This underserved group’s national leadership team includes Dick Gregory, civil rights activist, comedian and actor; Dr. E. Faye Williams, chair of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc.; Art Rocker, facilitator in organizing 10,000 plus claimants in the Gulf Coast Region; along with Rev. Al Sharpton, president and founder of the National Action Network; Dr. Bernard LaFayette Jr., civil rights activist; Rev. Harry Blake, former general secretary of the National Baptist Convention of the U.S.; and Jerry Thomas of JTPR.
“I am with you and the claimants for their action in the Gulf Coast Region,” said Rev. Al Sharpton while interviewing Art Rocker on his radio show marking the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill one year anniversary. “Please keep me posted and I will do whatever I can.”
“This proposal amounts to over $488 million and needs to be paid to make this group whole,” says Art Rocker. “As stated in the letter attached, it has been determined that more than 90 percent of our claimants are single parents with an average of two children. Their earnings are below the poverty line. They live in geographic locations and are engaged in occupations that were impacted the greatest by the economic fallout that followed the oil spill.”
U.S. Sen. Shelby of Alabama is on record supporting the effort: “BP must pay the claims for the underserved and underrepresented.” And so is Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who stated, “Discrimination should not exist with these claimants.”
During an interview with Ken Feinberg by Piers Morgan of CNN reflecting on the one year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, its impact and fund, Morgan asked Feinberg, “Why have the underserved and underrepresented not received payments for their claims?”
“This was a long commitment of hundreds of ministers and churches in the Gulf Coast Region. We have had 15 or more meetings with BP’s Ken Feinberg. This group collected claims and turned these claims in to Ken Feinberg’s BP office in Washington, D.C.,” said Art Rocker.
Recently, at the June 2, 2011, congressional hearing on “Making the Gulf Coast Whole Again: Assessing the Recovery Efforts of BP and the Obama Administration after the Oil Spill,” Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland’s ranking minority member; Rep. W.M. Lacy Clay, Missouri; Rep. Mike Quigley, Illinois; and Rep. Danny K. Davis, Illinois, all made comments relevant to the underserved and underrepresented group and commended Dick Gregory and the national leadership group for their efforts.
“We will sit for the next 10-15 days to see what is being paid and how soon BP will serve the poor and underserved,” said Dick Gregory. He pledged to come to the Gulf Coast to let the underserved and underrepresented know that more dollars are coming through for their claims once payments have begun. He vowed that he would bring more activists to the region on behalf of the group’s claims.
Dr. E. Faye Williams stated: “I do not believe that BP would pay the proposed $488 million-plus, but whatever is decided, the underserved claimants who are receiving the payments will make the decision to accept the payments. The claimants and their legal representation will make that decision, not this leadership group.” Williams also stated that she would continue to be the advocate in Washington, D.C., for underserved and underrepresented claimants until the claims are resolved.
Rev. Turner, a local minister of Calvary Baptist Church in Kenner, La. said: “BP has not paid one worker to serve the needs of the poor by gathering their claims, one building cost to collect these claims or one utility payment. All the work that these ministers and churches have performed is based on BP’s Ken Feinberg’s request.”
“The Freedom Riders were stopped in Jackson, Miss., and never arrived in New Orleans, La.,” recalled Dr. LaFayette. “This group that Art Rocker has facilitated has arrived in New Orleans with the Freedom Movement for the poor and underserved and we will organize in the U.K. with the Freedom Riders Movement, if necessary.”
“I believe that BP, which is Ken Feinberg, will pay the claims very soon,” said Dr. Art Rocker hopefully. “This has been a long ordeal. The claimants and many others in the Gulf Coast Region have still not been paid by BP, for whatever reason. It has definitely come to light that we once had millionaires in the Gulf Coast Region and now we have ‘spillionaries’ that have made money in the Gulf due to a buddy system incorporated by BP according to a recent article. We will sit by prayerfully for the next two to three weeks and I am sure that Ken Feinberg will move expeditiously to settle the claims. I do have that confidence.”
Dr. E. Faye Williams added that Feinberg committed to begin paying claims by mid-June.
For more information and to get involved, contact community activist Art Rocker, who chairs the Florida State Unit of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and serves on its national board of directors. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.