Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Reclaiming New Orleans

Highlighted on Mardi Gras as a reminder that the injustice continues
On Saturday, February 10, six residents of the C.J. Peete Public Housing Complex reclaimed their apartments against the will of the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO). In a scene more fitting for a block party than a protest, tenants danced, laughed and chatted with their old neighbors, while children played and sang. Residents sang “I don’t know what you been told, but these projects are livable!”and boogied on their ballon and ribbon decorated porch to the Hot 8 brass band.

“I’m home,” declared Dianne Allen, one of the residents moving back in, “I’m home at last.” Allen has lived at C.J. Peete since she was a baby, raised 3 daughters and 2 grandchildren there and beamed with pleasure as she swept her steps. When asked about HANO’s plans to demolish, Allen pointed out that no public housing residents have been legally evicted yet. “When I left for the hurricane my rent was paid” she said, “I still had a lease, and today I still have a lease…a valid lease.”

Having been barred from their homes for over 17 months, the Peete residents decided to return to their apartments in the face of possible arrest, the threat of terminated housing assistance, and HANO’s plans to demolish the complex. “Since they don’t want to do nothing to fix up the units, we’re going to fix them up ourselves” said Allen ‘Lenny’ Harris, resident of C.J. Peete for 52 years. The tenants have generators and supplies to keep them going and plan to clean out dozens more apartments.

These people are reclaiming their homes after nearly a year and a half of b.s. bureaucracy at all levels of government. The Red Tape Brigade obviously doesn't understand what it means to lose everything, and the anguish caused by having to wait on the foot-draggers to start a new chapter of a life interrupted by tragedy.

This campaign has come about from true grassroots organizing. Good on these NOLA residents for telling the Housing Authority where to go and how to do it.

Instead of going out and getting drunk tonight for Fat Tuesday, how about throwing some coinage into the coffers of the ongoing hurricane relief campaigns? I've got my eye on the NOLA Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund and Direct Relief Int'l.

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