By Kimberly Seals Allers
Editorial director, Black Maternal Health
Sunday, August 29, 2010
While attending a conference in New Orleans on health disparities in communities of color, Kimberly Seals Allers realized the real story of such disparities and racial inequities is in the Lower Ninth Ward, the area most impacted by Hurricane Katrina.
On my last day in New Orleans, instead of buying souvenirs and taking in the tourist traps, I asked a friend to drive me to the Lower Ninth Ward. It looked mostly like a wasteland with a few nice new homes. I saw plenty of concrete steps that once led to a house, but now only lead to a field of 5-foot-tall grass. I saw where do-gooders like Brad Pitt and other organizations have helped rebuild new and colorful housing, which quite frankly just looked weird sitting next to the devastation.
But what I mostly saw was the biggest disparity of them all, the wealth disparity--money given to help those who have and no money to those who don't. In fact, it is clear that the powers that be have no intention of rebuilding that community. To them, Katrina has become a tragic opportunity to rid the city of some of its poorest residents--I mean, really, who wants them around anyway? Why rebuild so they can return?
Now a new plan for the Lower Ninth Ward is in the works and its message is clear: Poor blacks need not apply. New developments and higher rents are on the horizon, but there are no jobs to support them. Even though blacks built New Orleans, created its music and its food culture, the winds of economic racism have no regard for history. So the displaced remain displaced. And the disparities linger. In health and in life.
Note: Please watch Spike Lee's latest documentary, "If God is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise," on HBO for a real look at the Lower Ninth Ward and the impact of the BP oil disaster.
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Kimberly Seals Allers is an award-winning journalist and editorial director of the Black Maternal Health project at Women's eNews. A former senior editor at Essence and writer at Fortune, she is the founder of www.MochaManual.com, a parenting destination for African Americans, and author of "The Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy" (Amistad/HarperCollins) and two other Mocha Manual books.
"If God is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise" on HBO:
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