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The City that Care Remembered


A resource guide on Katrina and the ongoing efforts by residents to rebuild the city of New Orleans

“Imagine that you truly believed in your heart that your government wanted to kill you,” Curtis Muhammad said, standing in front of the Industrial Canal levee in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward. He went on to describe three instances of dynamiting levee systems in poor neighborhoods of New Orleans to relieve pressure on commercial districts of the city: the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927, during Hurricane Betsy in 1965, and once more in August of 2005 during Hurricane Katrina. Older residents of the neighborhood recalled hearing the levee break twice in their lifetimes, and swore it was explosives.

Almost 10 years ago, I traveled to New Orleans as a 14-year-old high school student. I got involved, as a white volunteer, with a Black-led organization, the People’s Organizing Committee, that was organizing meetings of residents of the Lower Ninth to strategize how to rebuild and move their neighbors back who had been displaced all across the country post-Katrina. They didn’t speak of reforms and there was no appealing to the state to stop killing them. They wanted to organize their own plan to return. Group leaders I was working with insisted white people speak last in evening debriefs and during door knocking getting people out to meetings. This wasn’t the “progressive stack” I would later learn about during Occupy; it was the prioritization of poor Black militants who spoke of building their own levee, opening freedom schools, and divesting from the state.

This past week, I’ve been thinking about the strength and resiliency of the residents of New Orleans who were able to move back home, and the amount of people who came through the city in solidarity, and many more who came in charity.

I’ve been thinking about how anti-Black violence is still a wingnut idea to many people. “The government tried to kill 100,000 Black people in New Orleans.” That photo of Bush sitting comfortably in Air Force One as people stood on their rooftops in the southern heat for days, while others drowned in their attics. 10 years later, there are no public schools open in the Lower Ninth. There is a single grocery store.

Whenever I have doubts about the state blowing up a levee, I return to Curtis’ words.

Below is a collection of readings, videos, and resources on Hurricane Katrina and various rebuilding efforts throughout the city. While we reflect on the spectacle of Black death, and how very little has changed, remember that people are still fighting.

Overview of Hurricane Katrina and Aftermath

[VIdeo] Trouble the Water documentary by Tia Lessin and Carl Deal

1 Dead in Attic by Chris Rose

Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster by Michael Eric Dyson

[Video] When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Parts documentary by Spike Lee

Teaching the Levees curriculum

The People of New Orleans on Hurricane Katrina and Its Aftermath by Chris Ying and Lola Vollen

Play-by-play and flood map of Hurricane Katrina in The New York Times

Katrina and the politics of disposability by Henry Giroux

Investigation into the Danziger Bridge shootings

From Katrina to Sandy, FEMA rumors and failures keep swirling by Michael Moynihan

Mayor during Katrina found guilty of corruption, sentenced to 10 years


Material Conditions of New Orleans

Search New Orleans zip codes on USDA’s food desert locator. The Lower Ninth Ward’s zip code is 70117. (While you are at it, look up data for your own city as well.)

Income inequality, renter and homeowner breakdowns, population density data

Katrina Truth: research facts on the local realities of queer/trans people of color, environmental injustice, police violence and incarceration, economic disparities, and more.

[Infographic] Race and displacement 10 years after Katrina by Colorlines

A history of New Orleans public housing via No Limit and Ca$h Money music videos by Brentin Mock

Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America by John M. Barry

Queerness matters post-Katrina by Charlotte D’Ooge

The Effects of Hurricane Katrina on Food Access Disparities in New Orleans by students and faculty at Tulane University

Police existence is police brutality


Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space: Where the Market Meets Grassroots Resistance by Kristen Buras

Shock Doctrine: A Look at the Mass Privatization of NOLA Schools in Storm’s Wake by Democracy Now!

The first school to reopen after Katrina, Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School, was an unsanctioned cleanup effort by Common Ground Collective

[Podcast] The Promised Land on voices from the Gulf Coast: Nat Turner interviewed by Majora Carter

[Video] Reversing the Mississippi by Ian Midgely

Movements, Insurrection, Rebuilding, and Repression

$700 Million in Katrina Relief Funds Missing by Jeff Zeleny

Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six by Jordan Flaherty

Driven from New Orleans: How Nonprofits Betray Public Housing and Promote Privatization by John Arena

[Video] Former Black Panther Malik Rahim speaks on Brandon Darby and the FBI infiltration of Common Ground Collective

Black Flags and Windmills by scott crow

Why Misogynists Make Great Informants: How Gendered Violence on the Left Enables State Violence in Radical Movements by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence

[Video] LGBTQ youth group BreakOUT! featured on their post-Katrina organizing

Special thanks to Servius, Pablo, Alex, Queen, Raven, Jenny, and all the pedagogues who suggested readings, videos, ideas for this list.


Sunday Reading



Reclaim UC:

Kerim Friedman:

Jacob Remes:

Bint Battuta:


No Money in Movies


In our flat content world, what becomes of classic filmmakers who haven’t died yet? And will anyone replace them?

On June 12, a fund raising campaign for Siberia, a new film project from the notorious New York independent filmmaker Abel Ferrara and his frequent collaborator Willem Dafoe, ended with little fanfare. It had failed to reach its crowdfunding goal of $500,000, having secured only $18,725 in pledges. When I made mention of the sure to fail campaign on Facebook the night before the Kickstarter deadline one veteran film producer quipped, “Lesson #1: don’t announce a populist funding campaign at a private nightclub in Cannes.” Indeed, the campaign for Siberia seemed doomed from the start.

In the initial video for the project, Ferrara stands in what looks to be an empty upscale restaurant and makes a fidgety, awkward pitch for the film directly to the camera. He is wearing the same clothing in footage from the press conference that announced the campaign during this year’s Cannes Film Festival, where the 63 year old’s work often premieres. “Don’t let five companies decide what everybody’s going to watch, alright? Be free,” Ferrara said in his typically rambling, free-associative fashion, in a courtyard that looks like it could be attached to a private nightclub in Cannes. “This idea of the Internet, honestly… the day they showed me the first Mac, okay? You know, the Kickstarter thing works bro, and I want it to work for me because there’s no one else.”

One of the key aspects of any crowdfunding campaign is need, or at least its appearance. Yet celebrities from Spike Lee to Zach Braff have led successful Kickstarter campaigns for their own films. Each was able to raise millions of dollars on the site by leveraging their reputations, and they both turned around dreadful films as a result. Kickstarter projects fail all the time, but until Ferrara’s, the most notorious failed Kickstarter film campaign was likely Darci’s Walk of Shame, a still unrealized vehicle for former Sabrina, The Teenage Witch star Melissa Joan Hart. Raising only $50,000 of the $2 million she sought, Hart and her collaborators abandoned and deleted the project instead of facing the embarrassment of having a failed campaign page living on in posterity, as many, such as Ferrara’s still do.

Continue Reading

Sunday Reading


Jacob Remes:


Bint Battuta:

Kerim Friedman: