Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Latest Message from Andrea

Hi Everyone -

First off, a HUGE thanks to everyone who has donated to our efforts, financially and otherwise. Please keep helping and encouraging others
to help - our road to recovery has only just begun. I apologize for not being able to thank each and every one of you individually, but as I'm
about to explain, there have been a few difficulties in the area of communication....

I know, every time I promise I'll be back online soon, it doesn't work out like that. Unfortunately, these days, solving problems with
technology is a little more involved than a simple run to the store. I expected to have my internet issues resolved by today, but apparently
it's going to be close to another week before I've got a consistent internet connection. Here's the saga in short: I bought a laptop about
a week after Katrina to make getting online easier as I'd been hauling my desktop computer in and out of the van - not exactly practical. CompUSA
in Baton Rouge had all of 2 mac laptops left, so I got the last iBook in stock - which would have been fine if there were more wireless
connections around. However, it turns out that the only practical solution for internet service in New Orleans is with a cell phone
broadband card. So Jeffrey got one of those for me while on a supply run to Baton Rouge. Turns out my laptop doesn't have the slot for the card,
so I figured I'd get an external adapter while up in D.C. this weekend. Well, such a thing doesn't exist, so I had to buy a whole new laptop
(yes, I now have a barely used 14" iBook for sale - please contact me if interested as I can not afford to have two laptops!) with the proper
slot for the broadband card. Figured this was the end of the saga.... not so. Jeffrey was sold the wrong broadband card by the Verizon folks
in Baton Rouge - it's not compatible with a mac. This is despite my having talked to the salesman on the phone while Jeffrey was in the
store; we were very clear that this was for a mac. So today I went to a Verizon store on our way out of D.C. and exchanged the card, but of
course they don't have the card I need in stock so it will be 2-3 days before it is shipped to Baton Rouge, at which point I will need to make
arrangements to get the card from Baton Rouge to New Orleans.

This is just one example of some of the, um, interesting challenges that arise these days. And hopefully now you all understand why I haven't
been online nearly as much as I'd like to. At the moment I'm borrowing Leenie's broadband card while we are riding back in the van so I can at
least give everyone a brief update. Of course, once I get the proper card, we still have to deal with issues like keeping computer equipment
charged up and all that good stuff.

Anyway, enough about technological difficulties.

With Hurricane Rita headed into New Orleans, we decided we wouldn't be able to do much in the city for a couple of days, and as Leenie and I
had been asked to speak at the Green Party rally in D.C. during the big anti-war protests, we hopped in her van at the last moment and drove
some 24 hours straight there. In a world that is nothing but surreal nowadays, leaving our occupied, broken home for a fully functioning
city extra full of people was yet another measure of the bizarre. We stepped out of the van right into a full 24 hours of meetings and speeches and
marches with a bunch of wonderful Green Party folk from D.C. and elsewhere around the country. A big thank you to all our fellow Greens
and especially to David and Olivia for letting us stay in their beautiful home and take more than our fair share of non-toxic hot
showers. It took 3 showers before dirt stopped rubbing off my skin when I toweled off.

We spoke to people about the real situation in New Orleans and about our needs in regards to rebuilding our communities and our city. We are
very excited by everyone's energy and eagerness to help and look forward to various fundraising efforts and Greens coming down to help, bringing
very necessary items like solar panels and other items to help create a sustainable environment.

It was a beautiful thing to see just how people have tied New Orleans in with the global struggle against war, poverty, injustice and the like
at the big march this weekend - and very disconcerting. I planned to come to D.C. for the anti-war protests months ago, but never in my life
could I have imagined how very personal it would end up being. It's always been fun being from New Orleans - when you tell someone you are from
New Orleans, they usually get an excited look on their face and start talking about all the great things they've seen and done there or heard
about the city. Now when you say you are from New Orleans, people get a tragic look on their face and barely know what to say. I don't blame
them - I wouldn't know what to say either - it's pretty much the same as trying to figure out what to say to someone who has just lost a loved
one.

Everywhere in D.C. we saw places collecting money for the Red Cross and so took it upon ourselves to break it to all these well intentioned
individuals that sending the Red Cross money is as good as putting a match to it. Just in case you haven't caught this bit of info yet, here
is what the Red Cross is doing in New Orleans: feeding the National Guard and the police and site seeing. We have not seen one Red Cross
person doing one thing for any citizen of New Orleans. They do not bring us food or water (the Salvation Army has done this, tho, and we give
them many kudos for being the ONLY official disaster relief doing ANYTHING in the city of New Orleans) or medical care or anything. I
have only seen two Red Cross vehicles in New Orleans - one perusing our Toxic Art exhibit outside our house (Jeffrey asked them where they'd been all
this time and then told them in no uncertain terms to get lost) and one by the levy break in the lower 9th ward taking pictures. That's it. So
please, people, spread the word - DO NOT give the Red Cross your money if you really want to help. They already have millions, and I'm sure
that is plenty enough to feed the National Guard.

