Thursday, December 20, 2007

No Hope For A Great Idea

My community is divided into two frames of mind, “I made it in spite of the obstacles” and “I made it so there are no obstacles”. This housing development situation made me question myself about which side I stand on.

I love being black. The love I have for myself extends to everyone who looks like me. Whenever you read anything about me going off about the actions of another brother it’s because I love them and want them to do as well as possible. I have love for the people I am about to rant about in this blog.

I may be a foolish dreamer but I want the best for my people. I will never accept substandard conditions and circumstances because we don’t deserve that. We are better than that. That’s why I think not re-opening the old housing developments is a good idea. Why should my people have to live and survive in dilapidated conditions just because they haven’t been able to make it out a system that is designed to keep them where they are to begin with. The struggle is hard enough without having to live in a second class environment. The projects of New Orleans were no Taj Mahal. The people want, deserve, and should have much better housing options.

We all knew this was coming. I don't think anyone was surprised. So why did the unanimous decision piss me off so much? There has been nothing I have seen in my lifetime that makes me have any confidence in the government to replace this housing. For that reason the buildings should stand until we have the money in the bank. Let the buildings stand as a reminder of the mistakes of the past. I feel if the buildings are gone then its no longer a worry and we need housing to get our people home. Get the money, sign the contracts and then start demolition. There is no way in my opinion that a black person who has lived in this city could think that after decades of false promises and stolen money, all of a sudden everybody that’s been screwing us is now going to turn around and create an urban paradise. Excuse me if I can’t wrap my mind around that notion but people don’t usually let their prostitutes sit at the table with family overnight. I personally find it disappointing that some of the folks in the community are so comfortable with their position now since they have slightly better pimps than the rest of the hood. If the KKK would have known that all they had to do for our best and brightest to turn their backs on the less fortunate was to give us a few 401k’s and let us move to their subdivision, segregation would have ended in the 30’s. Make W.E.B DuBois a housing secretary. Appoint Marcus Garvey as the Director of Urban Development and give him a take home car. It’s fascinating how we forgot that in the first rebuilding plan for the city none of our asses would be here. A bike trail was going where my house is. The mayor practically told us that if we come back there wasn’t going to be much done for us. Now we are so much more worthy than the rest of our people like our neighborhoods are a sparking example of development. One of those negroes on that council or the mayor should have spoken for those people. They have been living here too long to look me in the eye and tell me they are that confident in this working out easily or at all. The unanimous decision was a joke. Somebody needs to wake up Dorothy Mae Taylor.

Lately I have been wrong about a few things. I really want to be wrong about this. If I am wrong, it would be the first time that I can say that the government as ever done anything right by us since this storm. I will gladly take everything I just said back and delete this entire blog if someone can send me an example of anything in this city that actually got accomplished under 5 years or ever. I’ll delete it and apologize. No one is going to send me anything.


Ashley said...

I feel exactly the way you do. Exactly.

The only thing I could think of that got done in 5 years was the NO Arena, and it still looks like it's not finished.

Leigh C. said...

I was so sad yesterday. I too hope that what they say they're gonna do will be done, but government on all levels doesn't have a good track record with all that. Promises, promises...

Breez said...

I think that's what so many people miss. And surprisingly enough, it's not a race issue. Well, not entirely anyway. Wasn't it in your last post where you mentioned that some of the black proponents of this action were a paycheck or two away from project living themselves?

People are REALLY not looking at this on a macro level. Now, I by no means support the professional protestors that come in, start shit, then move on to the next cause, leaving the city in shambles; but people are fed up.

And one thing that people fail to recognize: significant changes rarely (if ever) come about without a revolt of some sort.

Not So Old Soldier said...

What ever happened to every citizen having the right to reurn home? I understand the thinking behind this plan to demolish public housing. And I have to say that I agree with you about the system being designed to keep poor people in that cycle of poverty. When the government does not keep it's promise in this situation I want to see how long it will take Jesse and Al to get down here and organize. I want to see how many of us are going to be marching in the streets for the rights of our people to come home and be treated with some humanity. I don't think there will be a revolution with out a revolt either sister.

