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Activists Challenge Concept Of 'Resilience,' Advocate For Change

Tegan Wendland
The Gulf South Rising Katrina 10 Week of Action is taking place at Louis Armstrong Park this week.

Activists from across the country have converged in New Orleans for a week of activism and organizing.

Hundreds of people from about 30 activist groups are gathering at Congo Square in Louis Armstrong Park this week to draw attention to their belief that the city has not bounced back from the social and structural damage that resulted from Hurricane Katrina.

The event, called The Gulf South Rising Katrina 10 Week of Action, includes workshops and performances held locally and in Coden, Alabama and Biloxi. The events will focus on issues related to environmental racism, disenfranchisement, displacement, police violence and the justice system.

Imani Jaqueline Brown is a youth organizer from New Orleans. She says she wants to challenge the idea of "resilience."

Brown says, “What it really implies is that a group of people — we’re talking about low-income people of color — can repeatedly take the punches of colonialism, desegregation, slavery, Jim Crow, displacement, urban renewal, displacement again... these punches keep rolling and ‘gosh, look how ‘resilient’ we are!’” She added, “We keep getting back up and brushing ourselves off and we dance in the streets and can experience joy despite all of this. It’s a little bit of a patronizing narrative.”

Organizers want to challenge the positive message put forth by state and local governments that the region has recovered after the storm, and shine light on what they perceive to be a history of racism and inequity.

Ruben Solis Garcia, president of the University Sin Fronteras, travelled from San Antonio with a group of fellow activists for the week of organizing. He says the goal is to work together to create a new society.

“The kind of environmental violence that happened during Hurricane Katrina not only exposed the racism, but exposed what was happening in the Gulf South — which is considered kind of the back-swamp area, invisible people, they think we’re poor and ignorant so therefore we don’t count,” says Garcia. “We had to come up with a new narrative about how the seas are rising. But so are we.”

Organizers hope to come away with policy recommendations and plans for direct actions at the end of the week.

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