On top of the lack of services provided by the Red Cross, I'll tell you about Jeffrey's latest experience with the Red Cross shelter we were
staying outside of in Covington (the one we were buying toiletries and over the counter medications for the residents as the Red Cross does
not provide such things) as registered 'guests.' We left the shelter to do relief work with the Vets for Peace while waiting to get back into the
city. Before we left, we'd signed up for our Red Cross debit cards, the little amount of money they give you to get by on. These cards took
over a week to arrive. Jeffrey went back to the shelter to get our card and check on Daniel who was still there and look for our two missing cats
that escaped out of the tent and into the woods. Upon driving up to the shelter, he was stopped by a sheriff who informed him that he was not
welcome on the property. Apparently someone forgot to inform us when we left that once you leave the shelter you can not return, and that if
you set foot on the property you will be arrested. That's the kind of thanks you get for leaving to help take care of others. And a very nice way to
keep people victims - we'd been trying to help some of the shelter residents get back home - they have FEMA checks to go pick up, but no
gas money to go get the checks so they can cash them and buy gas to get home. But they aren't allowed to leave the shelter. It's a disgusting
and abhorent Catch-22 situation designed to keep people victims and prevent them from helping themselves or others.

So now we are on our way back to New Orleans - Jeffrey stayed on through Rita and was apparently spotted on '48 Hours' as 'the last man standing
in the Bywater.' While parts of the city reflooded, it was in areas still completely abandoned. Other than some wind and rain, the Bywater
fared well, as we expected. Our hearts go out to those in other areas who lost their homes and businesses to Rita and we wish you a speedy
recovery.

I heard today that NOPD has established its own checkpoints after the National Guard checkpoints into the city - that should add another
level of 'fun' to getting into the city. I also heard from Jeffrey today that all the French Quarter now has power, along with the Central Business
District. We're glad to hear that the city has its priorities straight - making sure that corporate interests are being well taken care of.
Meanwhile, there is still nothing being done in our neighborhood and many others. Leenie cornered a worker for Entergy last week who
explained to her that there are currently no plans to restore power to our neighborhood. Get that... NO plans. Nor have we heard anything
about if and when residents will be allowed to return to our area, still cordoned off with bales of razor wire. Most of the houses in our
neighborhood are pretty much fine... and those that were flooded are in more and more danger of becoming inhabitable as the mold continues to
grow, unchecked. If people were allowed back in they could be cleaning their houses up, saving them from the toxic mold - but no, I'm sure the
developers and corporate interests have better plans in store for us.

Meanwhile, we are ready to roll back into town and continue our relief efforts. Food Not Bombs will continue feeding people and delivering
food and other supplies during its mobile runs around town. We are working on setting up computers and free internet access to help people apply for
their FEMA aid and reconnect with friends and loved ones. We hope to be working on setting up solar panels and other sustainable technologies
to keep us from being so dependent on hard to come by fuel to run generators to keep a few lights on and keep people in touch with the
world. BTW, if you work for FEMA you get free fuel. If you are merely a resident of the city, you get... well, if you can you get to drive
somewhere outside the city and pay for fuel and then hope you can get back into the city.

Joe and his friend are on their way back down from Massachusetts with another truckload of supplies - food and water and things to clean
with. Joe is one amazing fellow, and a big thanks again to Nicky in MA for helping gather these supplies. Joe and his friend will be staying with
us for a week and helping out - we think this week more people will start to return to the neighborhood, permission be damned - and so we
will be ready to help them start cleaning up the mess and introduce them to the finer points of existing without power or drinkable/bathable
water and with military and police constantly patrolling the streets.

With any luck, I'll be able to start bringing you all daily updates once that new broadband card arrives and is retrieved from Baton Rouge.

By the way, Algiers, where our city council women - Jackie Clarkson - lives in a gated community, has had power, drinkable water and cable TV
for the last week or so. Hey Jackie - what about us? Can we all come live with you?

Oh, one more bit about upcoming plans - in a couple of days Jeffrey will be driving to Dallas to get Sylvester Francis, proprietor of the
Backstreet Cultural Museum in the Treme, home of most of New Orleans' cultural history. Sylvester has been pretty much stranded in a hotel in
Dallas and is eager to get back into his home and the museum and establish his presence. We look forward to working with him to try to
figure out what to do about all the African American neighborhoods disbanded and dispersed and otherwise wiped completely out of
existence, how to bring back the soul of our city.

In case this email is too upbeat, I'll leave you with some details of my last experience in New Orleans before taking off for D.C. A couple of
hours before leaving, our documentary film maker friends were headed into the Lower 9th Ward and so Jeffrey and I decided to go with them.
The place we hadn't dared set foot yet for fear it would finish the job of breaking our hearts - and it did. The outer bands of Rita were
starting to roll in, and the big black clouds and falling rain only heightened our already overly busy imaginations unwillingly reliving
the unspeakable horrors that happened there.

