2005 Humanitarians of the Year
2005 Humanitarians of the Year: New Orleans Ninth Ward Common Ground Relief, a group of citizen volunteers who are rebuilding New Orleans' Ninth Ward
Yesterday, January 5, 2006, I had the pleasure of listening to a talk-radio broadcast featuring Brandon Darby of the Common Ground Relief Collective of New Orleans' Ninth Ward, the poorest and hardest hit of all neighborhoods devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The broadcast was Greg Szymanski's Investigative Journal talk-radio program, which is broadcast on the RBN radio network, the link for which appears at the end of this article, in the SOURCES section of this document.
Mr. Darby spoke eloquently for two hours about the many problems faced by the poorest residents of New Orleans, and how FEMA and HOMELAND SECURITY were actually preventing people from returning to homes they were told by government officials had been completely destroyed, and furthermore, that there was simply nothing to return to. In most cases, this was completely bogus information, the motivation for which was a $17 BILLION DOLLAR rebuilding project awarded to HALIBURTON in a NO-BID CONTRACT only days after the hurricane ravaged the area.
Mr. Darby described how he was living in Austin, Texas USA at the time Katrina hit, and how he felt compelled to drive to New Orleans to help get things back in order. What he found when he got there, however, horrified him. He found total destruction, with lots of work to be done. However, the FEMA and HOMELAND SECURITY people were more interested in looking good in their Humvees then they were in actually helping anyone. While there were certainly exceptions to this, the majority of the Federal Government employees on the scene appeared to be more interested in bullying anyone who attempted to re-enter the city.
A perfact example of a victim of this BULLYING is the story of 85 year-old Clothilde Mack, an elderly black woman who amazingly spent TEN DAYS in her flooded attic, surviving on two cans of green beans and several small bottles of water. Ms. Mack called 911 on the first day, and she waited nine more days before anyone came for her, even though she had placed numerous calls to 911 in the time before her cell phone ran its' battery down.
Ms. Mack was then sent to Tennessee, to live in an expensive living facility. She was told that FEMA would be paying for the facility, but, the facility, absent payment, had taken moves to place a lien on Ms. Mack's home. Then, when a great patriot named Joe Tittiger showed up to take Ms. Mack home, he was threatened with arrest for tresspassing, even though Ms. Mack had stated that she was leaving with Mr. Tittiger, to reclaim her home, which had suffered moderate damage, and is fixable.
The interested reader can read all about Clothilde Mack on Greg Szymanski's website, ArcticBeacon.com. What the government had attempted to do to this woman is a disgrace, and it is symbolic of what has been done to many others in New Orleans, whose only desire is to return to the homes they had bought and paid for, or had handed down from their parents or grandparents.
Mr. Darby told of the sometimes contentious relations he had with government officials, especially when he attempted to enter the city to locate and rescue his good friend Robert King Wilkerson, an elderly black man who was a member of the Black Panther Party, and a political prisoner who had been held in solitary confinement for a staggering TWENTY-NINE YEARS!! Mr. Wilkerson is one of the group that became known as the ANGOLA 3.
Mr. Darby was stopped and harassed at every turn, as he was told that Mr. Wilkerson was likely to be dead anyway. Taking a circutious route through back streets and alleyways, Mr. Darby eventually reached and rescued his friend, whom he was quite happy to help and rescue. If Mr. Darby did not continue onward, it was quite likely that Mr. Wilkerson would have certainly died before anyone from the government cared to rescue him.
What Mr. Darby described was a downright outrage, and it should be clear to anyone who listened to this interview, that the Federal Government is NOT our friend, and if they offer to HELP, it is always with strings attached, and Katrina was no different in this regard. Anyone who signed an agreement to accept help from FEMA had to agree to vacate their property, and stay OUT of New Orleans for ONE YEAR.
It wasn't long before Mr. Darby got to the heart of the matter.
It appears that this whole thing is one giant LAND GRAB by those who seek to turn the poorest sections of New Orleans into a tourist mecca. I for one, will NOT patronize any business that profits from the misery of those who don't have much to begin with.
Here is the outrage . . .
