2020 Marks 15 Years Since Communities Were Forever Devastated by Hurricane Katrina and Systemic Inequity Remains Unresolved
On Saturday, Aug. 29, the Hip Hop Caucus and the New Orleans Katrina Commemoration Foundation hoted their 15th annual community-led Katrina March and Second Line today in honor of loved ones lost, to celebrate resiliency, and demand justice. The day marked 15 years since Hurricane Katrina devastated countless lives and communities in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
The event began in the lower 9th ward where the levees breached and concludes at Hunter’s Field. Those who could not join in person were able to tune in through an all-day livestream of the event by visiting Katrina15.com.
“On the 15th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we are connecting the fact that our exploitative and extractive economic and energy systems are inextricably linked to our relationship to the environment, and it is all grounded in systemic racism,” said Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., President & Founder of Hip Hop Caucus & Louisiana native. “We need to connect the dots between racial justice and climate justice because our existence is at stake.”
The event began with a healing ceremony where community members gathered for a multi-faith prayer and a reading of the names of those who died during Hurricane Katrina. Following the ceremony, a march took place where half-way through, a brass band joined and the energy transitioned from somber to a Second Line that is a celebratory remembrance and commemoration in true New Orleans fashion. The afternoon includes a program with speakers and performers, vendors, and community organizations.
“We are in the middle of a public health pandemic, which is showing that Black people are plagued by systemic inequity. In the same way, 15 years ago, Hurricane Katrina unmasked the perpetual pandemic of anti-Black systemic racism,” said Sess 4-5, founder of New Orleans Katrina Commemoration Foundation and Hip Hop Caucus New Orleans Coordinator. “We demand real justice, and will continue to demand justice until it is delivered because Black lives matter.”
When Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast 15 years ago, Black people and poor people were left to die in the richest country in the world. Years later during a public health pandemic, it is showing that Black people are still plagued by systemic inequity. The organizers of the event have demanded that the state of Louisiana make August 29 a holiday to commemorate the lives lost in Katrina. Additionally, in an effort to enforce racial, economic, and climate justice they call for investment in our communities, divestment from the systems and institutions that harm our communities, defunding of the police, investing in community programs of social uplift, investment in education, health, housing, and Black businesses and divesting from fossil fuels while investing in a just transition for climate solutions.
Given the pandemic, the event organizers are encouraging best practices to participate safely – wearing pasts, maintaining social distance when possible, and more. And for those who are high risk for COVID or live with high risk family members, the event is being live streamed so people can participate from home.