Amidst a rise in climate change-driven weather disturbances across the globe, Louisiana and other states along the Gulf of Mexico are bracing for the brewing Tropical Storm Barry. Thunderstorms and rain have already been battering New Orleans, putting certain areas under a reported 3-4 feet of water. As Tropical Storm Barry approaches, those conditions could become even worse, so if you're wondering how to help New Orleans as the flooding continues, there are a few important points to keep in mind.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina collapsed the city’s flood protection system, burying over 80% of the city in water. In the aftermath of Katrina, activists argued that relief efforts prioritized mostly white areas, despite millions of dollars being raised to presumably help all of the city's communities. According to NBC News, Red Cross chief diversity officer Rick Pogue explained that while the organization intended to help everyone who was impacted, quickly responding to certain black impoverished communities was more difficult. “The need was so great, we’d go first to the areas we could get to the easiest," he said at the time.
Following the criticism, as well as reports about how the hurricane disproportionately affected communities of color, Katrina Gay of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) explained why NAMI's relief efforts succeeded whereas others failed Black communities.
"I will tell you my No. 1 takeaway,” Gay said in a 2015 interview with Mashable.
It's the community. It's the community that's going to make it happen, and it's the people who live and love and work and know that community who are going to be part of making it happen. If you're a federal agency, you better have relationships in those states. If you don't, you're going to be at a disadvantage. You just can't help without that.
So as these floods and a potential hurricane set into the region, ensuring that relief efforts prioritize supporting local communities is crucial if you want to lend a hand.