Karen said...

I predict the only thing built quickly will be a Target, or Best Buy. Right there are Claiborne and Toledano.

I still don't understand how they can issue a demolition permit without a redevelopment plan and an O.K. from City Planning.

I keep thinkin of Dione Warick singinf that Burt Bachrach song

Promises Promises

Oh, promises, their kind of promises,
take all the joy from life
Oh, promises, those kind of
promises, can just destroy a life

Anonymous said...

First of all, you are either for self sufficiency or you are not. You can not straddle the fence and be for it when it affects you, and then against it when it affects people because they are black.

Truth be told, the government can not build better housing for low income/no income families around people living in those developments.

Those projects were in deplorable conditions pre-katrina and I was for demolition then. Crime infested, drug infested, etc. I guarantee you that everyone who lived in the projects complained about the living conditions pre-katrina. They can't have it both ways. Also, pre-katrina, the government moved families into houses in other communities in efforts to rebuild the projects. It was called section 8; hence bringing down the property value in other communities where people actually work for a living without relying on the government for a handout. The government also rebuilt the Fisher and the St. Thomas projects within five years after demolition, so you may have to remove your post. And when it was rebuilt, it certainly looked a hell of a lot better than what used to be there.

But back to my original point. I believe you were upset with the government after Katrina when you received no money/assistance from FEMA because you are what the government considers to be self sufficient. And you, just like myself, was angry with the government for giving grant money to people who worked for nothing, and owned nothing. We were left to fend for ourselves and rebuild by ourselves at our own expense while they were rewarded thousands of dollars. You certainly didn't think it was fair for those people to get handouts from the government particularly when you pay your taxes out of every hardworking paycheck you get every two weeks. Your tax dollars went towards those grants you, nor myself, received. You certainly believed in self sufficiency then. You have also posted in recent weeks on your blog about making better decisions. Now all of a sudden in the same breath you support the government continuing to take care of these people simply because the government undertook that responsibility decades ago. Those were different politicians then. Today, people/politicians are in a different frame of mind. If somebody is able to take care of themselves, then they should. The government didn't find housing for me after Katrina when my apartment complex was damaged and closed for good. I had to do it myself and pay for it myself. The only people who deserve government assistance from all of this are the elderly. I will support only the elderly in this situation. But for all those able bodied individuals who don't want change and better living can kiss my ass because I am tired of paying to assist them. I am certain you are too; you just don't want to admit it because it may make you feel less than pro-black soon becoming the very person you criticize. A black man who made it and see no reason to give back to people who don't want to help themselves.


Clifton said...

The St. Thomas and Fisher took less than five years to build but they took over ten years to plan.

Issues like this for me have always been two sided because it's a multi dimensional thing. You are right that no one has ever given me anything and I don’t expect it. I believe in personal responsibility. I believe in helping yourself. I also believe that there are factors in place that make that more difficult than just getting up and doing it. My anger about the decision was directed towards the three black members on that council that made those statements before their vote like those obstacles don’t exist. It is very possible for everyone in the projects to make it out. My grandmother did it and never went back but it took her 19 years of working 10 hour days to do it. Now, my anger I have towards the government and local leaders could be the fact that she was self sufficient but her house still got flooded by something the government was supposed to do and she drowned. That was a working class neighborhood. What happen to all the plans to make that right? I guess the people in that neighborhood can’t come home because they chose to buy land too close to the water. There is a much bigger thing happening around here and we are so busy working and stressing over our bills that we are not seeing it. We already know the public housing residents will be taken care of. They are being taken care of now. This is really about who’s going to control who comes back, who doesn’t and where they are allowed to live. Today it’s the Big 4. Tomorrow it’s everything east of the Industrial Canal. Next, it’s anyone who lives where tourists want to party. Mayor Nagin agrees with me. That’s why he wrote that open letter to HUD saying almost exactly what I said we should do in this post. We will demolish two and wait and see. You can’t throw the poorest people to the wolves and think we are all not connected.

mominem said...

