Magazine article The Crisis

Black Leaders Respond to Katrina Disaster

Magazine article The Crisis

Black Leaders Respond to Katrina Disaster

Article excerpt

When Kevin Powell saw the horrifying images of the havoc and desperation unleashed by Hurricane Katrina, he jumped into action. The New York City writer and activist pulled together a clothing and food drive in Lower Manhattan. Soon, two 53-foot trailers filled with supplies were transported to storm victims in Mobile, Ala.

Afterward, Powell hopped a plane to Louisiana to begin a whirlwind tour of submerged New Orleans and evacuee centers in Baton Rouge and Houston. "I think leaders need to see, firsthand, what we are talking about," Powell explains. "Sending truckloads of items was not good enough for me."

Powell is among a corps of African American leaders working to help the Gulf Coast recover from the calamity spawned by Katrina.

Soon after the hurricane, leaders of the NAACP, National Urban League and Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) conferred with Bush administration officials to assess the needs of the storm-ravaged region.

The needs are many. Katrina not only drowned New Orleans, but also devastated a 90,000-square-mile swath of the Gulf Coast, where many of the residents were Black and poor. Thousands of the region's residents are now dispersed throughout the country.

"This is unprecedented, to ship people all over the place," says Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund, who has pressed Congress for health and mental-health services for young evacuees.

One of the biggest challenges is that confronted by the three major Black colleges in New Orleans - Dillard, Xavier and Southern. …

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