Gulf South Rising Activists Say Hurricane Katrina's 10th Anniversary Brings Awareness To Once Invisible Issues

Last week marked the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Gulf Coast of the United States, and Sunday was the last day of a week-long action by front-line communities in the region under the banner of Gulf South Rising. Gulf South Rising aims to confront Katrina's devastation through healing spaces, teach-ins, performances, and more that acknowledge the intersectional nature of the global climate crisis.

From Aug. 21 to 30, events from Gulfport, Mississippi, to New Orleans, Louisiana, have worked to reveal the inequalities exposed by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Gulf South Rising's Katrina 10 Week of Action has attempted to unpack Katrina as not only a climate disaster, but also one of policy. According to the movement's website, "GSR demands a just transition away from extractive industries, discriminatory policies, and unjust practices that hinder equitable disaster recovery and impede the development of sustainable communities." Colette Pichon Battle, executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy, explained the necessity of this week of action to Common Dreams — a nonprofit, independent news site that focuses on human rights and social justice.

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Alicia Garza, one of the co-founders of the #BlackLivesMatter movement who helped coin the hashtag in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin's death in 2012, delivered a keynote speech in New Orleans on Aug. 27 as part of the week of action. Her speech, titled "Katrina 10 Year Memorial: Equity, Justice and Black Leadership for New Orleans," described a "tale of two cities" in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, explaining that true recovery would require economic, social, and political transformation.

Garza is right: The intersection of climate change with axes of identity like race and class has had disastrous consequences. Gentrification and displacement along the Gulf Coast have largely been rendered invisible in the public spotlight in the 10 years since Hurricane Katrina, with efforts to revamp tourism and the economy receiving the most coverage, according to Monique Harden, Co-Director of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights.

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Gulf South Rising recognizes that the effects of displacement and lives lost are still being felt today, and that inequity and injustice continue to be deeply rooted in various communities in the region. More specifically, the movement takes a close look at environmental racism, and how capitalism led to displacement, gentrification, and systemic violence against marginalized folks. Even as the region continues down the path to recovery, it is important to think critically about who is benefiting from recovery measures, and who is continually left to fend for themselves while struggling to obtain even the most basic resources.

A quick look at the participating organizations in the Gulf South Rising movement reveals just how important and urgent it is. It is building solidarity and cultivating relationships between marginalized communities and their allies, and making it clear beyond a doubt that organizers will stand up for equity and justice by holding officials accountable and shifting power in the region.