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This information is provided for historical background purposes, since POC got its start as PHRF.

College Students Nationwide Plan Spring Break in Gulf Region

College students will hit the Gulf Region Sunday, March 5th – Saturday, April 1st opting to engage in rebuilding instead of recreation. Katrina on the Ground is a Spring Break initiative organized by hiphop generation leaders and college students like Kevin Powell (Writer/Activist), Wesli Spencer (James Madison University undergrad), Rukia Lumumba (Howard University Law student/Malcolm X Grassroots Movement) and BET’s Jeff Johnson. They are partnered with leaders and organizations out of the Gulf Region like the Mississippi Disaster Relief Coalition, Malika Sanders of the 21st Century Youth Leadership, the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund, Saving Ourselves and the Grassroots Legal Network to provide much needed assistance in the trenches.

To find out more about Spring Break opportunities, please visit Katrina On the Ground
Or…

MISSION STATEMENT:

Recognizing our responsibility to aid in the recovery process from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, we unite under a common cause, bringing together our resources to rebuild physical and emotional destruction, restore financial independence, and reclaim the legal rights of hurricane survivors.

PROJECT INTRODUCTION

Katrina on the Ground (KOTG), an initiative organized by college students and grassroots activists, will recruit, train, and deliver to serve, scores of students who will provide assistance to persons directly affected by the hurricane, as well as the over-extended organizations and relief-workers who continue to tread the long, rocky and seemingly lonely path to rehabilitation for the region. Each leg of the effort will be documented on film to preserve the history of this most important, monumental initiative.

A tremendous number of people living below the poverty level were severely affected by this catastrophe. Prior to the storm, many of these individuals struggled by on low wages while serving as the lifeline for the booming tourism industry, serving as cooks, maids, bell hops and other industry workers that allowed the region to flourish with prosperity. The one constant could have been identified as a home to enjoy their families and peace of mind after a hard day’s work. Katrina launched a chain reaction of events, which has systematically disassembled the few constants in their lives - leaving them naked and alone to deal with the remnants while the rest of the world goes on.

During and immediately after the storm, droves of people gave unselfishly of their time, homes and resources to assist those affected, now the urgency to help has dissipated, federal assistance is dwindling and the victims’ lives are still in shambles. The lack of immediate and minimal continuing response from local, state and federal entities to ensure their well-being has left these people feeling victimized not only by the storm, but more importantly by their fellow man in their most critical time of need. Operating under a feeling of disenfranchisement and desertion, many find it hard to light the path or begin the steps to transition from victim to the true definition of survivor where they will continue to live on, function and prosper in spite of adversity. The despair is so great that the notable and selfless assistance being provided by current trench-workers is easy to go unnoticed. They should not bear the burden alone.

The KOTG coalition recognizes the responsibility to be “our brothers’ keepers” and to facilitate and aid in their recovery process from what was, and still remains, a traumatic catastrophe. Having identified this unprecedented opportunity to target, harness and capitalize on the collective intellect, initiative and manpower of African American students en masse, this concerted effort is intended to generate national support and impart widespread improvement at several levels in the lives of the thousands of still-reeling victims. At a deeper level, this project will regenerate community worth and responsibility among a generation that has been bombarded with desensitizing and disengaging exposure. Accordingly, Katrina on the Ground is making strides that will dually benefit our current society and our future way of life.

STATEMENT OF NEED
Hundreds of thousands of people from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were directly affected by this natural disaster. The abrupt loss of life, necessities, community, income and the overall way of life severely limits the survivors’ abilities to summon their drive to rebound and fosters hopelessness and despair. The loss of life caused by the storm and the extreme physical affects of awaiting rescue is astounding. Bodies are still being discovered even today, and many families are still searching for loved ones. What is perhaps most devastating, is the number of children who are still unaccounted for, be it that they perished in the storm or became separated from their families during the mass exit. People whose lives were once ripe with opportunity and progress have now been shut completely down.

