Well-Known Member
Jun 8, 2004

Returnees slip past roadblocks to see remnants of New Orleans homes Mon Oct 3, 2:15 AM ET

NEW ORLEANS, United States (AFP) - Palazzolo Simmons snuck past police roadblocks, over a bridge and through knee-deep water to see what was left of his house in a poor neighborhood of New Orleans leveled by the twin blows of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

When he found the roof of his home on the ground where the house once stood, he wept.

"I needed to know," the 49-year-old man said as he stood in a landscape littered with mud-caked remains of an obliterated community in the city's Lower Ninth Ward. "I'm devastated. Traumatized."

While New Orleans' Mayor Ray Nagin beckoned for residents in upscale areas such as the French Quarter to return and rebuild their lives, people in poorer African-American communities dodged police for glimpses of their ruined homes.

The Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish remained off limits. The blocks Simmons called home were the only part of the city still submerged in floodwater.

"This was my 'hood," Simmons said as he rode through floodwaters and past splintered houses atop a monster truck driven by a volunteer rescue worker who called it "a deep penetration vehicle."

"We were like a family," he recounted.

"Now, everybody has the same thing: nothing."

The Army Corps of Engineers expected the last of the floodwater would not be pumped out for two more days.

"There is nothing pretty about it," city council woman Cynthia Willard-Lewis, who represents the ward, said as she did "an eye ball check" of the corps' progress.

Mayor Nagin has dodged questions on whether the Ninth Ward will be forsaken or rebuilt. Willard-Lewis said she is demanding homes be resurrected and the property rights of displaced African-American residents be defended.

"There are probably other agendas, but nobody has approached me with that," the council woman said, explaining she represents the impoverished community and is tracking down those displaced.

"The families will come back. We have to honor our ancestors."

Rumors about the ward include turning it into a chemical plant site, a golf course, or a wetland buffer zone along the levee that broke in two places during the recent storms.

"I had to see what they were talking about. It's unbelievable," said 22-year-old Gregory Lewis, who got by checkpoints, but was barred by water and debris from getting to where his house was when he last saw it. "I see now why it should be bulldozed."

The ExxonMobil oil company worker was among those who said they would not rebuild.

Rernard Thomas used his city job and truck to get a cousin into the Lower Ninth. He wanted to show the deaf, mute woman the ruin so she could use the Internet to spread the word in her circle.

"When Hurricane Betsy hit in 1965, they blew the canal," Thomas said, nodding to the patched levee lining the Industrial Canal dividing the Ninth Ward. "Now, all your black neighborhoods are destroyed again."

"There is nothing to come home to here. There is no home."

Quinston Jones, 43, and his 36-year-old brother, Patrick Johnson, reached the heart of the Ninth Ward to find Jones' boat still locked to a pole in front of his tattered house.

Not far away, a dog scampered across the roofs of homes smashed against each other by the floodwaters.

"I never in a million years would have believed things could have happened like this," said Johnson, who wore a large, rhinestone-crusted medallion of the state of Louisiana as a memento of the disaster.

"I think they are going to bulldoze it. There are a lot of toxic things in the ground."

Three months ago, Johnson moved his family to St. Bernard Parish so his children would have better public schools. That neighborhood was also cordoned off and in ruin, he said.

"You can't do nothing but accept it," Johnson said. "This is not a dream. It really happened. I just want to get started again.";_ylu=X3oDMTA5bGVna3NhBHNlYwNzc3JlbA--


Omowale Jabali

The Cosmic Journeyman
Sep 29, 2005
Temple of Kali, Yubaland
Creative Industrialist
"The families will come back. We have to honor our ancestors."

I hear my Ancestral Spirits calling out to me while their graves are buried in mud and water in the very same parish. Thanks for this article. I have been resisting the urge to pack up, hit the road, and search out the extended Family from which I have been seperated from for years. My grandfather is buried somewhere in St Bernard and his parents in NOLA and I have no idea where. However, I had been planning on seeking their burial sites right before this tragedy hit. This desolation weights heavy on My Spirit.


Well-Known Member
Jun 8, 2004
omowalejabali said:
"The families will come back. We have to honor our ancestors."

