor,” Mtangulizi Sanyinka, project manager of New Orleans’ African American Leadership Project tells me. “But right now this idea of Black-Brown unity is more of an idea than a reality.

“You have to put this into perspective,” continues Sanyinka. “Latinos are working in horrible conditions that ought to be illegal, and being exploited. At the same time, many black people resent Latinos for coming in and working under those conditions. Its like when you have a strike, and a group is brought in as strikebreakers.”“Who is to blame?” Sanyinka asks, “Who is always to blame; those that control the money and power. When you see Blacks and Latinos on the street, they don’t act antagonistic. It’s not a personal antagonism. But there is an institutional antagonism.”

Its not just poor Black and Latino workers that have been exploited in New Orleans – the Black middle class has also been devastated. The United Teachers of New Orleans – UTNO, the teachers union – was the largest union in the city, and a majority of those represented were Black workers. The School Board voted in the fall to lay off all but 61 of the 7,000 employees, and last week let the teacher’s union contract expire with little comment and no fanfare. “Elites of the city may prefer the teachers don’t come back,” Jacques Morial, community advocate and brother of former mayor Marc Morial, said at a recent forum. “Because they represent an educated class of Black New Orleans, with steady income, seniority and job protection.”Rosana Cruz, Gulf Coast field coordinator for the National Immigration Law Center, is sympathetic to the apprehension from the Black community. “There are anxieties that are incredibly valid about a cultural genocide of this city,” she tells me. “This is a city that was built on racism. The organizing we’re doing is a counter to the racism dividing immigrants and African-Americans against each other.”

“It’s a conversation that’s so juicy,” Cruz adds, discussing the media complicity in framing the debate as Black versus Latino. “Whenever white folks get to not be the bad folks, when communities of color are pitted against each other, it spreads like wildfire. When the boss starts making people compete, its no accident. It’s not immigrant workers who started this discourse of, ‘we like to work harder than anyone else,’ it’s the business community. Its not immigrant workers that left people on rooftops or didn’t have an evacuation plan, or left the school system to decline. It’s the elites of this city. Immigrants and people of color have been used throughout history to break unions. As long as people keep talking about Black-Brown tension, no one’s talking about the real power brokers in this city.”“We have to redirect the conversation to white accountability,” Cruz adds. “What it means to be an antiracist white ally is central to this discussion. There needs to be a focus on the real stakeholders here, the real players. We’re talking about fundamental issues to our society. What are the sources of power, who is benefiting, and how can they be held accountable. It’s not just about immigrant workers. Both immigrants and African-Americans are dealing with a lot of the same issues, whether is right of return or housing or voting or law enforcement violence, all these issues have connections. Trying to bridge this artificial divide is key.”

On May First in New Orleans, thousands of Latino workers demonstrated for immigrants’ rights, filling several blocks of Canal Street in the heart of New Orleans’ business, hotel and tourist districts. While small compared to the hundreds of thousands who marched in cities such as Dallas and Los Angeles, the March was still one of largest the city has seen in decades. “Being part of the Latino community in New Orleans, we’ve always had issues of visibility around immigrants,” said Cruz. “Now for five thousand people to come out and do something so public and visible…it’s amazing and beautiful.”Despite the media, politicians and contractors pitting workers against each other, the Mayday march demonstrated that these alliances are both possible and important. As the march flowed through the city, residents I spoke with expressed their support. Jerome Smith, a Black community organizer from New Orleans’ Treme neighborhood, came to express his support for the immigrants’ rights struggle. “I heard from Houston evacuees they were excited by your walking out (of schools and jobs during the national day of action) and wanted to join but didn’t know to get involved,” he told the crowd. “I want you to know that your struggle is in the heart of my people.”

“Cheap labor from Blacks has been integral to this city’s history and still is,” Smith told me later. “Its woven into the fabric of this city. And now, corporations are benefiting from exploiting Latinos just like the old money of this city benefited from slavery.”Out of town visitors to our city are still shocked by the miles of darkened streets, the piles of trash and the shuttered storefronts. Just over a third of the city’s 3,400 pre-Katrina restaurants have reopened, and a much smaller percentage of other businesses are back.

With most businesses that have reopened concentrated in white areas such as the French Quarter, the Loyola/Tulane area, and the Garden District, historically underserved neighborhoods are even more devastated. For a rebuilding with justice, a wide and united movement is needed, now more than ever.Walking along with the mayday March, I met Taz, a young African American from New Orleans who had heard about the march through friends. “This is what this city needs,” he told me, excited at the huge exuberant mass.

Wanting to join in, Taz asked what the marchers were chanting. When told they were chanting, “the people united won’t be defeated,” in Spanish, Taz nodded and smiled. “Yeah, that’s right, we wont be defeated.”