Update from NOLA
San Jose State students spent the day in the Lower 9th Ward cutting "Katrina grass," which means that the "grass" were weeds that were 10 feet tall! The students clipped, chopped, whacked, smacked, and cut their way through six lots. By the end of the day, they felt like they had really accomplished a lot.
In addition to the community work, the students met with Steven Bradberry, lead organizer for LA ACORN, and Tanya Harris, lead organizer for New Orleans ACORN. Steven provided a great analysis between the two dominant paradigms in America: Milton Friedman's laissez fairre economic model and Keynesian's belief in government involvement in social uplift. To understand how the power elite has used disasters and crisis to promote Friedman's model, he recommended that we read Naiomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism." He also inspired us by reminding us that the power is in the people, and that the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project has the possibility to roll back the gains made by Friedman's economic model during the past 40 years.
Tanya discussed the how Brad Pitt's vision and action has led to the Make it Right project that will rebuild 150 ecologically sustainable homes on the Jordan side of the Lower 9. Earlier in the day, we toured this area where these future homes will be built. Right now, they are outlined in pick tarps that provides the community with a dynamic symbol that the Lower 9th will be rebuilt.
Reflecting on the experience so far, Chris Hauck stated, "The first two days have been life altering experience. It is just hard to believe that what I am seeing is actually happening in our country. The lack of progress in the rebuilding is pretty stunning. I mean you can't easily find a store in the 9th Ward to buy some water."
Kristin Rasmussen was shocked to see the homeless tents. She stated that "it didn't register that they were homeless. I thought they were campers. You just aren't use to seeing so many tents that concentrated for 1/2 mile." Kristin wondered why the government couldn't do more to rebuild the Lower 9. "I mean we are just students and we cut through 6 lots. Why can't the government, who has a lot more resources, do more for the people of the Lower 9."
Roberto Garcia-Ceballos began the experience feeling shocked by what he was seeing. But after meeting with Steven and Tanya, he felt empowered. Roberto said that "Steven and Tanya reminded us that the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project is the beginning of reforming our nation's economy and political power."