You have once again provide insight and perspective on a comp.ex and difficult issue fraught with difficulties and polemic positions.

Thank you for your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

First, the fact remains it only took within five years to re-build better housing that people from the projects moved into. It wasn't as if they kicked the people out of the projects ten years earlier, and then began demolition.

Second, your blog post does not touch upon what you posted in your response. I don't see why any of the black people on the council should have voted any other way. The same way people in the ninth ward have re-built, the same has to be done in other parts of the city. What's so bad about a person working towards home ownership even if it comes along with government assistance. There are too many people not looking at this from a different angle. So many people in the ninth ward haven't returned. But the federal government will eventually step in, buy those houses, sell them, and give federal grants to people to take it off of their hands. Black people need to stop thinking emotionally and start thinking economically. And for God's sake, tell your people to please stop going to the council meetings blurting out racist remarks looking like a jackass on tv. There are better ways to get your point across. Nobody takes you seriously when you can't articulate yourself.


Clifton said...

This argument has been difficult to make because every person I know feels the way you do Shan. I'm standing alone on this one. I understand why everybody feels the way they do. There is nothing wrong with wanting to think progressive. We need more of that. I just think there is something else going on here and the powers that be are using the people in public housing to blind us from the real plan. Something is not right and I am going to keep my conspiracy theory alive until I am proven otherwise. I just can't see how a city known for it's lack of progression and forward thinking is all of a sudden going to reverse 100 years of complacency and help the working people of New Orleans live better lives. We shall see. My theory is that the two uptown developments, the Lafitte and the St. Bernard will be re-done with home ownership in mind but it won't be for former residents. The ghetto will be moving east because of the color of the property owners out here. This city is systematically being segregated with darker and poorer white people getting the area least protected by the flood plan. They are using this public housing plan as a catalyst to get it moving because they know those people don't qualify for black support in this modern frame of mind.

Breez said...

Allow me to interject. FEMA did not only provide grants to people who did not work. I worked HARD pre-Katrina and work hard currently. I received the maximum FEMA grant. It was not solely based on income, but also the condition of your home and whether or not you had insurance. The "thousands of dollars" was not a "reward." It was government repayment for a loss suffered due to a federally declared disaster. Just because one employed individual did not receive assistance, that does not mean that only people without jobs received assistance. I will also say that there are people who simply did not follow up on the stipulations FEMA added, then threw up their hands and said, "Oh, they're just not going to give me the money."

I'm also curious what "ownership" entails. I did not own my home, but I worked hard and owned every piece of furniture and electronics in it. The government did not find me housing either. However, comparing how I searched for living arrangements and what someone could/should do in the public housing sector is straight apples and oranges.

I also find the statement "my tax dollars are going to pay for them" quite interesting. Roughly 16% of federal tax dollars go to the needy. This includes not only poor people, but the physically and mentally disabled, elderly, food programs for poor children, etc. We really shouldn't be so quick to believe that this capitalistic society is so uncharacteristically benevolent as to hand out the majority of tax monies for the poor. I would encourage each person research where tax dollars go before making rash statements such as these.

Additionally, can anyone point out the janitor that makes $50K? Or how about even $30K? I thought not. Not all low income people are lazy. I have personally taken a side gig at as a hotel maid and can guarantee you, that job is not for the lazy and it pays absolute crap. Some, dare I say MOST are simply low wage earners or elderly and unable to work. I won't even tear into the piss poor New Orleans educational system that churns out so many low wage earners in the first place.

Let me also say that not everyone is meant to be a homeowner. At this point, with the market being as it is, and tack on me being a single parent, nothing is further from my interest than home ownership. I simply don't buy into the elitist theory that I don't exist until I have a mortgage. This would be doubly true for someone in the low income bracket. That $400 mortgage you're scraping to meet could EASILY balloon to a $700 mortgage due to insurance. It has very little to do with being pro-black and more to do with looking at the big picture.

Trust me Clifton, you're not alone in this one.

Anonymous said...

I understand what you are saying Clif, but I don't think its the governments' responsibility to take care of people who can and should take care of themselves.

