Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Commission to remind USA: We Are Not OK

A coalition of church and social groups is banding together to form a Katrina National Justice Commission to remind the rest of the nation that after nine months, , the Times-Picayune reports today. The comission is sponsored by the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, an African-American church group.

The commission will convence in Washington, D.C. this week to take testimony this week from representatives of FEMA, the Red Cross, U.S. Army, and from others involved in hurricane relief and will solicit the testimomey of average Katrina survivors.

"The people's experiences, the nation's compassionate responses, the failures and successes of those engaged in rescue and recovery, and the opportunities for restoration and healing must be documented and widely shared," the commissioners said in a statement of their goals.
"Of course there was a lot of attention when it happened, but then it kind of waned, and we all know that it's not good yet in New Orleans," said the Rev. Susan Smith of Columbus, Ohio, a board member for the commission's sponsor, the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference. "People are still suffering, people still don't know where their relatives are, and the devastation, it's still there. Neighborhoods haven't beencleaned up; people are still being found dead. We don't want Katrina forgotten as we move on to new issues and new concerns."
Survivors of the hurricane (and the flood caused by the failure of the federal levees) who want to share their experiences should write to the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference Inc., 4533 S. Lake Park Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60653, or send an e-mail to the organization at

Sadly, I think this group will be marginalized by being sponsored by an exclusively African-American organization. This should be a Congressionally-chartered effort of the sort conducted after 9-11, but conservatives in the Congress block that to prevent any ill reflection on their Dear Leader. I think the group made a terrible mistake by having Dollar Bill Jefferson (and Sen. Hillary Clinton) among its first witnesses. I can almost hear the (very) little wheels in Rush Limbaugh's brain turning.

In a similar vein, Mississippi Democrat Benny Thompson told another progressive group "New Orleans has seen no improvement since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina nine months ago".

I am troubled that this message seems only to play well on one side of the political spectrum. It doesn't help that people like Limbaugh and Hannity use our suffering to make political hay, poisoning the discussion with a good one-third of Americans who confuse these shock-jocks with journalists. This message needs to get out to everyone, unfiltered by political pursuasion or identity politics.

While we should turn away aid from no one, we need to try to reach out to the people who put the idiots running Idaho in office, so that they understand that they could be next.

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"And when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive." -- Audie Lorde

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