The Pagan Cluster created a presence in the hurricane affected areas in October 2005 to support the relief and rebuilding work of the local individuals and communities in the affected areas.
Pagan Cluster Call to Action
Listen. We have all been made aware by Hurricane Katrina, by the destruction, by the unimaginable suffering, by the choices that our government and its corporations have made, by the racism and injustice. Listen to the ancestors that have been called by our work in DC. Listen to the Queen of Cups, drawn for this Fall Equinox time at the PC Gathering. Listen to the inspiring community organizing happening, in the Algiers neighborhood which escaped flooding and resisted deportation, through the Veterans for Peace in Covington, and with many local groups.
Reports from the Action
By Jesse, Juniper, and Ruby
Surrender all hope, ye who stay here
September 14, 2005
I am in New Orleans, in the Algiers section. We have a clinic set up. We are trying to move into the rest of New Orleans. The authorities are telling us we can’t do that because it will give people hope and these people are not to be fed or helped until they get out of the way of the corporate gentrification plans that have been stalled for years.
This is an assault on the American people by a corporate controlled government an military. The May Day Clinic, where I am working, openly Anarchist, is the first clinic to provide medical services in the Algiers section. We are the only medical resource for thousands of people who can’t afford to leave. We are next to Gretna where the sherrifs department shot refugees trying to leave.
FEMA and the Red Cross have done nothing but obstruct efforts to help people. This is an occupation. There are to goals for this occupation.
- To protect property from hungry and needy people.
- To clear out and condemn poor neighborhoods, even those not flooded, so that they can be rebuilt and taken over by Yuppies.
MayDay, Food not Bombs and others are here to aid the people with food, medical care and other needs while they resist this occupation.
What ever you do DO NOT DONATE TO THE RED CROSS. It only makes things worse.
We will soon be expanding our services and need much help in all forms. Medics, laborers and others. Medical supplies, Condoms, food. DO NOT SEND CLOTHES. We now have a new set of High heels for everyone in New Orleans.
Love, Solidarity and Magic,
September 20, 2005
Skotty and I intended to leave by 8:00 a.m. so as to get in before dark. By the time the litter box was changed, the last draft engineering report e-mailed and the 55-gallon drum that will be come a toilet packed with canned goods, it was noon. That put us into Baton Rouge just at dark, still an hour out of New Orleans.
As we headed into the city, our side was eriely vacant. We watched a stream of cars headed west; every other one with blinky lights of some sort. By the time we pulled up to the first check point, we were the only car moving on a 6-lane wide freeway. Knowing that we were past curfew, and that, with another hurricane headed this way the mayor had ended all re-occupation indefinitely yesterday, I fully expected to be turned around, or at least have some talking to do.
Skotty, long-haired, 5-day beard, and younger, had suggested earlier that I do the talking. I lean toward the driver’s window and say “I am here with supplies for the Common Ground Collective in Algiers.” Without another word, they wave me through. I say to Skotty “I’d feel better in this moment if we had met more resistance.”
We are driving into one of the largest cities in the country without any sign of life. Not a visible car, not a house light. Only freeway lights and the skyscraper illumination downtown. My brain is saying post-appocolyptic and the feeling in my stomach is completely unfamiliar.
We follow our mapquest directions easily. No traffic to impede last minute changes across 3 lanes. All of the remaining checkpoints are as easy as the first. I can feel my reflection; they see an official or wealthy woman with my young, male driver. No questions.
When we cross the Mississippi and land on local streets, it takes three times driving back and two times asking National Guard and NOLA police to find a mis-maked turn (Whitney Street is marked something else, if you are mapquesting your way here.)
About 9:00 p.m. we pull up to a scene that many of you will recognize. I am easily twice as old as more than 1/2 the people. Natalie, from the Rhizome Collective, orders us to get through the gate quickly, before the cops come with guns to enforce curfew. The driveway is covered with a 20-foot long makeshift cover of tarps, a wide aisle of supplies. The air is warm and heavy. The mosquitoes bring back memories of an evening in Cancun and fear of dengue fever.
The yards of two homes are filled with tents. Malik’s home is oldly elegant, un-airconditioned and without a shower. The neighbor left him the key. In the midst of what feels like a refugee camp, I am sitting in a room with 8 computers, and every power strip is charging something: phones, laptops, radios, video camera batteries. The morning meeting starts at 7:00 a.m, which now. I will know more soon!
You can’t imagine how much I miss you. I am very grateful to be here w/Skotty and other familiar faces from Austin’s anarchist community. But I can’t wait to see Jessie, who is reportedly only a mile a way!
October 9, 2005
Greetings from the Common Ground garage, where we continue to live in the wierd world of no showers, but wireless internet access. Pagan Cluster has been very busy the last two days, engaged in all of the tasks of relief and rebuilding. Here are some of the stories and activities:
Casey worked her slim young body into the muddy crawl space and wrestled molding, rotting, hanging insulation off the house and into the yard. It was someone else (Diane?) who went in after her to face a rat’s nest.
Jessie continues to work with Mama Dee and her crew to clean houses and cook. A young woman, Hally Burton, has set up an amazing array of batteries, wiring, lights, and small refrigerators to keep everything running from a single generator. I have fantasies of apprenticing to her to learn what looks like one of the most useful post-apocalyptic skills I’ve seen yet.
