New Orleans Still Needs Us: How Progressives Can Help

New Orleans still needs our help, as Trouble the Water, a recent Sundance-honored film, reminds us.

Trouble the Water features footage shot by a Hurricane Katrina survivor. Kimberly Rivers Roberts (who received director of photography credit) taped the storm on her camcorder. She recorded as her house flooded, and she and her husband struggled to save their neighbors who were unable to evacuate the ninth ward.

Watch as a man uses a punching bag that floated in on floodwaters to rescue people trapped in their attic. The police and emergency rescue, refusing 911 calls until the storm subsided, would have left them to drown.

The film is now in limited release.

Prepare to cry in empathy and outrage, and to be moved to action.

So little has been done to repair the city outside of the French Quarter. Tourism didn’t lift black neighborhoods out of poverty, and it won’t rebuild black communities today.

I desperately wanted to go to New Orleans to help after the hurricane, but I didn’t, in part because of a chronic illness, now in remission, that probably would have made me more hindrance than help.

But even if I had been healthy, I would have had a problem donating my time, because churches that don’t welcome lesbians managed so much of charitable help in the city.

Sadly, it’s not too late to help.

But finding volunteer opportunities, so long after the hurricane, can be frustrating, a dead-link chase.

If you see the film—and you should see the film—and want help in a way that melds with your progressive impulses, try one of the following organizations.

ACORN: The activist national aid organization.
Common Grounds: A New Orleans based organization looking to rebuild the ninth ward.

Both progressive organizations; neither church affiliated. Each takes donations of money, supplies, and volunteer time.

If you’re feeling inspired beyond New Orleans, check out these progressive charitable organizations doing national and international work:

Rainbow World Fund: An all-volunteer international aid group that is openly LGBT, RWF draws on the resources of the LGBT community to provide medical supplies, schools supplies, and grant money to countries in Central America. Much of their work is centered in Guatemala.

Feeding America: A decades old food bank with a commitment to staff diversity and treating their clients with dignity and respect.

Again, they take money, supplies, and volunteer time.

If you know of any more progressive aid organizations, please post them in the comments section.


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