A major crisis is erupting on the Gulf Coast in the storm path of Hurricane Harvey, affecting millions of our people today and many more over the coming months. Our family members have been fished out of homes and boated down city blocks. We are experiencing the horror of hearing about water supply cutoffs and hospital evacuations. We are experiencing the ripple effects and direct impacts of a decade of crises rising, but we are also feeling the strength of our muscles to move us forward in a new way.
Twelve years ago, Southern leaders recognized that the crisis unfolding in the Gulf South represented the brutal abandonment of our people and heightened exploitation of our land, public services, culture, and political power. We also recognized that the need for strong, connected, coordinated movement governance would be essential to contend with the many crises to come including the forthcoming economic collapse, rampant state violence, and climate disasters.
The anchor organizations of the Southern Movement Assembly, originating in the Gulf Coast Crisis and built over the last six years, will apply many lessons learned in our collective response to Harvey. Immediate response and vigilant planning for a just recovery that includes everyone requires a plan of action in a time of crisis. Our shared Principles of Unity will guide our collaborative efforts to provide direct support, strategic assessment, and short-term and long-term infrastructure building with communities in the region.
The following opportunities to CONTRIBUTE, ACT, and LEARN represent a call to action from the anchor organizations of the SMA to respond to this current crisis in Texas and the Gulf South. As organizers, we approach this crisis with multiple strategies:
How and where we contribute in times of crisis matters. Mainstream, institutional agencies are bloated with cash without accountability or connection to local leadership or long-term plans. Find ways to contribute to people on the ground without exacerbating mass consumption of plastics and corporate goods.
Contribute to locally-governed funds:
The Gulf South Rising Community-Controlled Fund is a collaboratively held fund by and for communities most affected by the flooding and disaster. To commemorate the 10 years of resistance since Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf South Rising initiative established a Community-Controlled Fund as part of the vision generated from five years of people’s movement assemblies in the region. The grassroots democratic governance process is long-term, and the funds will be raised and re-distributed over the next 24 months.
Contribute to rapid response aligned with movement:
The Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN) Disaster Relief Fund has experience sending trained nurses into disaster areas including months of rotating deployments after Hurricane Katrina.Sign up here IF YOU ARE A NURSE who can work. TO SUPPORT click here.
Contribute to existing infrastructure.
Supporting groups that can use small donations immediately to alleviate damage is critical. When smaller groups have more autonomy, recovery can happen on their own terms. The United Houma Nation spans all the coastal parishes of South Louisiana with more than 17,000 citizens. They have been fighting for federal recognition for over 20 years and weathering the effects of climate disasters without true sovereignty. Support the Houma Nation here.Black churches, Latino community centers, and mosques in Houston are trusted resources in the community, how can we support their efforts? If you know of local groups that need direct support, please submit their links in the form below.
Supporting people on the ground is a priority and recognizing that folks are exhausted, dealing with trauma, and low on resources is essential to provide what is actually needed, not what we think is needed.
Phase 1 Assessment Team
A small delegation from multiple SMA organizations including Project South, University Sin Fronteras, the US Human Rights Network, and others will travel to Houston and the surrounding areas in the next week to assess the situation, find out what is needed, organize and provide what we can, and return to support coordination of response teams, including legal, counseling, communications, etc. We will assess the need and potential for Mobile Mutual Aid Stations in the storm-affected areas.
Join National Call to Action
The US Human Rights Network will anchor a national call on Wednesday, September 13 at 1pm EST to share ground-level updates, calls to action, and forward looking plans.
In the immediate aftermath of the storms, provide space and place for recovery and regrouping. Open churches, mosques, farms, and schools. Among many other spaces across San Antonio, Dallas, and other sites, the Hondo Empowerment Committee in Hondo, Texas has opened up space for 15 people to stay. Connect through the submission form below if you are already have or are interested in setting up temporary or permanent Mutual Aid Centers.
Participate in the next phases of recovery and preparation
The seventh Southern Movement Assembly is being planned for October 26-29 in Whitakers, NC and will convene our communities for healing, learning, planning, and strategizing to contend with this political moment. Highlander’s 85th Anniversary Gathering in September 21-23 in New Market TN and the US Human Rights Network national conference in December 8-10 in Atlanta will serve as movement benchmarks to evaluate where we are, what is needed, and how to move.
Learning and understanding the patterns of disaster and the history that brought us to this moment helps all of us prepare for and anticipate major crises where we live.
This crisis is a global crisis.
The flooding and climate change disaster unfolding in Houston, southeast Texas, and southwest Louisiana is a crisis that carries direct, immediate repercussions as well as global implications. Houston’s Ship Channel is home to the nation’s largest petrochemical complex. The Gulf Coast represents over 50% of U.S. oil and gas refining. The potential for toxic spills, fires, explosions, leaks, and disasters is compounded by the lack of corporate and state accountability, regulation, or transparency. Gas shortages and spiked up prices will affect all of us, particularly in the South. The dynamics of the border, an already militarized and dangerous zone, will threaten immigrants moving in and out of the region. Incarceration, racial profiling, the militarization of police, and the criminalization of survival tactics will put more Black people and people of color at risk for violence. Houston is a global finance hub with almost no zoning laws and a Ship Channel that generates over 1 million jobs. Given the political and economic climate, what can we anticipate about the state and private sector response?
There are many, often less visible, crises that need attention.
We recognize that the larger cities and larger institutions will receive more attention and resources while rural and indigenous places as well as impoverished, LGBTQ, and communities of color within cities will not. The crisis will occupy a position on the news cycle for a few weeks but not for the years of recovery and rebuilding that will be required. How can we remain vigilant and anticipate which communities require intentional support, where interpretation will be harder to access, where trans folks can get what they need without violation?
Displacement is a political and economic strategy.
The depopulation of New Orleans and many of the areas affected by Katrina, Rita, and Ike served political ends to whitewash and redistrict a Black city. Houston is a global city that holds significant Asian, Latin American, Iranian, Arab, and Muslim populations. Even the relief efforts themselves can contribute to price gouging, raising rental prices, evicting people. How can we ensure that recovery efforts include the strengths, needs, and contributions of all people living there?
Resistance & movement infrastructure exists.
The Southern Movement Assembly is a coordinated organizing process originating in the 2005 Gulf Coast Crisis. With eighteen anchor organizations meeting weekly and over 100 participating organizations that converge annually, Southern communities are implementing a collective strategy to build a new economy, a people’s democracy, and movement mechanisms to protect and defend ourselves. You are already a part of the Southern Freedom Movement.
RESOURCES & LINKS:
Environmental racism and climate disasters are not new but are growing.
Check outthe historic timeline of environmental violence in the Gulf Coast to connectthe patterns of violations and resistance.
Union of Concerned Scientists article on the Crosby Plant petrochemical explosions and connections to Trump era policies
Historically, disasters are connected to white supremacy, structural racism, and violence.
From the Georgia WAND staff, board, and coalition partners, be safe and take care of each other.