I hear my Ancestral Spirits calling out to me while their graves are buried in mud and water in the very same parish. Thanks for this article. I have been resisting the urge to pack up, hit the road, and search out the extended Family from which I have been seperated from for years. My grandfather is buried somewhere in St Bernard and his parents in NOLA and I have no idea where. However, I had been planning on seeking their burial sites right before this tragedy hit. This desolation weights heavy on My Spirit.
What's up, brother Omowale!

I'm hoping ALL Africans who can, will return back to this ancestral city. We must make our presence felt, and not hang our heads in the face of so many people, including the so-called Black Mayor, writtining us off...

Oh, he is confused and undecided about whether to rebuild the Lower Ninth???? We got to show this brainwashed Negro that we are not in the least confused about where we stand about where we should be...

The Lower Ninth in New Orleans, right near that Industrial Canal wall, is where we should gather the millions on OCT 15th, to show these people we intend to INCREASE not decrease the African population in that city...(smile!)



Well-Known Member
Jun 8, 2004


October 3, 2005


As black New Orleanians put down roots elsewhere -- some temporary, some not -- many wonder: What will become of one of the nation's most complex African-American cultures?

Pre-Katrina New Orleans was a majority black city, but broad descriptions miss the subtleties in a place where French, Spanish, Indians and West Africans mixed as far back as the 18th century.

This resulted in a rich cultural heritage -- think jazz, for starters -- and a multiracial, sometimes inequitable society organized along lines of color and class.

Now the city's native sons and daughters, spread nationwide, are speculating on how that culture will change in the wake of the flooding. Some even question whether it will survive at all.

''Once you scatter the people, I don't know that you're going to be able to capture the past,'' said Arnold Hirsch, a historian at the University of New Orleans.

Explaining the city means a trip back hundreds of years and a realization: What's ''black'' in other parts of the country hasn't necessarily been black in New Orleans.

First claimed by the Spanish but settled by the French in the early 1700s, the port town quickly developed a large West African slave population. For generations during colonial times there were few white women, and much of the population mixed racially.

Gradually, a community rooted in Africa with heavy European and Native American influences developed. Its members were often called Creoles, a murky term whose definition has shifted over time, but which is frequently used to refer to mixed-race New Orleanians of African descent.

It was commonly accepted for enslaved Creole women to partner with European men and negotiate freedom for themselves and their children. Many Creole men were allowed to contract out their labor to purchase their freedom.

Filling civil-service jobs and developing middle-class enclaves, Creoles had more legal rights than other blacks, but fewer social freedoms than whites.

Catholic schools of their own

''The unique culture of south Louisiana derives from black Creole culture,'' said historian Gwendolyn Midlo Hall.

After the Civil War, Creoles maintained exclusive social clubs, schools, neighborhoods and Roman Catholic churches in which whites and darker-skinned blacks were not always welcomed. Historically, Xavier and Dillard universities, St. Augustine Catholic Church and High School and the Seventh Ward neighborhood were Creole bastions. Many Creole musicians were involved in the early jazz scene, including such pioneers as Jelly Roll Morton.

For many black New Orleanians who were not Creole, life was tougher -- and sometimes still is. Without historic connection to parochial schools, they often faced barriers to middle-class jobs.

''There has always been a separation in terms of classes of people,'' said Ortez Taylor, a New Orleans native living in Harlem.

The brown paper bag test

In practices that have long played out within black communities, some class divisions have been maintained through emphasis on family lineage, along with preferences for lighter skin color and straighter hair texture. Members of New Orleans' Autocrat Social and Pleasure Club once barred from social gatherings anyone whose skin was darker than a brown paper bag.

S.M.B. Miller, a sociologist at Xavier University, noted in an e-mail that ''the sheer lack of so-called light-skinned blacks who were seen having to ax their way out of their roofs'' reflects the economic divide in the community.

Few believe that a rebuilt New Orleans will be one without color and class barriers.

''If there is power and money in maintaining the status quo, people will maintain the status quo,'' writer Leonce Gaiter said. ''The black people left behind did not have power, did not have money. They're not in a position to initiate change.'' AP



Well-Known Member
Jun 8, 2004
Speculators Rushing In as the Water Recedes
Would-be home buyers are betting New Orleans will be a boomtown. And many of the city's poorest residents could end up being forced out.

By David Streitfeld, Times Staff Writer

BATON ROUGE, La. — Brandy Farris is house hunting in New Orleans.

