Six years after Hurricane Katrina hit the coast of Louisiana, communities are still working to rebuilding from the devastation. One group that has been mostly overlooked — yet struggling to adjust to their new ways of life — is seniors.
I had to laugh. I was on Harold Clark's FM98 Sunday Journal and a very indignant caller called for bringing Bobby Jindal (Louisiana's sitting Governor) down to be confronted by the black community. I actually had to laugh. We are still walking and talking like we have the political clout we had when we put all those black folk in office. The lady actually believed that "we" had the power to call Bobby out on the carpet. That is both hilarious and tragic.
Bobby Jindal got into office without our votes, didn't even try to get any, knows he doesn't need them, and knows that makes him more even more popular with the voters who did put him in office. He blatantly thumbs his nose at all and any of our concerns. There was a time when even Republican governors in Louisiana knew they couldn't afford to ignore or enrage the black community. That was when poor and struggling black people actually believed that the people they voted to elect would confront the powers that be and change the game to their benefit.
In hindsight that was naive. Seems that people who won elections with grassroots community support chose to become functionaries of those who now offered financial support to the re-election campaigns of our elected officials who could now fund raise in the business community, because that business community needed the power we gave them. Once too often for me, I was involved in political scenarios where folk got into office by being in the community, and then got reelected by being able to buy radio, billboards, TV, newspaper and yard signs with the money the business community supplied, effectively allowing their new friends and allies to "buy" our support with expensive and fancy political campaigns.
Now in a city which is sucked dry by a hotel industry that has the second highest hotel rates in America, but pays the lowest wages (except for two or three), having politicians in bed with business meant that not one black elected city official supported a living wage and the only way it even came to the people for a vote was because of signatures gathered by grassroots groups.
It was incredulous. They hid. People who were elected with the votes of those who suffered most from low wages and ridiculous working conditions at the hotels did nothing to further or support the idea that hotels which made their money based on the culture created by the same folks' music, food and culture should pay for that opportunity with decent wages. It was like the same power structure, but in black face. Yes, battles were fought for "Black Economic Development" that benefitted blacks who were positioned, had access to capital and access to the folk we elected, because they "were at the table"... they also came up with money to make re-election easier.
It's interesting because poor and struggling blacks were supportive of black businesses getting "their fair share", they applauded this economic front. Well the grassroots still believed in and trusted what they saw as the political leadership of the entire black community. Not so anymore.
Between the media hype about "corruption", convicted political leaders, and nouveau black leaders who publicly disdain low income housing, people who lived in public housing and who stood by as housing protesters were treated like criminals at city hall. Poor and struggling blacks have gotten the perception, "Electing black folk didn't/doesn't do us any good."
So now we are still thinking and behaving like we can make somebody do something, ranting and raving about real and perceived slights and abuses, without the political clout to force anything... because poor and struggling blacks perception is that all voting does is get me jury duty, which I really can't afford because my job at the hotel don't play that and don't pay for that or pay enough for me to miss a day.
Were it not for the personal economic clout of Romel Madison, the Danziger murders (A deadly police shooting occurred on the Danziger Bridge in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. ) would not have been pursued. There were no voices of outrage from black elected officials, just a man and his resources who used the Justice Department to do what local elected officials chose not to identify with.
I'm a pretty good writer and fairly persuasive most of the time, but I cannot come up with a script that has poor and struggling blacks feeling the need to vote... except perhaps to re-elect President Obama... who's Justice Department went after killer cops and who instill a sense of pride.
So now with a large segment of the community disinterested in voting, how do we "demand" anything. And with almost all mass media in the hands of conservative Republicans, our protests are no longer carried, and the people who come are already in the "choir". We can be and are being ignored, so we pout and become indignant while the other side is planning their work and working their plan. We're shooting blanks at cruise missiles.
So my question is, "How do we/ Can we reengage poor and struggling black people in local politics?" And failing that is it now, "Every man for himself" or "Let's Make A Deal"?
To make life better for me and my neighborhood, I'm going to work with the children (the future) of my community, and try to keep my corner tight until they grow up with the attitude I teach. I don't know if anybody can fix our grown folk... but I stay ready and willing to consider anybody's plan or work with someone to develop one, but I ain't shootin no blanks.
Lloyd Dennis is an author and producer of CresentCityLive.com which dedicates its writings to love, marriage and family living, mentoring, and live entertainment in New Orleans. They call him "Love Doctor" for what he writes and teaches about managing personal, business and workplace relationships.
Stock image from New Orleans Agenda..
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