Ten years after Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans creating one of the worst natural catastrophes in American history, much of the hard-hit city on the banks of the Mississippi River has been rebuilt.
But one nagging question remains: What is the future of the Ninth Ward, the predominantly Black community that remains forsaken to this day?
Regrettably, the overall rebirth of the Ninth Ward has not materialized and today the area remains mostly desolate. There are empty lots on almost every street, just like in 2005, and only 37 percent of the households have returned to a community that once boasted 14,000.
It’s unconscionable today there are still no supermarkets or grocery stores in the Ninth Ward. Some folks, correctly, have likened the community to a Third World country — mobile trucks bring in fresh produce once a week and cracked streets on many blocks can break a car axle.
On Friday, the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, city officials, residents, human rights activists, musicians and artists will gather all across New Orleans to celebrate the city’s reconstruction and renaissance but they will also remember the pain, loss of life, and destruction caused by nature’s fury.
President Barack Obama will also take part in 10th anniversary commemoration. Obama will travel to New Orleans on Thursday to meet with the Mayor Mitchell Landrieu and residents – including young people — in several neighborhoods who have rebuilt their lives over the past 10 years. The President will be joined by Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate, who has helped spearhead and coordinate many of the administration’s efforts during the past six and a half years.
Black residents will probably never forget the slow response to Katrina by the federal government, which prompted many civil rights activists to blame then President George W. Bush for abandoning the city’s poorest residents, most of whom were Black.
When I walked through the glass-strewn streets of the Ninth Ward four weeks after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the city, I saw the devastation. I saw the houses marked with bright red paint to identify police searches for bodies. I watched exasperated Black folks sift through rubble in a desperate attempt to salvage family keepsakes. And I spoke with one young man who choked back tears while standing on a pile of bricks where his home once stood.
Here’s what I wrote in 2005:
“Today, again, an unprecedented number of Black families are separated — only this time, the story is set in America 2005. Black Americans are witnessing history repeating itself, not because of slavery, but because of something equally insidious: benign neglect, a stalled response to a national catastrophe as a result of Hurricane Katrina and the national, decades-long failure to provide adequate resources for America’s Black and disadvantaged residents.”