Statement of the Mississippi Coalition on Hurricane Katrina

In June 2004, the community of Philadelphia, Mississippi, witnessed a rebirth. That positive renewal grew from a courageous commitment on the part of a multiracial group of community leaders to honestly appraise their past and its legacy of racism. They showed us that such explorations, however painful, can be positive and productive and can establish a more inclusive, sustainable foundation for community development.

It was this inspiring and instructive event that drew us, the Mississippi Coalition, together over the summer. Representing many of the major faith-based and non-profit groups throughout our state, we came together to build on the model of Philadelphia.

Hurricane Katrina has now laid bare for many of us the illusion that we have always cared adequately for others. For too many Americans who have no safety net, the catastrophe of the storm was exceeded only by the inability of officials to respond quickly and efficiently to their needs. While the wrath of the storm affected all in its path, many suffered disproportionately because we, as a nation, have long been indifferent to their anguish.

As affected areas in the state are rebuilt, the Coalition hopes now to also offer a long-term vision, one that engages the harder but deeper questions of creating communities that raise the quality of life, i.e. affordable housing, schools, health care, child care, jobs, and transportation, for all residents, regardless of income level.

We offer as our touchstone the experience of Philadelphia. In order to rebuild, we must first engage all citizens. We must be mindful of racial and economic dynamics that have both disproportionately handicapped many people in dealing with this catastrophe and which, if not attended to, will render them invisible in the rebuilding process, thus re-entrenching inequities we would all like to erase.

We offer our energies, resources, and insight as partners in the rebuilding process. We hope that the Governor’s Commission for Recovery, Rebuilding, and Renewal and its subcommittees will reflect these concerns both in their personnel and operations. Such an inclusive process will insure the credibility of the work that is to be done. We stand ready to help identify a common vision and to implement that vision for the good of all Mississippians.

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