An advisory from the White House Tuesday indicated that President Barack Obama will be in New Orleans Thursday for the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina that devastated the region. It noted that the president will meet with “residents who have rebuilt their lives over the last 10 years.” That’s well and good, but how about meeting with those who have not received aid and are unable to rebuild?

Obviously, this was just a general notice of the president’s itinerary and he surely will meet with folks still struggling to get their lives back together—whether he wants to or not—after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the area Aug. 29, 2005, leaving in its destructive wake more than 1,800 fatalities and billions of dollars in property damage.

If Obama takes into consideration the opinions of hundreds of New Orleans residents, he should not be surprised that the perceptions of Blacks and whites differ widely about developments and the quality of life in the communities after the storm.

A recent survey conducted by Louisiana State University reveals some of the disparity, noting that one-third of the African-American participants in the poll believed that things have gotten worse. On the other hand, the 41 percent of the whites surveyed said their quality of life has improved. The LSU survey confirmed several of the findings in earlier surveys conducted by NPR and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

There were more than 2,100 respondents from New Orleans and elsewhere in south Louisiana, the survey stated. Most of the information was obtained via phone calls, and the margin of sampling error within the city was plus or minus five percentage points.

Of course, many of the responses depended on where the residents were located, and that’s a wide range across the Gulf Coast, including the Plaquemines, where a village of campers replaced the destroyed homes.

The differing views, the survey duly notes, demonstrate to some degree the city’s changing demographics, although the city and the region were in flux before the hurricane.

Black residents, and Black women in particular, the poll disclosed, said it was harder for them to resume the lives they led before the storm. At least one fact, other than race and gender, may account for this challenge: The women were more likely to have lived in the hardest hit part of the flooded city. One area of heavy Black concentration was the Lower Ninth Ward, and residents have cited the slowness of rebuilding.

Underscoring the LSU report is one conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Moreover, the IWPR report offers a number of recommendations and the implementation of a more holistic approach to disaster relief:

• Improving communication among different service providers.

• De-prioritizing the construction of mixed-income housing, which seeks to integrate neighborhoods but generally results in an increase in market-rate housing at the expense of affordable housing.

• Expanding tenant vouchers and using them to address not only housing but also education, health care, job training and transportation.

• Diversifying policy to focus on the needs of women and their families in a variety of circumstances.

• Guaranteeing the right to return for all residents.

• Including the voices of low-income women and their families in policy planning and development.

“As we look back on Katrina at the 10-year anniversary, we hope this report, and the voices of the women interviewed, will encourage policymakers to consider the lived experiences of women and their families to ensure that future disasters do not perpetuate the marginalization of the most disadvantaged members of our communities,” said IWPR President Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D.

It’s hard to believe that Obama hasn’t been thoroughly briefed on the disparities and where to place the emphasis on recovery, and we won’t be surprised if he’s met with a large number of folks expressing their disappointment.

The December 12th Movement will be hosting a forum Friday, Aug. 28 on the topic “From Katrina to Ferguson—What Is America’s Message to Black People?” Doors open at 6 p.m. at Sistas’ Place, 456 Nostrand Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y.

December 12th Movement media official Amadi Ajamu said, “Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina roared through the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas. The massive Mississippi River breached the levees surrounding the city of New Orleans area, flooding the bowl-shaped metropolis. The predominantly Black city was devastated. Over 1,800 people perished and tens of thousands lost their homes.The United States government, referring to them as ‘refugees’ instead of ‘Americans,’ did nothing to alleviate the dying and suffering population for months. Today, the unrelenting police assault and murder of Black people have fueled a nationwide demand for justice which has fallen on deaf ears.

“What is America’s message to Black people? What is our answer? The plebiscite.”

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