As to Breez.....there are far less funds in all of those programs that you named such as social securtity. You know why, because far less people in a younger age bracket are not working in order to contribute to the social security fund. Which means by the time I reach retirement age, there will probably be far less money in those funds to dispense to me others similarly situated. I don't have a problem assisting the elderly, mentally challenged, physically challenged, etc. They trully have dire needs. But most of our people today want a handout and there is nothing nobody can say to change my mind on that. I see it everyday and it truly sickens me.

As for the FEMA grant money....I know far more people who don't work and received those grants as opposed to people who do work. But I have a problem with that on a different level of complaints. I made that point because frustration came from everyone who didn't get a grant, but watched other people grin all the way to bank with their $21,000.00; and they didn't even work. (Although I was happy my grandmother received her $21,000.00. She deserved it)

But aside from all of that, anybody who has lived in this country should know not to depend upon the government. Ask any vietnam vet who came back to nothing, and the government not doing a damn thing to help them. Stand on your own two feet, and trust no man but God....



Not So Old Soldier said...

These are all very good points. But, I think sometimes we think about thinkgs in terms of there being a level playing field and there is not. I too believe in personal responsibility and being self sufficient. I lived in the projects untill I was 7, my mom was a widow with 6 kids. Every last one of us went to college or the millitary. We are all productive citizens. That was hard ass work, it can be done. You can't group everyone into the same catagory. My mother worked her ass off, earned minimum wage, broke her body down but kept the bigger picture in view. She also had a support system, not food stamps or welfare, those systems are designed to keep you in them. If you can live free, who would get a $6 an hour job with no health insurance or 401K? When you throw that on top of an education system that has been inadequate for 20 years... what do you get? Systematic Poverty.
Also, who is going to benefit from this? It would be great if those developments were going to be replaced with some sort of home ownership situation in mind, but I honestly don't think they will be. I have not seen one single plan in place that is going to work for the betterment of poor and working class people in New Orleans. That should be a major issue for all of us, not just those of you in the city. So for me the issue is more that these people are being left out of the plan to rebuild. When you leave out the people who make the city what it is, your are rebuilding a different city... open your eyes and look at it from a different perspective.

Anonymous said...

Not So Old Soldier,

I certainly appreciate your comment, and I am sure Clif is going to get tired of me posting comments on his blog. He can yell at me when I visit the house for gumbo though. But I digress....The sad fact is, those projects were not in a condition that people should be dwelling in them. When the government began demolition years before Katrina, and placed those residents in the new buildings, I was relieved to see that. In addition to that, the residents were taking care of those apartments/townhomes/affordable housing; whatever you want to call it. There are people whose houses were destroyed by Katrina who haven't made it back yet. The only reason why the government hasn't or couldn't take those homes was because of the Takings Clause in the U.S. Constitution. I'll give the government a few more years to figure out how to get around that clause though. As far as public housing, and the operative word being public, what do you expect when you don't own what you have been living in. Just the same with landlords and tenants. If the landlord has plans for where you used to live pre-katrina, well there is nothing you can do about the landlords' plans post-katrina. The tenant is left with finding another place to live. That is why black people on the council kept saying owning property is key. The government is ran by people, not angels. I don't expect any level of government to look out for poor people. If any level of government is to foot the bill for replacement, it should be FEMA. FEMA is supposed to pay rent for displaced people until you find another place to live or your home before the storm is liveable again. But of course that rule changed after the government saw the amount of people and the amount of dollars it would cost. Just like the insurance companies for home owners. The insurance companies were supposed to pay for housing until the homes of the people who faithfully pay premiums to them every month rebuilt their homes. As we all saw, that didn't happen. But again, I digress. My family is from New Orleans. I have a generation of people who too lived in the Magnolia Projects until they were able to find a house to live in. I don't want anyone to think that I am turning my nose up at any of those people who are still displaced. But the reality is those projects should have been torn down with those residents having better living quarters.

