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Underclass speaks to Capitol Hill about Katrina
I am one of hundreds of thousands affected in New Orleans, Orleans Parish, alone, not to mention those affected regionally and nation wide, by Hurricane Katrina. I know that the U.S. Senator and U.S. Congressional Representative representing New Orleans and the State of Louisiana have their hands full right now. The need to communicate and get a positive respond quickly is very stressful here in New Orleans. We are learning to be patient and deliberate in what we try to communicate. The reason I am writing an identical letter to New Orleans Senate and Congressional Representatives is because we are New Orleanians. There is a unique communication and understanding among New Orleanians, especially now. I know that you both are overwhelmed, as is most New Orleanians. I understand that your concerns include the Nation and the World. I share your concerns for the Nation and the World. We here in New Orleans are also concerned about murder, the slow death of hope, and the end of our world as we know it here in New Orleans. Many people her in New Orleans have lost their way home. They need someone to listen to what’s on their minds, patiently, so they themselves can hear, identify and hope to resolve the many problems they face everyday. They need medication, education and better paying jobs. Many people need mentors and counselors. Hunger is a real problem for the very young and the very old. These are but a few of the many problems facing this city that you both call home. I know I have not mentioned any problems that you were not aware of in New Orleans. I know that there are organizations and agencies here working to address the needs of the people and monies available to support that mission.
New Orleans before Katrina was known for the many churches in our communities. In many cases there were 2 or 3 in the same block. New Orleans was a faith based city, mostly Catholic for many years. President Bush gave favor to faith based organizations and provided funds for faith based programs nation wide. Pre-Katrina the monies flowed from Washington to the state and the state distributed the monies state wide as needed until it ran out, The large and well known religious leaders and organizations knew when and where the resources would be available. As in society and business the larger, well known and better organized you are, the bigger your share of limited resources. The smaller and more entrenched, in the most needy areas, only get a token of the resources. That is how it works in this society and one must seek what is just by pointing out that which is unjust to those who create and maintain the justice system. That is why I write you both, you are on the same side of the aisle and the right side of justice.
I did not have a church home for over 35 years prior to April 2005. I have always been a God fearing man but could not find a place I wanted to call home. Through those 35 years, I fellowshipped at many churches, I enjoyed but did not join church. After about 12 years of my wife asking me , when? I surprised everybody and got up and walked up. The decision was not sudden but progressive. It took five years listening and watching the steady growth and leadership of the pastor of Pentecost Baptist Church. I had the opportunity to speak with this 45 year old young leader after his 1st Anniversary. I asked him if he was up for the spiritual leadership of those almost twice his age. He gazed pass me, shook his head yes and said, “I believe I am.” The young man for the next 4 years preached the word twice on Sundays, Thursday nights and taught the word at Monday night’s bible study. In conference and negotiations he brought the church out of the red and comfortably in the black. The church under his leadership was able to purchase surrounding underdeveloped properties. Pentecost offered the city and community, prior to Hurricane Katrina, University graduate studies programs, Teen Abstinence, Teen Pregnancy Prevention, Senior Citizen Program, After School Homework Assistance and Summer Day Camp. The summer of 2006, the city of New Orleans was able to send some teen employees to work with the Pentecost Summer Camp. This is just a few of the things that I have noticed but I am sure there were more things going on then and now that I am not aware of.
I got up and moved to the sound of the voice of the man I chose to call pastor and I believe God choose him for me before I did. I had been christened Catholic many years ago but I wanted to be baptized. The pastors words were for years uplifting and effective on his members. I witness it and I experienced it, so I signed up to be a soldier in the army of the Lord under the leadership of Pastor Lionel Davis, Sr. Six months after my enlistment in the army up jumped Katrina.
My family and I were in Natchez, MS when Katrina hit New Orleans. Pastor Davis and his family got trapped in the city. I didn’t see him again until about two or three weeks after the city was drained. He was standing ankle deep in mud and debris talking about cleaning the church out. This was October 2005 and I didn’t see him again until December 2005 when I met with him at the destroyed remains of my home. He had a crew of workers that he took to members’ houses to gut them out. The cost to the members was the actual cost of labor, he was not charging the thousands that he could have charged. The church was cleared of all flooded debris, the pews, carpet and other furnishing had been removed and the church was being re-rocked, new pews were ordered and flooring pads were in the corner. Pastor Davis looked worn out, he looked like he had been rode hard and put up wet. He was driving between Baton Rouge and New Orleans at least once a day and many times more than twice a day. His family was in Baton Rouge and his church and member’s homes were in New Orleans. Everybody was looking for the pastor, those who saw him was worried about him, he was working much too hard. I left and went back to Atlanta where my family was waiting to hear about home and what was going on in New Orleans. Pastor Davis’ strength, determination and drive wasn’t apparent pre-Katrina but I’m a witness to what he did in two months post-Katrina. He didn’t do it all on his own but led the road to recovery of Pentecost. The church was finished in April 2006, one year after I joined the army and 8 months after Katrina. The church was restored and paid out in 8 months under the leadership of Pastor Lionel Davis, Sr.
I believe Pastor Davis and men who are caring, unselfish and willing to roll up their sleeves or take off their shirts in service of others should be rewarded. In most cases men like that find reward in helping somebody else. I’d like to help him get many rewards but I need the help of both of you congressman Jefferson and Senator Landrieu.
My pastor needs resources to offer Adult Literacy Classes, Mentors for Boys to Men Programs, Daycare for Children and Seniors, Aid Counseling, Drug Counseling and so many other things he mentioned. The church is reopened and in service but has little to offer from just tithes and offering. In 2006 the larger churches and well established leaders were out of town and a lot of churches are still not rebuilt. I can only hope that there are some resources left over from last year or monies available for 2007 that pastor can apply to receive. Pastor mentioned to me that there were times when he tried to get help but by the time he heard about the funding it was gone. My pastor’s experience in getting grants and other resources available to faith based organizations is non-existent. He has never been in that line. He doesn’t know where the lines form. I told him that I would write you both to see if you can explain or have explained to him by someone here in New Orleans, where and how to get the help needed to those in need. If the St. Bernard public housing reopens soon, Pentecost will need help sooner rather than later.
I sure hope you both don’t make me feel foolish for expecting to get a response from such influential people. Enclosed is a letter I attempted to have published last September. I feel a strong need for literacy and I would like to help pastor teach the young and the old to read. “My people parish for a lack of knowledge”, Congressman Jefferson I’ve shaken your hand on many occasions. I need your attention quickly in making it easier for my pastor to do calling. Senator Landrieu during your father’s administration as mayor of this city I contacted him about a problem I had becoming a fire fighter. He wrote me back and offered me a job anywhere in the city I could qualify because he had no control over the fire department. I have never shaken your hand but I feel that you are approachable.
Thank you both for your attention in this matter.