Mutual Aid and Hurricane Ida

It is difficult to not feel discouraged and helpless in the face of devastation from Hurricane Ida, severe drought and ferocious wildfires in the West, Coronavirus pandemic, mass incarceration, domestic terrorism, and subversion of our political and judicial systems. Clearly environmental chaos is rapidly evolving and these disasters will continue to grow in frequency and extent.

Cause for hope are mutual aid responses to Ida’s damage. “This is how we’ll forge the good, just and beloved community,” Akuno says. “We’ve got to organize that into existence.”

(Kali) Akuno explained that he advocates for rational and democratic planning, decision making and resource sharing, in opposition to the laissez-faire approach of governments, which basically say, “Y’all have to fend for yourselves and good luck.” Mobilizing people and helping them gain the political confidence to demand better systems takes time and relationship-building, Akuno says, and in his decades-long experience as a community organizer he has come to know of an essential first step: “It’s important for people to know that there are other people who actually give a shit. You have to show them that you do.”

On Thursday, a van full of Cooperation Jackson’s members will embark on a mutual aid effort to distribute generators, solar-powered device chargers, potable water and canned food to people in Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi, as well as in New Orleans.

In addition to meeting people’s immediate needs, the group is delivering a message: It doesn’t have to be this way. Activists are communicating that in order to make sure that the rebuild is controlled on the ground as much as possible, it’s essential to build relationships, stay in touch and let each other know how we can support each other as we move through this crisis. They’re also emphasizing that mutual aid efforts can be paired with fights against the powerful systems that are hard to overcome, but that must be overcome.

“This is how we’ll forge the good, just and beloved community,” Akuno says. “We’ve got to organize that into existence. [Global] warming is already beating most of the models. We weren’t supposed to be at this point for another 20-25 years, but we’re already here. We have to come up with a survival plan based on what people think it will take, and what they’re willing to do.”

To that end, the petition, which integrates the United Nations principles for Internally Displaced People (IDPs), sets forth demands and guiding principles meant to be a moral compass to make sure that sweeping changes aren’t enacted without the people’s voice being central to the process. The petition asks for a plan of return: “If you’re going to evacuate people, how are they going to get home?” Bradberry asks. It further demands that any evacuation plan must adhere to the UN’s guidance for IDPs — for example, people must be evacuated as close to home as possible and families must not be separated.

Louisiana Activists Mobilize to Prevent “Shock Doctrine” Policies in Wake of Ida by Frances Madeson, Truthout, Sept 2, 2021

Organizers and activists in Louisiana and Mississippi are regionally coordinating their relief response in the wake of Hurricane Ida, and linking the immediate survival needs of people with a coherent set of political demands expressed in a petition to lawmakers including President Biden, calling for a humanitarian approach to evacuation and evacuees. Both initiatives draw on lessons learned from past disasters like Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Hurricane Ida has been another devastating blow to the New Orleans region and we would like to make sure that a just and equitable recovery is implemented. In the rush for basic needs, there are many important things that can get overlooked in the rush. We must TAKE ACTION NOW to ensure that the recovery efforts support the people in the region.

There are many organizations in Louisiana that were developed due to the failure of the government to act during Katrina. It is our goal to facilitate collaborative efforts and not attempt to override or minimize them.

Here are some things that will get lost in the rush to help. But these are no less important than clothes, food, etc.

  • Utilize United Nations Human Rights Commission Regulations Governing Internally Displaced Persons: Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement
  • Establish a communications network for messaging in and out 
  • ***Establish a network for collection and disbursement of medication, Insulin, etc***
  • Engage the support of local, state & national organizations
  • Mandate alterations for Insurance Code & Conduct after the disaster to motivate assistance over bureaucratic delay
  • Enforce 1st source hiring
  • Enforce prevailing wages in recovery
  • Simplify the process for reimbursing churches and individuals housing evacuees
  • Pass Gulf Coast Civic Works like legislation to fund the rebuilding of coast following storm
  • Uphold universal voting rights – UN
  • Moratorium on rent, utilities, etc 
  • Evacuation, use models provided by National & International Allies
  • Evacuation response and procedures must be humanitarian and not militaristic
  • MUST include a plan for citizens to return – unlike Katrina plan
  • Evacuation must be in line with United Nations principles for IDP
  • People should be evacuated as close to home as possible
  • Must have access to participate in processes governing the recovery/return home
  • Establish governing rules to maintain families connections (no breaking up of families)

For more information contact:  Stephen Bradberry, info@bennuadvisory.com
Stephen Bradberry is a founder of Bennu Advisory Group, http://bennuadvisory.com, and is a New Orleans-based advocate and organizer. He is a recipient of the RFK Human Rights Award in recognition of his work in the Gulf Coast post-Katrina and Rita.

Louisiana Activists Mobilize to Prevent “Shock Doctrine” Policies in Wake of Ida by Frances Madeson, Truthout, Sept 2, 2021

Even as President Joe Biden and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards continue to send federal aid relief to the southeastern states, grassroots organizations have taken up the mantle to secure resources and offer localized help to those affected by the storm. As we’ve seen during the Covid-19 pandemic and in the wake of last year’s George Floyd protests, mutual aid groups and other local organizations are able to directly respond to the needs of their communities in times of crisis, thanks to volunteer efforts and donations. Here are just a few of those groups assisting in the relief efforts for Hurricane Ida.

This non-profit consortium of indigenous tribes in Louisiana has provided regular storm updates for Ida on their Facebook page and set up a Relief and Recovery Fund for local tribe members. Other tribal groups in the Delta area with Ida relief funds include the Point au Chien Tribe, United Houma Nation, Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw, and the Atakapa Ishak Nation. A longer list and map of tribes who were affected by the hurricane, along with their individual aid efforts, can be found at Bvlbancha Public Access’s Ida Relief Doc.

Hurricane Ida: How to Help Louisiana, Other Areas Hit Hardest by the Storm. Mutual aid funds are helping communities in the southeast that were devastated by the storm — and they need our help by Claire Shaffer, Rolling Stone, Sept 2, 2021

This article discusses three groups using mutual aid for disaster response.

As climate change continues to produce more intense hurricane seasons, many communities have stopped relying on federal money, which is slow to arrive, and started looking to their neighbors for hurricane relief. Here are three groups using mutual aid as a tool for natural disaster response.

Hurricane Relief Through Mutual Aid. Three groups using mutual aid as a tool for natural disaster response by Isabella Garcia, yes!, Nov 3, 2020

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