From Katrina to Ferguson

On Aug. 30, 2005, one day after Katrina flooded the 9th Ward, a woman who herself may have been in mortal danger mourns the death of a loved one.
On Aug. 30, 2005, one day after Katrina flooded the 9th Ward, a woman who herself may have been in mortal danger mourns the death of a loved one.

by Mumia Abu-Jamal

It’s been 10 years since the watery carnage of Katrina, and one year since the fiery rage lit the night skies of Ferguson, Missouri, and between the two harrowing events lay the state of Black America isolated, demonized and damned.

When the levees broke and the rushing waters of Hurricane Katrina swept into the wards of New Orleans, the 9th Ward – the Blackest ward – received the greatest damage, and the least relief.

The might of the greatest military power in the world was turned against the Black population of New Orleans – even little children trying to survive.
The might of the greatest military power in the world was turned against the Black population of New Orleans – even little children trying to survive.

Today, 10 years after its horrific flooding, the 9th is barely half of its former population of working class and poor inhabitants. It is a shell of its pre-flood glory.

What the residents of the 9th learned was the hard, cold truth that they were all on their own – alone facing the fury of the storm.

Oh – they could call 911, and they may even have gotten an answer – but no one came for them.

For they were in the 9th Ward – as Black as they were expendable.

Flip to Ferguson, summer of 2014, the time of Mike Brown’s killing by a cop, and the subsequent explosion of protest by Black youth.

Young Black men, women and children took to the streets, and faced police sniper rifles, automatic weapons, Humvees and scared, paranoid white cops.

The courage and persistence of the youth of Ferguson has turned the nation’s attention to Black lives. It hasn’t stopped the oppression, but without that attention, it never can. – Photo: AP-VOA
The courage and persistence of the youth of Ferguson has turned the nation’s attention to Black lives. It hasn’t stopped the oppression, but without that attention, it never can. – Photo: AP-VOA

How many of us knew that protests have continued, daily, since then?

The media may’ve fled the story, but the people haven’t. Some have pitched tents. Others have set daily times to join the protests.

But they are there – every day – to remind us of their very deep and very real discontent with an oppressive system that has soured their days and nights.

For the fires of Ferguson still burn; they burn in their hearts, they simmer in their souls, they roar in their minds, these fires of discontent.

The fires of Ferguson still burn; they burn in their hearts, they simmer in their souls, they roar in their minds, these fires of discontent.

And Katrina? If ever we wondered if Black lives mattered, the squalid treatment of the people of New Orleans, especially the 9th Ward, answered that question – decisively.

Politicians, banks, media and entrepreneurs plucked what they could and kept on moving, leaving the intrepid souls of the 9th to fend for themselves – isolated, demonized, damned.

If ever we wondered if Black lives mattered, the squalid treatment of the people of New Orleans, especially the 9th Ward, answered that question – decisively.

Katrina and Ferguson: touchpoints for Black America.

© Copyright 2015 Mumia Abu-Jamal. Keep updated at www.freemumia.com. His new book is “Writing on the Wall,” edited by Joanna Hernandez. For Mumia’s commentaries, visit www.prisonradio.org. Encourage the media to publish and broadcast Mumia’s commentaries and interviews. Send our brotha some love and light: Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, SCI-Mahanoy, 301 Morea Road, Frackville, PA 17932.