"The peoples of the Gulf Coast need a strong and unifying Black led Reconstruction Movement and program to build and mobilize effective mass based power to bring about massive improvements and changes to ensure a just Reconstruction for the region and people impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita."
The following is from the Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund and Oversight Coalition.
Call for the Second Survivors Assembly:
“We Must Build a Strong, Independent Gulf Coast Self-Determination and Reconstruction Movement so the People Can Decide!”
In accord with the principle that “the People Must Decide”, the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund and Oversight Coalition (PHRF/OC) calls for the convening of the Second Survivors Assembly on Saturday, August 25th – Tuesday, August 28th, 2007 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The First Survivors Assembly was held in Jackson, Mississippi on December 8 – 9th, 2005, less than 4 months following the horrific disaster and during the most repressive and emotionally devastating period for Survivors since the trauma caused by Hurricane Katrina. The First Assembly provided a critical organizing vehicle for the Survivors and helped outline a program for the initiation of a Gulf Coast Self-Determination and Reconstruction Movement.
The First Assembly was attended by more than 250 Survivors and more than 300 allies from cities in over 10 states throughout the US. The First Assembly was followed by the “People Must Decide” march and rally on December 10th, 2005 in New Orleans where more than 5,000 people demanded justice, accountability and the right of return.
The program developed out of the First Assembly informed the basic direction of the work of the many social, political, religious and civic organizations, students and progressive legal and technical forces that have become involved in the broad social justice activities around Katrina and Rita recovery and reconstruction over the past 17 months.
However, a major weakness following the First Assembly has been the failure to solidify a coordinating body to bring about greater cooperation and coordination of the common areas of work of the various groups and campaigns. The Second Assembly must ensure that such a coordinating body and its role are discussed and put in place as major components of the Reconstruction Movement. The Second Assembly is thus a continuation and further development of a process of self-determination and empowerment of a Black-led grassroots movement for Reconstruction beneficial to all oppressed, working and poor people in the impacted Gulf Coast Region.
The Second Assembly is being held in conjunction with the 2nd Commemoration of Hurricane Katrina and the convening of the International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, where the US government will be tried for its various Katrina related human rights violations. This intersection of activities reflects the growing regional, national and international character and political scope of the Gulf Coast Self-Determination and Reconstruction Movement.
The peoples of the Gulf Coast need a strong and unifying Black led Reconstruction Movement and program to build and mobilize effective mass based power to bring about massive improvements and changes to ensure a just Reconstruction for the region and people impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
17 months after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the conditions in New Orleans in particular make clear that the US government does not intend to act in good faith in addressing the needs of the Black majority.
More than 400,000 remain displaced;
More than 200,000 are under or unemployed;
Most devastated housing remains uninhabitable;
Government policies systematically deny restitution and rental assistance to renters in all Gulf Coast states;
Rents have tripled on average in all devastated areas;
Government officials still have not dispersed 98% of recovery funds to homeowners in either Mississippi or Louisiana;
While disaster profiteers have made a killing, wages remain stagnant throughout the region;
Corporate and government action has destroyed the Teachers, Hospital Workers and Bus Drivers unions;
Corporations and other employers have largely excluded Black workers from reconstruction jobs, preferring to ruthlessly exploit unprotected immigrant workers; and the tragedies go on and on.
Over the past 17 months, there have been many, many valiant efforts of resistance to this program of Black ethnic cleansing. However, the resistance has been extremely fragmented and isolated from the masses. While there have many important ongoing areas of work to resist the government and corporate strategy of Black ethnic cleansing, they have not taken on the character of a coherent mass movement for Reconstruction. There is no united front mechanism to work for cooperation and unity around common areas of work. Competition, tensions and divisions among various organizations involved in Katrina work have brought about fragmentation. There have not been adequate funds and resources to support a solid core of fulltime organizers. The solidarity movement has only developed to the level of a small network of progressive activists and lacks sufficient national and international scope and depth of organization and influence in key social movements like the Black. Latino, women’s, labor, youth, student, LGBT, etc., liberation movements. There has been no focus on building a political organization to challenge for areas of political power and control for the Reconstruction Movement.
The Black, oppressed, and working peoples of the Gulf Coast and the movement desperately need a new course of action based on a comprehensive strategy, and they need it now. The Second Survivors Assembly is being called to develop this strategy and build the operative unity needed to execute it.