I have read several posts with the comments, "the system is designed to keep you there," or "the government should continue to pay considering they put people in this situation." (not direct quotes) I have a question. At what point does it become the person who has been dependant all of these years to take responsibility for their own lives? We see dependancy in all facets of life. From alcohol/drug addiction to battered women. When a woman is beaten to death, the first thing people say is she deserved because she stayed. There have been people to get out of those situations though. Because they changed their way of thinking instead of thinking they couldn't get anything better. They had to "open their eyes and look at it from a different perspective." Perhaps I am not the only one who should open my eyes and look at this from a different perspective. Maybe you should too. But more importantly, the people who were living in the projects should open their eyes and look at it from a different perspective. That's something they should have done a long time ago. This is a post Katrina city, and it will cost to live in it.


Not So Old Soldier said...

I most definately see your point about being self sufficient and agree with you. I believe that there are other factors involved in some people's situations. Not just that they are lazy and don't want to do any better. I believe that when you fail to educate a couple of generations of people, allow rampant corruption in city government, and do very little to stiffle crime for years there are going to be consequences. It's easier to look the other way when the issue is something like this. It involves those out of main stream society. My fear is that sooner or later, like you said they will find a way around the law to include more people, and that will be a disaster. At some point you have to take personal responsibility into account, of course. But we have to be honest, everyone is not capable of earning a six figure salary. Someone has to be the janitor and the waitress. We tend to forget about those people.

Anonymous said...

Much respect to you Not So Old Soldier....You are right. Someone has to take those jobs, and not everyone will earn a six figure salary. But I certainly pay far more respect and kudos to people who work hard to maintain for themselves and their families. Peace to you and a six figure salary...


Breez said...

Shan, New Orleans was a city of a million plus, and there are hundreds of millions of people in the country, so you can't really speak with authority or knowledge regarding the number of people who were or were not working that received FEMA funds, as you do not work for FEMA. Neither do I for that matter. I was simply responding to your initial statement of FEMA recipients were unemployed.

What I find disturbing is the lengths people go to and the things they make themselves believe to prove that they're not one of "those" black people.

Anonymous said...


I am not sure who you are, and I don't thing you know who I am. What makes you so sure I don't work for FEMA? Nor do I think everyone who received a check from FEMA was unemployed. My grandmother wasn't unemployed and she received a check from FEMA.

Rest assure I know and recognize that I am a black woman. But before we go any further with this conversation, make yourself known to me please. That is if we know each other of course.

Not So Old Soldier said...

It is very unfair to assume that because someone has a different idea they are not pro-black. We need these kinds of dialogues, they are important in us making progress. It doesn't have to be all one way. There is validity in all these statements and everyone's opinions and inputs should be welcome. These issues have many layers and one person's opinion shouldn't be cast out because a few people don't agree. We'll never make progress that way. Much respect my sisters for both of your opinions.

Clifton said...

Before this goes any further let me say that I think everybody here wants the same thing. We are all just looking at it in different ways. If you weren’t passionate about it and didn’t care about the condition of the city or your people then you wouldn’t have an opinion to begin with. You have to be able to discuss these kinds of issues truthfully because that’s how things get accomplished. Sometimes that requires a little yelling and some raised voices. None of this is personal. I think this has been a good discussion but now we need to stop before we end up blog beefing and it’s too close to Kwanzaa for all of that. We should take all this energy and use it to diss Jackie Clarkson. You can talk about her all you want.

Breez said...

Oh dear. No blog beef this way. Nor do I believe that anyone isn't pro-black. (There's really not one facet to that, you know. Someone who is only in favor of a certain type of black person can, by definition, be pro-black.) However, I strongly disagreed with the opinion and I voiced the disagreement, well, strongly. No offense was meant and none was taken (on my part anyway). As far as being made known, I too have a blog, which pretty much answers any questions one may have about my thought process, beliefs and there's even a picture or two.

That being said, admittedly, the statement about you not working for FEMA is my deductive reasoning, because I feel confident that with opinions as strong as yours, FEMA employment would have been one of the first things mentioned.

But that being said, none of what I said was meant to dis. I am also opposed to all forms and fashions of cyber thugging and/or beef, and I would hope that none of this is really being taken personally.