i was hanging out up at the JED collective (where kate boverman and ethan miller live) in Maine when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. I remember watching the images on TV and being horrified by the eye-witness accounts of racism, police brutality, and shear devastation in the city of New Orleans.
I had been trained as a street medic during the anti-globalization movement in the early 2000s and decided to head down there to see if i could help with my amateur medical skills and budding interest in herbalism. i booked myself an East Coast tour to help fund the trip and tooled around Florida for a month with my friend Hannah.
on this tour I met Shannon Murray (who wasn't in riot-folk yet) and all of us headed to New Orleans to work with the Common Ground Collective doing grassroots disaster relief.
i learned more in my months in New Orleans than during any other period of my life. I learned a lot about the legacy of racism and oppression on this continent and i learned to think of climate change as a real thing that affects people's lives, rather than as an abstract scientific concept.
i wrote this song in pieces from the road and sang it a lot when i was in NOLA. my hope is that we will learn from Katrina and act now to dismantle the systems of oppression that led to that anything-but-natural disaster.
the ticketseller’s terrified
he'shaunted by his dreams
of half-empty trains
rolling out from New Orleans
and the thousands who came begging
but were harshly turned away
how many of them died
'cause they could not afford to pay?
with three days warning
all the suburbs turned to ghost towns
second cars left locked in driveways
while in the city people drowned
because they had no escape
from the fury of the sea
what happened here was murder
not some simple tragedy.
good morning america
how did you get this way?
averted eyes and centuries of chains
here comes the story of the hurricane
thousands dead in the city by the sea
murdered by our greed in new orleans
if you’re black then you’re a looter
if you’re white you’re finding food
i ask myself what i’d have done in any of their shoes?
would i have thought about my neighbors in the other part of town
would i know any of their names? would i have dared to stick around?
you can blame the president
or you can blame the sea
but they were murdered by the culture
of this economy
murdered by our fear
and our apathy
they were murdered by you
they were murdered by me
we lay in your bed naked and we watched it on tv
as the soldiers and the cops marched past the dead bodies
they were only there protecting private property
i felt sickened by the sight and sickened by my memory
of the miles that i’d driven and the gasoline i’d had burned
of the love songs that i’d written, and the money that i’d earned
how can we go on living our lives the same way?