There is a standing plan to bulldoze 14,000 homes in the poor section of New Orleans, to make way for this $17 BILLION DOLLAR development scam. The mayor, working in concert with the local electric utility, has deliberately kept the power to this area of poor New Orleans TURNED OFF, even while the wealthy section has had its' power turned on weeks ago. This appears to have been implemented to discourage the poor from wanting to stay in their devestated neighborhoods, thus making way for the developers to steal their homes outright.
What are these people being offered for these 100 year-old homes? $5,000 each, with no additional compensation forthcoming.
Often times, those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder are also under-educated and unsophisticated about matters of government and law. This provides the very atmosphere under which the government can come in and take unfair advantage of those whose lives and property had been already destroyed. Adding to this, the unconscionable behavior of unscrupulous government officials, and literally tens of thousands of families were literally taken to the cleaners by those whose hidden agenda was to assist in the Halliburton land grab.
This story provides a harrowing postscript to the already horrifying experiences people had with Katrina and the aftermath of Katrina.
This type of thing is beyond the imaginings of those who live comfortable lives in suburbia, but as Mr. Darby clearly warned, this is only the beginning. If the criminal cabal that exists within the federal government gets its' way, we will see the end of private property rights in this country, if this New Orleans test-case is allowed to proceed unhindered and unprotested.
I have always been one to write letters and fax them to my elected officials of all levels of government, local Erie County, State of New York, the Federal Government --- including my senators, congressmen, and even the White House itself. It is my belief that IF I DO NOT use my right of freedom of speech, there will soon come a day when that right will no longer exist to be used as a tool with which to express my dissent.
The reason why I give COMMON GROUND RELIEF the 2005 Humanitarians of the Year award, is because no one told these people to do this. The collective is a completely volunteer organization, and it is because of this that they are all the more impressive. As any student of history knows full well, all major changes in society have occured because of small grassroots efforts that grew into large causes. We have the examples of Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. as forebears of this principle.
Now is the time for all Americans to take stock of their own true character. Are you a follower, or are you a leader? If you think of yourself as a leader, then decide if things have gotten BAD ENOUGH for you to finally seize the moment and TAKE ACTION. Please understand that no one is going to knock on your door to draft you into service. If you think of yourself as a leader, then go out and start something to help your own community. And, just like Brandon Darby of Common Ground Relief, you will find that work to be character building and much more rewarding than anything you are currently doing in your own life.
NOTE: Please click on the Investigative Report Archives link below, and listen to the January 5, 2006 show featuring Brandon Darby. You will hear an extraordinary story of courage, hope, and caring for ones' fellow human beings.
Finally, I would like to say that from my own experiences with the American Red Cross, which are separate from Katrina and its' aftermath, that the American Red Cross is NOT an organization that properly distributes donations it receives from the public. The VAST MAJORITY of the money is absorbed for OPERATING EXPENSES (up to 90%), and as little as 10%-15% actually goes to the victims.
Mr. Darby spoke about this, and mentioned that if anyone wants to help in this matter or one similar to it, that those who wish to donate either their time or their money, that they do it DIRECTLY with the affected community, bypassing the federal government whenever possible. This matches my own experiences with this organization, and it is a fact that plagues all major so-called CHARITY groups who claim to provide aid to victims of disaster.
So, in the future, use your own common sense when donating money to help victims of disasters, and give directly to the source, bypassing the middlemen whenever it is possible to do so. THIS is the ONLY WAY that you can be assured that the money you give will actually benefit the victims of disaster, instead of paying for the posh offices of some so-called charity.
Remember that old saying, CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME? All it means, is donate to those who live in those homes, and NOT the glitzy charity with the big marketing campaign!
For more information, or to help the Common Ground Relief Collective, please contact Brandon Darby at:
Common Ground Relief
331 Atlantic Avenue
New Orleans, Louisiana 70114-1214
voice: (504) 368-6897
© 2006 Kentroversy Papers
All rights reserved. Used with permission.
The following sources were used in the creation of this Kentroversy Paper . . .
Investigative Journal Radio Broadcast Archives (January 5, 2006 program)
Republic Broadcasting Network
The History of the Angola 3
Common Ground Relief website
Common Ground Relief Photo Gallery
Common Ground Relief - Speeches and Interviews
National Coalition To Free The Angola 3
How YOU Can Help Common Ground Relief
ArcticBeacon.com - Greg Szymanski - Clothilde Mack articles