June 25th, 2008

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Where the heart is.

The housing projects in New Orleans have been emptied of their inhabitants. Even those that rest on higher ground and were not flooded or significantly damaged during Hurricane Katrina are empty. When the people who lived in them were evacuated, they were locked and no one allowed to return to their homes. They are now going to be destroyed.

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Carnival Cruise Lines housed some of those displaced by Katrina on three of its cruise ships. The company then charged for the cost of those rooms as well as for the revenue it lost on booze and gambling. The total cost is $250,000,000. This works out to be over $1,200 per person per week. The normal cost per person for a week-long cruise is $599.

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Everyone talks about how the skyline of New York City changed after the World Trade Center towers fell. Chicago's skyline has changed, too, though--Cabrini Green, Robert Taylor Homes, so many homes are gone. The destruction of public housing is a different kind of terrorism.

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My personal reflections on the March on the Mayors last Friday were included in the Right to the City dispatch:
It is a strange experience to be back in Miami with Right to the City. Having lived in five of the regions represented here and calling three of them home--I was born in Chicago and grew up there and in Miami Beach as well as Oakland, which is where I currently live--to be back here in South Florida in this context is disorienting and inspiring. My memories of this place and its corrupt government officials, its lack of racial and ethnic solidarity, and its economic disparities are butting up against a great deal of respect and pride in the movement I see here, a national movement of which I am glad to be a part.

The culmination of this experience came yesterday as we marched from Overtown to the InterContinental Hotel, where the Conference of US Mayors is being held. For the first time ever, I walked through these streets with a feeling of ownership. Our demands were clear--accountability to the masses who built these cities and keep them running. The rain didn't stop us--if anything, it felt as though the sky joined us in solidarity, shedding tears for the dead and displaced in New Orleans.

The march reflected who we are, what our communities are - loud, joyous, and powerful.
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