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 firstname.lastname@example.org; or call Claudette, 206-353-0020, or e-mail email@example.com.
To find out more about Common Ground's relief efforts, visit www.commongroundrelief.org.