Yesterday (March 18th) was the day that Our Lady Lavang group decided to visit the lower and upper 9th ward for the first time. As we arrived in our 15 passenger van to the upper 9th ward, the difference was immediately seen from both where we were staying and where we have been so far. Houses here in the upper 9th ward looked deserted, missing walls and bricks, debris all around, it was a sight that immediately quieted our van of chatter. As we drove through the upper 9th ward drawing near the bridge of the lower 9th ward, I thought, well this wasn’t as terrible as I had thought it would be, that rebuilding here would take some work but it didn’t seem to be impossible. Then as we drove over that bridge to get to the lower 9th ward, our hearts in that van just dropped, but for more then just the sight did our hearts drop.
The lower 9th ward was a sight that is both hard to talk about and hard, at least so soon, to put all the emotions one feels down. The lower 9th ward has truly become a ghost town in itself, I believe from the six or so blocks that we had walked on this afternoon, we saw one family who was just sitting and looking at what was left of their home, which literally was a house shaped like a V (if that makes any sense). The smell was all around us of mold and toxins that where embedded in the earth below and around us. It was hard. It was hard when you saw toy cars sitting in a pile of rubble. It was hard when you see just stairs leading to nothing. It is hard when you think that 1,600+ people have died in this very place where I now stand. It is hard to think of all the exploitation that is going on here of people of color. It is just simply hard.
The one thing that a few members of our group had was anger. Yes we had anger towards what had happened but what was also bothering us was the tours. To me, at least, this was a place were many died, a sacred place if you will, and here you have people on tour buses to see all of this pain and sorrow. What really got to me was back to that one family who was looking at their V shaped house and all of a sudden this Louisiana Tour Bus pulls up in front of this house, and older white male got out of this bus, takes a picture of this house and these two African American Males, and then loads back on the bus without saying a word. This reminds me of what a sign at common ground says, something on the lines of “Shame On You For Driving By To See My Pain” which really that man should feel nothing but shame for the way he approached that situations. But constantly in the 9th ward there are tours going though here, there are people driving through, people taking a million pictures who didn’t seem to me, respectful to their surroundings. It was hard to see this.
Others in the group felt sadness and pain and hurt. You could see how even if the levees had not of broken, these houses that where here were not great houses to begin with. This all brought us to look closer at the exploitation of people of color especially since the lower 9th ward is mainly working class African Americans. Our group was saddend to see seashells everywhere on the ground, from when the levees broke and the sea ran freely though this area. Members of our group cried when we saw little children’s toys we wondered to ourselves, where they able to get out? How many children have died here? How many Mothers, and Fathers, and Sisters where lost here? And then we wants to shout at the peak of our voices, “WHY?”
All in all today was an extremely hard day for all of us, but it was necessary because for a while I think we lost some sight of why we where here. With one of the first things we did being the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and then the French Quarters, we did not see a whole lot of the overall damage that occurred, but we saw what the media portrays New Orleans as. Going to the 9th ward, for myself and the group, was something that reopened our eyes again to what we are here to do, it opened our eyes to a passion to wanting to work with the 9th ward (which we now have two different days with work in the 9th ward), and it reopened our eyes to all the work that is still needed, especially in the lower and upper 9th ward.
CSI: Our Lady Lavang Group
CSI: Our Lady Lavang Group