02-19-2017  3:28 pm      •     

Nearly a full year after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, thousands of survivors remain displaced and scattered throughout the United States. In Washington State alone, it is estimated that over 5,000 survivors, living at or below poverty level, are living here in isolation.
Many of these survivors long to return home, even temporarily, in hope of reuniting with lost family.
As one survivor said, "I would love to return to New Orleans and seek out my kinfolk."
To aid in ongoing hurricane relief, a diverse group of community activists has formed the Social Change Caravan Coalition. The main focus of this group is to locate survivors and assist them in claiming their right to return home. Many of the members of the coalition have been to New Orleans to perform relief and reconstruction work and to resist evictions.
The coalition is working in conjunction with Common Ground Collective, a grassroots New Orleans-based organization co-founded by Malik Rahim. The organization's overall theme is "Solidarity Not Charity."
One of Common Ground Collective's projects includes the renovation of a low-income housing unit in the hurricane-stricken area. Units are available at pre-hurricane prices for displaced survivors to live.
The coalition hopes to raise enough money to transport displaced survivors and volunteers to New Orleans in time for Katrina's one-year anniversary on Aug. 29.
The caravan will depart from Seattle Aug. 23 and travel to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Houston before arriving in New Orleans. Survivors will then be able to seek out family members and be reunited with their community.
To highlight the caravan's departure, a Community Healing and Prayer service will be held from 8 to 11 a.m. at the Greater Mt. Baker Baptist Church, 2425 S. Jackson St. The caravan departs from the church at 11 a.m.
Two events are being held to raise revenue and awareness:
• From 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 16, the Social Change Caravan presents a Hurricane Katrina benefit show at the Neptune Theater, 1303 N.E. 45th Ave. This special engagement features the documentary, "Standing on Common Ground," by Evan Allen-Gessessee, and a question-and-answer session with the filmmaker and guest speaker Malik Rahim.
Allen-Gessessee, a young African American man, traveled to the Gulf Coast during spring break to do relief work with Common Ground Collective. "Standing on Common Ground" documents his life-changing experience in New Orleans. Tickets can be purchased at the Neptune Theater or online at www.brownpapertickets.com for $15, or $10 for students and seniors with identification.
• From 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, Aug. 18, the Social Change Caravan presents a Hurricane Katrina benefit concert (age 21 and over; ID required) featuring ReBirth Brass Band from New Orleans at the Royal Esquire Club, 5016 Rainier Ave. S.
For the past 22 years, ReBirth has brought its blend of New Orleans funk and jazz to many parts of the United States and to Asia, Europe and Africa. Tax-deductible tickets can be purchased at the door or online at www.brownpapertickets.com for $25.
"Solidarity" tickets are also available for $50, and include dinner. One hundred free tickets will be reserved for Hurricane Katrina survivors on a first-come, first-served basis.
Proceeds from these two concerts will support the Social Change Caravan's trip to New Orleans. Monetary donations are welcomed as well. Tax-deductible donations can be made to "SCC Foundation" ("Katrina" in the memo line) and mailed c/o CCEJ, 1620 18th Ave. Suite 10, Seattle, WA 98122.
To get involved locally or for further information on the SCC Coalition, call Crystal Jordan, 206-719-8253, or e-mail crystalljordan@yahoo.com; or call Claudette, 206-353-0020, or e-mail claudettekt@yahoo.com.
To find out more about Common Ground's relief efforts, visit www.commongroundrelief.org.

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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