As the commemoration of the 10th year of the Katrina human rights violation took place, people gathered this past weekend for an important forum at Brooklyn’s Sistas’ Place titled “Katrina Was America’s Message to Black People: What Is Black People’s Message to America: The Plebiscite.”

We sought to make an analysis of where we are as a people today and to put Katrina in its proper historical context. We measured the travesty of government inaction that took place on every level in New Orleans 10 years ago in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and choose to frankly face the centuries-long trail of blood, laborious sweat and unending tears violently wrenched from kidnapped Africans and their children in these United States of America.

Resistance at every turn has strengthened us in our continued struggle for freedom and self-determination. The transatlantic slave trade and centuries of forced systemic political and economic exploitation, the Black codes, Jim Crow segregation and the persistent human rights abuses Black people face today have forced us to clarify the meaning of fundamental change and dares us to objectively define our political, social and economic reality and chart a course toward our own development or perish.

Which way forward? Our next step demands a frank national discussion. A plebiscite (referendum) can put on the agenda a national discussion in the context of the central question of our real citizenship status and political and economic self-determination. Those of us here in the United States have never made a choice for ourselves as to how or by whom we should be governed. The U.S. government has defined us as slaves, three-fifths human, second-class citizens, underclass, underprivileged, criminals, etc.

At any point in time, any or all our “rights” are subject to arbitrary denial by any racist or ignorant bigot toeing the U.S. policy of white supremacy. Every social indicator puts us at the bottom, including economic development, education, health, employment, housing, criminal and civil justice, infant mortality and overall death rates.

We have a choice. Demand a plebiscite in 2016.