THE FACTS
The CRS Report for Congress estimated that 77% of the New Orleans population was
affected, and nearly all residents of St. Bernard. In Mississippi, 55% of Hancock
County’s population is estimated to have been affected by flooding and/or structural
damage, and in the more populous Harrison County, about 19% of its population. CRS also estimates that one-fifth of those displaced by the storm were likely to have been poor, and 30% had incomes that were below 1½ times the poverty line. African Americans are estimated to have accounted for approximately 44% of the storm victims. An estimated 88,000 elderly persons (age 65 and older), many with strong community ties, may have been displaced, along with 183,000 children, many of whom were just starting the school year when the storm struck. These are however, are only the local results of Katrina and her aftermath.


Still months after the passing of the storm, the remnants have had a trickle down affect that seeps into national stability. One daunting aspect of the individual and community reconstruction, is extending the support and resources to the countless others who have fled to other areas of the country to seek refuge. Many are equally as unaware of their rights regarding their property or their compensation options should they choose to stay away, as those who remain. Additionally, this has broadened the reach of over-extended resources and already limited, highly competitive job markets in other areas that were not directly affected by the storm.

Impeded access to services and resources increases vulnerability and severely impairs one’s ability to function as a productive community member or to carry out their responsibilities to self or family. Many of the victims are now being subjected to poor accessibility to economic support, educational opportunities and health-related services that prevent infection and disease. We are looking at a situation that has isolated thousands of people from everything and everyone that was familiar to them, which is a direct precursor to crisis and can cultivate an atmosphere for crime, violence and stifled progress.

KOTG has mobilized to unite with other organizations under a common goal that encompasses the wealth of resources by our conveners and supporters. We will serve as a funnel for the community at large to commit, train and serve to assist in repairing the devastation, physical and emotional damage; restoring financial independence; and reclaiming the legal and human rights of the hurricane survivors. Our goal is for the project is to extend into the summer to provide ample time and service to establish a mechanism for those affected to become fully documented, educated and prepared to participate in the reformation of their communities. Beyond this aspect of the initiative, individuals who have sought shelter in other locales will be able to contact participating colleges that will serve as links in a broader network to disseminate information and resources.

In concert with the planning and implementation process, KOTG is taking specific steps to generate wide-spread community support, participation and perhaps most importantly, to generate the funds that will increase coalition’s ability to respond to the developing needs of the disproportionately poor and African American families whose lives were so rapidly and violently thrown into disarray.

PROPOSED PROJECT

Katrina on the Ground was conceived to unify the Black community to generate a widespread community network, seeding unity and responsibility, and then channeling the product to provide a stronger vehicle for recovery to the victims of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

The project is largely orchestrated by forward-thinking, college-level students who desire to make a difference with their lives and to impart positive, progressive change in the lives of others. Also deemed the Student Spring Break Initiative, the direct objective of KOTG is to target, recruit, train and disperse students from various colleges and universities across the nation. These students are committing to provide at least one week of assistance to affected survivors in the areas of Mobile, Alabama, Biloxi, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana during the month of March. This is a time when normally, many of these students have been on a beach carelessly partying as a new season of warmth and rebirth is ushered in – an option that now seems a lifetime away to those affected by Katrina.

WHEN and WHERE:

Students will be asked to commit to volunteering for at least at one week between the dates of March 6th and March 31st , 2005.

Students will arrive in Selma, Alabama at the 1st Century Youth Camp Site on four successive Sundays

Sunday, March 5th
Sunday, March 12th
Sunday, March 19th
Sunday, March 26th

with a one day orientation to occur on four successive Mondays

Monday, March 6th
Monday, March 13th
Monday, March 20th
Monday, March 27th

Students will then disburse to Mobile, Alabama, Biloxi, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana to provide hands on assistance to survivors.

Our target is 500-600 students from across the country, or 150-200 each week. Housing and food will be provided for students.

GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

According to the needs identified as most important by the service organizations, KOTG has framed the project goals around:

· Providing physical assistance and personal counseling,
· Rehabilitating the land and housing, (clean up x amount houses – have houses suitable for habitation, cleaning up certain communities,
· Re-establishing a viable economy to sustain residents through business education and connecting victims to business opportunities and resources for advice on property lost and
· Wholly rebuilding devastated lives.

SELECTED PARTNER ORGANIZATIONS

The selected organizations are the Mississippi Disaster Relief Coalition (MS-DRC), the Saving Our Selves Disaster Relief Coalition, the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund (PHRF) and the Grassroots Legal Network. We sought to identify organizations that are already up and running, and that have already made significant progress working to aid Katrina survivors even though they may contend with challenges such as being understaffed or having limited resources. Accordingly, each organization serves a mission that is directly parallel to the goals set forth by the KOTG project.

GRASSROOTS LEGAL NETWORK

The Grassroots Legal Network is a legal workgroup created by the Mississippi Disaster Relief Coalition (MS-DRC) and the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund and Oversight Committee (PHRF). The Grassroots Legal Network is composed of attorneys, law firms and legal organizations that are committed to protecting the human and civil rights of survivors.

MISSISSIPPI DISASTER RELIEF COALITION

MS-DRC is a coalition of grassroots organizations that advocates fighting on behalf of communities of color on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and throughout the state. The coalition partners (which include Southern Echo, Mississippi Worker’s Center for Human Rights, Mississippi ACLU, Mississippi Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Young Peoples Project, Nation of Islam Jackson Chapter, Mississippi NAACP, the Mississippi Chapter of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparation, and others) have been working on behalf of communities whose voices have been traditionally underrepresented and unheard for many years prior to the arrival of Hurricane Katrina. They have collectively confronted issues facing those communities in the areas of education, criminalization, poverty, disenfranchisement, discrimination, reparations, and gentrification. In the aftermath of Katrina, these organizations unified to ensure that the communities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast that have historically been overlooked and disregarded, are able to get relief and have a voice in the future redevelopment of their neighborhoods.

PEOPLE’S HURRICAN RELIEF FUND

PHRF is a project of Community Labor United (CLU). CLU is a coalition of community-based organizations, predominantly representing Black residents of New Orleans. The coalition has worked together for several years prior to the hurricane on social justice issues and already has deep connections with the now far flung community that was most affected by Hurricane Katrina. CLU includes more than 30 local civil and human rights, faith-based, labor and educational organizations, such as NAACP New Orleans Chapter, New Orleans Welfare Rights Organization, Parents for Educational Justice, Dillard University faculty and staff, UNITE Local 652, United Teachers of New Orleans, Christian Unity Baptist Church, and Nation of Islam. In the days just after Hurricane Katrina, CLU began to locate representatives of its member organizations and develop a plan to ensure that poor and Black residents of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region have input to the rebuilding process of their communities.

SAVING OURSELVES DISASTER RELIEF COALITION

The S.O.S. Coalition, a non-profit organization, is committed to providing Katrina victims and the larger communities with access to health care, affordable housing, adequate education, sustainable jobs and business opportunities, and a safe environment. SOS affiliates with activist, community-based and faith-based organizations, businesses and others in the impacted communities by developing and managing long term community development re-building plans and projects; facilitating and implementing collaborative efforts, coalition building, networking opportunities, and resource sharing which can be replicated as sustainable community development models; providing organization, leadership and civic education training. The organization also provides a media connection and serves as a conduit for news and information about the progress of the work, the issues and the impact on the Gulf area residents from the perspective of those organizations and the ordinary citizens who live in the region

If your school or organization would like to participate in the Katrina On The Ground Spring Break Student Initiative please fill out an application by contacting

Katrinaontheground@yahoo.com

www.katrinaontheground.com

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International School for Bottom-up Organizing