The real estate agent has $10 million in the bank, wired by an investor who has instructed her to scoop up houses — any houses. "Flooding no problem," Farris' newspaper ads advise.

Her backer is a Miami businessman who specializes in buying storm-ravaged property at a deep discount, something that has paid dividends in hurricane-prone Florida. But he may have a harder time finding bargains this time around.

In some ways, Hurricane Katrina seems to have taken a vibrant real estate market and made it hotter. Large sections of the city are underwater, but that's only increasing the demand for dry houses. And in flooded areas, speculators are trying to buy properties on the cheap, hoping that the redevelopment of New Orleans will start a boom.

This land rush has long-term implications in a city where many of the poorest residents were flooded out. It raises the question of what sort of housing — if any — will be available to those without a six-figure salary. If New Orleans ends up a high-priced enclave, without a mix of cultures, races and incomes, something vital may be lost.

"There's a public interest question here," said Ann Oliveri, a senior vice president with the Urban Land Institute, a Washington think tank. "You don't have to abdicate the city to whoever shows up."

For now, though, it's a seller's market, at least for habitable homes.

Two months ago, Steve Young bought a two-bedroom condo in New Orleans' Garden District as an investment for $145,000. Last month, he was transferred by Shell Oil to Houston. Last week, he put the condo on the market.

In a posting on Craigslist, an Internet classified advertising site, Young asked $220,000. He got a dozen serious expressions of interest — enough so he's no longer actively pursuing a buyer.

"I'm pretty positive the market's going to move up from here," he said.

So, to their surprise, are many others.

"I thought this storm was the end of the city," said Arthur Sterbcow, president of New Orleans-based Latter & Blum, one of the biggest real estate brokerages on the Gulf Coast.

"If anyone had told me two weeks ago that I'd be getting the calls and e-mails I'm getting, I would have thought he was ready for the psychiatric ward."

Messages from those wanting to buy houses — whether intact or flooded — and commercial properties are outrunning those who want to sell by a factor of 20, said Sterbcow, who has set up temporary quarters in his firm's Baton Rouge office.

"We're pressing everyone into service just to answer the phones," he said.

These eager would-be buyers may be drawing their inspiration from Lower Manhattan, which proved a bonanza for those smart enough to buy condos there immediately after the Sept. 11 attack.

Of course, in southern Louisiana, everything is hypothetical for the moment. The storm destroyed many property records and displaced buyers, sellers, agents and title firms, so no deals are actually being done. Insurance companies haven't started to settle claims yet, much less determine how, or whether, they will insure New Orleans in the future. The city hasn't even been drained.

But people are thinking ahead, influenced by a single factor: the belief that hundreds of billions of dollars in government aid is going to create a boomtown. The people administering that aid will need somewhere to live, as will those doing the rebuilding. So will employees of companies lured back to the area, and the service people that attend to them.

All this will lead to what Sterbcow delicately calls a "reorientation" of the city.

"Everyone I talked to has said, 'Let's start with a clean sheet of paper, fix it and get it right,' " he said. "Some of the homes here were only held together by the termites."

What the owners of the city's estimated 150,000 flooded houses will get out of "reorientation" is unclear, especially if the houses were in bad shape and uninsured.

Some black New Orleans residents say dourly that they know what's coming. Melvin Gilbert, a maintenance crew chief in his 60s, stood outside an elegant hotel in the French Quarter this week and recalled how the neighborhood had been gentrified.

He remembered half a century ago when the French Quarter had a substantial number of black residents.

"Then the Caucasians started offering them $10,000 for their homes," he said. "Well, they only bought the places for $2,000, so they took it and ran."

The white residents restored the homes, which rose quickly in value. Gilbert said he expected the same dynamic when the floodwaters receded in the heavily black neighborhoods east of downtown.

The question of who should own New Orleans is already sparking tension. The first posting seeking New Orleans property "in any condition or location" was placed on Craigslist on Aug. 29, while the storm still raged. With small variation, it was repeated numerous times over the next week.

Some readers were infuriated. "Do you read/watch/understand any of the news broadcasts coming from the city? Or do you just go to 'Cashing in on Desperation, Despondency, and Depression: How to Make a Zillion Dollars investing in Disaster Area Real Estate' seminars. Sheeeeeesh!" wrote one.
CLICK ON WEB ADDRESS FOR MORE...,0,7729830.story?coll=la-home-headlines

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