Yesterday I introduced you and the JJP community to the Hip Hop Caucus movement. Today I invite you to get involved…

Hurricane Katrina was the first moment when the Hip Hop Caucus movement filled a major void in our civil rights movement of today.  It is really when our momentum got going, and our relevancy was made clear.  Our work organizing and mobilizing in response to Hurricane Katrina is why the Hip Hop Caucus Education Fund is now a member of the Black Leadership Forum and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.  It is also the reason why we have worked so hard to more deeply connect the African American community to the climate and environmental movement, (some examples here and here).

The 5 Year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is this August 29th.  What you probably already know is that Katrina survivors still remain displaced, and there is still rebuilding and restoration that needs to happen.  Yet you may not know that some of the Road Home Recovery dollars remain sitting in government bank accounts, not yet spent.

This brings me to why I really wanted to reach out to you today.  Despite the focus on the BP Oil Spill and the upcoming 5 Year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the civil and human rights community, the labor community, and the progressive community, have mostly moved away from the injustices from the Hurricane Katrina experience.

Sometimes, you’ve got to go backwards to go forwards…

On August 28, 1955, Emmitt Till was killed in Mississippi, and the shocking photos published in JET Magazine of his open casket funeral catalyzed the civil rights movement.  On August 28, 1963, at the March for Jobs and Freedom in Washington, DC, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I have a Dream” speech.   On August 28, 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit the shores of the Gulf Coast, and in the morning of the 29th, the levees broke flooding the lower 9th Ward and other areas of the city.

This year Glenn Beck, a Fox News commentator who consistently spreads lies and misinformation through lightly-veiled coded words of hate, announced that on August 28, 2010 he will lead a rally at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.  This rally is to, in his words, “restore honor to America.”  In no reality could Glenn Beck ever co-opt the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom for his odious purposes.

Let Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Fox News have Washington, DC on August 28th this year.  We shall respond with morality, faith, and love for our country.  We will not respond to hate with more hate.

On August 29th, 2010, we will mobilize for the five year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  As a result of Hurricane Katrina, and the government’s failed response in 2005, an estimated 2,000 plus people died, and hundreds of thousands were displaced.  Five years later we have collectively failed in our national obligation to restore and rebuild the Gulf Coast as well as ensure that Katrina Survivor’s have the right to return.

To add insult to injury, the BP Oil Spill on April 20th of this year killed eleven workers, and has crippled local economies in the Gulf Coast.  It has further destroyed critical wetlands that are our first natural line of defense from hurricanes, and put the public at risk for health problems of which we do not yet know the implications.

On Sunday August 29, 2010 thousands will gather for the annual Katrina Commemoration March and Rally at the location where the levees broke in the lower 9th Ward to remember those who died in the flood.  Then we will march and second line to Hunters Field for a rally (check out the plan and route here).  Please join us by calling for the complete restoration and rebuilding of the Gulf Coast and for upholding the right to return of those who are still displaced.

The people of the Gulf Coast deserve our national attention.  It is what is right, and it is time to build our strategy around what is right.

Dr. King gave a sermon on February 28th, 1954 at Detroit’s Second Baptist Church, nine years before the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  “My friends,” Dr. King preached, “all I’m trying to say is that if we are to go forward today, we’ve got to go back and rediscover some mighty precious values that we’ve left behind.”

The first value, argued Dr. King, was morality – upholding what is right, even if it is not popular, even if it is not what conventional wisdom says is pragmatic, even if we could get away with doing what is wrong.  The second value was faith – not pandering to the little gods that push us towards materialism and superficial-ism, but instead being true to ourselves.

What is right is to stand up for justice, to stand up for a sustainable economy, for jobs, for peace, and to stand up for our environment.  We must put our faith in people, in a movement for and by the people, to carry the message to politicians.

The power of progressives is not in friendly relationships with the Administration, Members of Congress, Senators, or political parties.  Our power is in the realities of every person in America who is looking for work; of every person in America who cannot afford higher education; of every person in America who does not have a fair pathway to citizenship; of every person in America who cannot marry the person that they love; of every person in America who goes to sleep hungry; and of every person who is still displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

The government’s failed response to Hurricane Katrina was the ultimate injustice.  Let us go back to move forward and let us demand that our country makes right the wrongs of Hurricane Katrina.  Let us build our movement from the truth that all reality hinges on a moral foundation.

Please join us in New Orleans on August 29th, 2010.  If you can’t join us, get involved in other ways, and please make a tax-deductible donation to our March and Rally fund here.

For Future Generations…

Rev Yearwood

Follow me on twitter @RevYearwood.

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