Students and faculty from 33 colleges, including three CSU campuses, UC Berkeley and Stanford University, asked college campuses to take part in the “National Post-Katrina College Summit.” The summit, taking place this week, came about after San Jose State University students, and students from 15 other universities and colleges, visited New Orleans and Gulf Port, Miss. last January for “Louisiana Winter.”
Students had the opportunity to speak to residents of the Gulf Coast, and discussed federal legislation that would offer New Deal-type programs for residents affected by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.
As part of the nationwide summit, students are hosting rallies, spoken word performances, speakers, movie showings and petition drives. The activities are being held to bring national consciousness back to the Gulf Coast.
“My hope is that some student or faculty is going to read this and say, ‘Wow, we want to be a part of that historic event,'” said SJSU professor Dr. Scott Myers-Lipton.
Students at the University of Michigan will be reading the names of the individuals who died during the hurricane. Faculty and students from SJSU are bringing a Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer on campus so people can see the small the living space residents have to live in.
Myers-Lipton said America needs to rebuild housing, and the long-term solution is not FEMA trailers.
“Every once in a while there might be a story on the Gulf Coast. It’s not in the mainstream media. It’s still a crisis situation in the Gulf Coast, so we want to redirect the nation’s attention back to the Gulf Coast,” said Myers-Lipton, the facilitator for the events at SJSU.
James Darby IV, freshman biology major and New Orleans native, said the media should be used to draw attention back to the Gulf Coast.
“I think what needs to be done should be done through the media,” Darby said. “That might be the most effective means to do so. They should replay what happened every year; they should show what’s going on now, what’s happened in the past, and work together to try to help solve this problem.”
One goal of the summit is to promote and advocate the need for the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project. The campaign would help create 100,000 jobs for residents in the Gulf Coast to help restore their communities. The program, estimated to cost $4 billion, would also provide job training for residents.
Some of the supporters of the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project campaign are Congressman Bennie Thompson, chair of the Homeland Security Committee, and scholar Cornel West.
“We want the nation to realize that there’s still a crisis going on. This idea for WPA-like jobs that did so much for the country in the 1930s – we want to see that idea again. It worked in the past, it can work again to rebuild the Gulf Coast,” Myers-Lipton said.
On March 16, Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, D-San Jose, held a public hearing on Post-Katrina Conditions: implications for our nation and California in San Jose. Lieber was unavailable for an interview but her principal consultant Harry Adams said it was important for the people of California to hear about what was happening in the Gulf Coast. Adams compared the similarity of Katrina to the 1994 earthquake in Northridge and flooding and forest fires in other parts of California. Adams said there is a lesson to be learned from this, specifically to continually ask, “Do we have the emergency preparedness in place that we need to avoid a similar catastrophe in our state?”
Adams said during next month’s California Democratic Party Convention there will be a resolution that calls on the national Democratic Party to prioritize the reconstruction efforts in the Gulf Coast in Congress. Adams said federal government and Congress appropriate the money. They are the ones that must pass the legislation and enact it.
“All we can do is say here is what we think should happen,” Adams said.