Colette Pichon Battle speaks at the massive anti-war protest in D.C. Battle is from Slidell, Louisiana and makes the connection between the response to Hurricane Katrina and the reconstruction process, and the war in Iraq. [includes rush transcript]
Colette Pichon Battle speaks out against the unfair policies of the rebuilding process in Louisiana that work against natives of the communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina. She calls for more aid and support in rebuilding Louisiana.
- Colette Pichon Battle, the Louisiana Network.
AMY GOODMAN: Throughout the day Saturday, speakers made the connection between the response to Hurricane Katrina and the war in Iraq. Colette Pichon Battle of Louisiana Network was one of them.
COLETTE PICHON BATTLE: My name is Colette Pichon Battle, and I am here representing Slidell, Louisiana and the Louisiana Network based here in D.C. I was asked to speak with you about the effect of Katrina on the residents of the Gulf Coast. I’m certain that I’m supposed to mention that my family has lost everything. I’m sure that I’m supposed to mention that my neighborhood, one of the last true Creole enclaves of the state of Louisiana, has been scattered to the winds of Katrina. Speaking of devastation, maybe what you would expect to hear from a Louisiana native today, but that’s not my message.
My message to you, in the midst of all of this loss and in the shadow of fault and blame is that I’m angry. I’m angry that it took a storm of this magnitude to open the eyes of all those who would laugh and academically rebut the assertion of continued racial inequality. There are those who would suggest that people like being poor, that people wanted to stay in the path of the hurricane. We can look to the media and the hue of those who are accused of looting versus those who were accused of commandeering to see there are tangible injustices in this society today.
There was no mention of those people using guns to signal to helicopters that they needed rescue. There was no mention that people stealing mattresses were doing so for the matriarchs of their family who were lying on Interstate 10 for four days with no food or water.
I’m angry at the suggestion that citizens of the Gulf Coast would be wise never to return to the only home they have known or that the city of New Orleans, with its rich culture, unique way of life, should not be rebuilt for the very people who made it so great in the first place. For every politician who asserts this, I point to San Francisco. I point to Wall Street. I point to the Pentagon. All targets of some type of disaster, but all worth rebuilding time and time again.
Where are the cries? Where are the cries to never give up when the city of New Orleans is involved? The hospitality, the architecture, the culture and the uniqueness. We are the prized jewels of this country, and we know it. Everyone loves the South. Everyone needs to help rebuild the South. I’m angry that contractors are not being required to hire those displaced by the storm to help rebuild the very cities that they have been evacuated from.
The government on all levels cannot afford to miss that this type of involvement will instill the very pride and ownership that was taken from people of color long ago on those auction blocks in the French Quarter.
I’m angry that the people of this country still choose not to acknowledge that social injustice happens on a daily basis in daily actions of everyone who lives here. But most of all, I’m angry that my family, my friends, my neighbors, after three weeks and two hurricanes, still have to wonder, when is this country going to look at us at human beings.
The people of the Gulf Coast should no longer be referred to as those people. We are your people. We are citizens of this country. We need your support, and we need your help, and we deserve that. On behalf of those who have lost everything, the Pichon family in Slidell, Louisiana, would like to say to you and to the President of the United States, we need action today. I’m hopeful that today we will choose action instead of indifference. I implore you to care enough about inequality in this country, rather than turn your head away from the injustices not just in the Gulf Coast, but in Appalachia, in D.C. and southeast.
Mr. President, I respectfully request that this is time to reprioritize. Do not allow the rebuilding of lives and communities in the Gulf Coast to be another profit for your friends at Halliburton and any of the other contractors. Do not forget, Mr. President, that your role, is to serve at the pleasure of the citizens of this country. Katrina was a test of the emergency system in this country. We have failed. We have work to do. Mr. President, rebuild the Gulf Coast. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Colette Pichon Battle of Louisiana Network, speaking at the major anti-war rally in Washington, D.C.