Friday is the third anniversary of the Katrina disaster. A group of New Orleans musicians and activists are touring to bring attention to the un-met needs of those made homeless after hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast. They stopped last week in Bridgehampton.
Members of the Hot 8 Brass Band, a traditional New Orleans street band performed last week to raise awareness about the slow recovery of areas hit by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Their tour is also designed to raise funds for the Gulf Coast Fund which supports grass roots groups working to rebuild their communities.
In Bridgehampton they gave a free public concert at the Child Care Center and they played their music and talked with children at the Hayground Camp.
In 2006 the Hot 8 Brass Band started the Finding Our Folk tour to cities where Gulf Coast residents had been moved. Benny Pete is the tuba player and manages the Hot8. Pete told us:
“We started traveling all over the states where ever there were misplaced people or people that were directly affected by the storms that happened all along the Gulf Coast not just in New Orleans. It’s going on three years later and we still are finding people and still getting in touch with people.”
The musicians say that one quarter of those displaced have returned. Life is tough for the returning residents. Much of the housing in the areas hardest hit are yet to be restored. New Orleans schools, taken over by the state-operated Recovery School Districtare inferior to those in adjacent Jefferson Parish and in places such as Atlanta where some people have re-settled. There are jobs but it is hard to earn a living with a $5.15 per hour minimum wage and with rents that have tripled.
The population of New Orleans is increasing but many of those moving in are newcomers, who can afford the new condos being built.
Benny Pete says the newcomers complain of 'noise' when street musicians play.
“There’s a lot of strangers in the neighborhoods, people who would not have been there, especially down in the Treme area that’s a hot and known area for musicians. You have a lot of people took over and bought property there. But they don’t like the music there so they’ll call the police on the musicians that are making music and say they’re making noise.
Its hard for us as New Orleanians and musicians to keep the traditions and the culture alive when you have people just come and move in because they have money and they are buying up property in New Orleans but they are not standing for what New Orleans stands for and they are killing our culture and buying our land.”
More information on the Hot8 Brass Band including the DVD chronicling the Finding Our Folks tour can be found at www.findingourfolk.org
This report is part 1 of a two part report. It will be broadcast on WPKN 89.5 and WPKM 88.7
Thursday and Friday at 6:30 pm.
In Part 2 of our report, we talk to Monique Harden an attorney representing the Gulf Coast Fund, an organization that works to develop what she calls community driven philanthropy for people to rebuild, return and to fight for the right to do this.