The Survivors Assembly is a constituent body of the mass of the people most affected by the disaster convened to address a crisis of the state (i.e. the government) and its operations. The crisis being addressed by the Survivors Assembly is the failure of the United States government to protect and repair the lives of the people and most impacted communities and vital social institutions affected by Katrina and Rita. In addressing this crisis, the Assembly serves as the venue where the Survivors directly exercise their voice and power to decide the platform and program of the Gulf Coast Self-Determination and Reconstruction movement. In the spirit of equity and human rights, the Assembly seeks to give voice to those most affected by the Hurricanes, this includes the Black, Native, Asian and immigrant communities of the region in particular and the whole of the working class of the area in general.
The main purpose of the Survivors Assembly is to create a collective strategic vision, platform, and program to guide the Gulf Coast Self-Determination and Reconstruction Movement. One of the most fundamental questions we believe the Assembly must address and answer is who’s vision and program for reconstruction in the Gulf Coast will prevail? The developers, the governments, or those displaced and affected by the Hurricanes and the governments racist and exclusionary policies? To answer this question we believe that the Assembly must seek to comprehensively articulate the vision of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, turn that vision into a social and political platform, and develop a broad, coalition program to carry forth this vision. This political platform – which will synthesize and crystallize IDP needs and aspirations – will inspire and drive a movement capable of addressing people’s isolation, despair and distrust and thereby become strong enough to successfully challenge the governments and developers schemes.
Who can participate?
As an Assembly of the people and communities in the Gulf Coast most impacted by Katrina and Rita, the Survivors must be the main participants in the Survivors Assembly. As the Assembly is not mainly a place to give testimonies about personal suffering experienced by individual Survivors, participation is geared to involve Survivors and allies in organized discussions, planning and strategizing that develops a program of action. The main outreach will be to Survivor organizations especially in the Gulf Coast region and the South, to solidarity committees and organizations throughout the country working directly with Survivors and to allied organizations and individuals working in legal, technical and educational areas related to Survivor issues. Survivors will have voice and vote and others will have occasional voice and not vote.
We are also calling on all of the pre-Hurricane organizations of civil society from the Mississippi Gulf Coast Region (including the Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas coastal regions) to come, participate and make your voice heard. These include:
Spiritual Organizations (Churches, Mosques, etc.)
Finally, we are calling on all Katrina and Rita Solidarity Committees to participate.
We ask that all Survivors Councils, independent Survivor formations, Gulf Coast civil society organizations, and Solidarity Committee’s interested in participating in the Second Survivors Assembly please contact us by March 1st, 2007 via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To plan the Assembly we are seeking to convene an Assembly Organizing Committee. We ask that each above organizational categories above interested in joining this committee nominate a representative and an alternative backup, depending on your capacity, by March 1st. Send all representative information, including organizational name, individual name, phone number(s), email address(es), and mailing address to email@example.com. The majority of the meetings will be conducted via conference call, however we will try and convene at least one face-to-face meeting in New Orleans during the spring or early summer (PHRF is seeking funds to cover the expenses associated with advancing this organizing process, however, organizations may have to cover some or all of their own travel and accommodation expenses).
For general programmatic preparation for the Assembly, we ask that each interested organization submit in writing your answers to the following questions (Please note that we will be asking a series of such questions throughout this process to clearly formulate the agenda of the Assembly. Ideally we would like this process to be mass in character to elicit as much input as possible. Our hope is that the organizing process itself will enable us to come to the Assembly with clear strategic proposals in hand that we can collectively discuss, debate, and decide upon.):
What are the three most important objectives of your organization?
What do you think the three primary strategic focuses of the overall movement should be? How does your organizations goals and objectives relate to these objectives?
What organizational form do you believe is best suited to accomplish these goals? A coalition? A network? Etc.
What are the keys in your organizations estimation to building programmatic and operative unity within the movement?
What do you think are the major internal and external challenges confronting the Movement?
How do you think the movement should address these challenges?
Please try and send all feedback to these questions by Friday, February 23rd, 2007 so that we can share them with all of the parties interested and committed to participating in the Assembly planning process.
For more information please visit our website at www.peopleshurricane.org or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach us via phone at (504) 301-0215 or fax at (504) 301-0306.