Still picking up the pieces
The devastating floods of the hurricane that claimed more than 1 800 lives have left scars on a people who have a long history of suffering, writes
This anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is a crossroads, a time to decide what to run towards and what to cast aside for a lighter burden. Ten years ago, I was a “refugee” from an American city. The consequence of that label has been a chaos of circumstances and quick decisions. The first 10 years were all a scramble to reconstruct oneself. The truth is, I am one of the lucky ones. One of the luckiest. I am home. I am sane. I am alive to speak for myself. I mourn for those lost and struggle with the gratitude and guilt of being spared.
Survival is an animal instinct that moves us all towards good and bad, and I am doing my best with its weight.
In these 10 years, I’ve learnt to use this realisation to heat and cool my anxiety, to forgive myself and propel my body into motion. There is so much about the past 10 years that I would rather forget, experiences I would remake. But it is not possible to go backwards. There is only what is, and right now the stakes are high. New Orleans changes for good, a little bit at a time, every day. Houses in my neighbourhood flip at sometimes three times their pre-Katrina “worth”.
For white families in the new New Orleans, the median income has grown at triple the rate of black families’ income. It’s no wonder many are insistent that New Orleans is back and better than ever. There are roughly 100 000 fewer black people in the metro area. Old people out; new people in.
It is critical not to cede the story at its crossroads. A syncretic heritage
Raised black in New Orleans and having made it to this side of these 10 years, I remember that with living comes the sacred responsibility of recalling. New Orleans has always been a place of many peoples.
The indigenous Chata (Choctaw) people named the city Bulbancha, meaning Many Languages Spoken