We rolled into a scene of unimaginable devastation. Thick black caked but now re-liquefying sheets of mud over everything, still over a foot
deep in some places. We started over on our side of St. Claude and visited the home and recording studio of my good friend Mike West
(mikewest.net). The back door was open and I stepped in to the horrible stench of toxic sludge and spreading mold. Possessions strewn
everywhere, nothing where it should be, everything wet, beyond salvation. Even with a bandana over my face, remaining in the house for
more than a few minutes was impossible. Ever present in my mind was Mike's friend Terry and Mike's three dogs stranded on that roof amidst
the rising waters.

From there we passed Fats Domino's compound on our way to the break in the levy. Another all to present memory, the picture of Fats being air
lifted off his roof. Closer and closer in to the levy break the damage got worse and worse. Houses tilted off the ground, houses rotated off
their foundations, cars flipped over, mud everywhere and not a living thing in site save one pitifully skinny forgotten dog. Then we rounded
the corner and there is sat: a barge. For some reason I hadn't heard about this barge that came over the wall of the levy, I missed that
piece of news. It took me several minutes to comprehend what was sitting there, this huge metal object sitting on what must have been several
houses, one end still embedded in a half standing house. And beyond that? The most incredible, horrible, absolute devastation I have ever
seen. For a radius of 10-20 blocks, everything was gone. Nothing stood but a few household items that explained that a neighborhood once stood
there. To the side, the flattened wall of the levy. I can not imagine this, how fast those flood waters must have come in and with what force
to lay waste to everything in its path, nothing and no one stood a chance. Unwillingly, my mind forces itself to imagine being in one of
those houses as the water rushed in - but it can only skirt around the very edges of that horror.

So yes, we walked up onto the levy and looked at it and wondered. No, there were no left over sticks of dynamite lying there, no obvious
signs. I know there are plenty of people out there questioning our allegations that the levies were dynamited - sorry, no, I can not give
you proof - these kind of things are not meant to see the light of day.

Still, I stand by what I have heard - reports from a source who I have every reason to believe, and more and more mention of people who lived
in the Lower 9th and claim to have heard explosions.

But be that what it may - and we will not stop seeking the truth - the facts do stand that Bush cut the budget to repair the levies and that
he said after the fact that no one had anticipated the breaching of the levies, despite warnings to the contrary from before the storm. Or the
fact that the levies did not break until after the storm but still the people were not evacuated, nor were they after the waters started to
pour in. Whatever the truth of the levies in, it stands as fact that these people were murdered.

Still, New Orleans is New Orleans and you can not kill our soul. While our hearts lie in ruin with our city, we can not help but keep hope
alive - this is our city and we will save her. And so, I urge all of my friends out there from our beautiful city to please come back, now.
Life there is hard and very surreal, but your city needs you. Please come home and we will help you. Or if you know someone from New Orleans,
please tell them to come home. Send them to us or tell us where they are and we will find a way to get them. Our city needs her people and the
worst thing you can do is stay away.

Peace and love -

Andrea Garland
GetYourActOn.com

P.S. I forgot to mention our Toxic Art exhibit! Jeffrey and I have a lowbrow art gallery, l'art noir new orleans, that was supposed to have
its grand reopening in the downstairs of our new home Halloween weekend.

We are pleased to announce that the grand reopening took place sooner than expected, though it happens to be out in the neutral ground
(median) outside our house and not inside. 'Toxic Art: This exhibit will kill you' held its official opening reception today, Monday September
26th, 2005 at 3pm, in celebration of the 4 week anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. 'Toxic Art' is comprised of personal artwork, works of art by
others in our personal collection, art supplies and all other items from the first floor of our home that stood in the flood waters for a week
and are therefore toxic and must be destroyed. If you are in the city, we invite you to come view the ongoing, ever changing exhibit outside
our house at 4108 St. Claude Street (but please, DO NOT touch the art, we aren't kidding that it can kill you) or you can view photos at
http://www.lartnoir.com.

If you have received this message via a third party, please visit http://www.getyouracton.com for additional information, ways to help or
donate money (we hope to be setting up Get Your Act On as a non-profit organization this week.. to the people out here who seek to discredit
us because we are not already a non-profit, um, YOU try taking care of legalities in the midst of a national disaster and see how far you
get), photos from New Orleans and mailing list sign up.





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5 Comments:

At 10/31/2005, Anonymous milostea said...

Let me see if I understood you correctly Andrea:

1) Red Cross = not good for evacuees.

2) Levees blown up but no proof exists.

Yeap, you need to decontaminate your bong Andrea 'cause it's making you nutty!

 
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At 11/07/2005, Blogger Antonio Hicks said...

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At 11/24/2005, Blogger Ellen B said...

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