Dr. Marie is the woman who helped me realign my back 4 weeks ago in Camp Casey. After 3 weeks working with Red Cross, who wouldn’t let her dispense a band aid because of liability concerns, she is very grateful to have a chance to work through Common Ground. Even Red Cross workers sent her off with every medicine they could,
hoping she would find a place where she could dispense them. She is educating us on self-alignment and on what health care looks like, or doesn’t look like, for the poor. Apparently drug companies have been sending their most expensive and addictive medicines for “relief”.
I’ve heard Baruch is an awesome counselor. He seems very happy here. Scott Weinstein, who was in Quebec, was here, but has now left.
Yesterday, when I called to talk with Diane, she said that everyone else was unavailable for a quick conference because they were on the roof. Lisa rescued the sweetest black female dog, all skin and bones. The Animal Rescue group (middle-aged women from Baton Rouge) we’d seen minutes before had given us dog food. They’d been driving all day without being able to cox a single dog into their care. They were almost as excited as this dog to feed her and take her for care.
I’ve been collecting soil and water samples. It takes me into the most devasated areas without the solace of offering any relief whatsoever. In many of these areas, there is no one coming back for a long time. I see the occassional person driving by with a totally blank expression; unable to comprehend what they are seeing as a world they once new. It brings to mind childhood stories of biblical apocalypse. I can only wonder what the Christians must be thinking.
Juniper is an environmental engineer, activist, and organizer.
Report from New Orleans
October 11, 2005
Finding a bathroom is difficult, getting a shower is even harder. Today, desperate, I peed in a cup on Nelson (the bus) and poured it out the window! We heard that there were free showers at the “FEMA tent” and that they would also do our laundry. So last night we went to the huge tent city – the “disaster relief center” – and inquired of the armed guards at the gate the direction of the showers and the laundry. After dropping off my small bag of VERY dirty clothes at the “open 24 hours” mobile laundramat, we walked past rows upon rows of air conditioned tents to the shower trailer. They had the only hot showers in the city! Bicycling back to the gate this morning at 6:30, the pink sun was just rising. The inhabitants of the tent city were beginning to walk out of the gates in twos and threes. I had the feeling of ants or foreign invaders emerging from the nest there was such a uniformity to them. They were mostly men with tee shirts and picture IDs with the name of their agency – Red Cross, Salvation Army, EPA, Entergy, FEMA, National Guard, Rocky Mountain Rescue Squad…”
New Orleans is dead. I have heard the voices speaking about human spirit and hope and determination and how the city will come back. Yesterday we went to the 7th ward to work with Mama D. Her neighborhood is in the middle of the city on the east side of the Mississippi and was flooded. The lucky ones ended up with their second floors dry. She is the most resilient woman I could possibly conjure in my imaginative catalogue of remarkable women. She did not leave her home of 5 generations when Katrina was moving toward the city. Where would she go, and how? She had no car, no where to go. She weathered Katrina and then Rita by climbing up into the upper floors of her house, then floating in a small dinghy that had washed up on her street. And when the water began to recede after several days, she was there to take care of it. Houses do not do well when left alone. She was able to clean and air out her house before the mold began to grow on the walls. Her work now is to bring her neighbors home. Her deep, deep fear is that they will not return. What do you think? 63% of the residents are renters. The walls of their homes are covered in black mold. They don’t know anyone who can help clean it, who is not in the exact same predicament, and they have no money to hire anyone. Their porches and the streets are strewn with trees. Their jobs no longer exist. There are no schools for their childen, no place to buy food, none of their neighbors are around. 80% of the New Orleans police force is homeless. They are being housed in huge cruise ships… The city will be rebuilt, but it will not be the same city. If those houses are bulldozed (as the residents are being told they will be) then, yes, housing will be rebuilt. But it will not be the same city. New people will come live there. A few will return, particularly in the Algiers area which did not flood. Though that is also empty now, waiting… There are no hospitals, not court system, no postal delivery, no union halls, no community organizations, no clean water, no electricity in most parts of the city. Mama D told me that she can see the lights of the casinos from her dark porch at night. The decisions about priorities reflect the values of those in power. Bringing money back into the city takes precedence over getting residents back into their homes. Where are all those “disaster relief” workers? What are they doing? I have been all over the city and not seen anyone working except the contracted garbage haulers and volunteers and activists like us. The Red Cross does not allow their people to go into certain wards because of “liability” issues. Thirty four thousand medical people volunteered for service with them and they accepted 150 because they couldn’t handle any more than it.
Today we have returned to the bayou to work among the Houma people. The distribution center here is the most effective in the state. It is organized by Brenda Robichaux, the president of the Hauma Tribal Council. Food, clothing, cleaning supplies, household goods, tents, shovels, toiletries, diapers flow through that old barn like a river. Every day trucks deliver the stuff of a life and every day people come to pick it up. Today 97 people came and picked up what they needed for a few days. She has welcomed us with open arms. We will stay here for a week, I think. There are roofs to fix, mud to be cleared away, elders to be visited…