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10 women encourage ‘Katrina Babies’ and the 121 infants of August 29, 2005
Filmmaker Edward Buckles, Jr exposes some of Hurricane Katrina's harsh and immeasurable impact on children in his latest film "Katrina Babies". Until now, their stories were unknown.
A tweet reads, “On the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina (8/29), I’m reminded of not only the destruction of my home and community, but also that the experience radicalized me. I was 17 at the time.” It was posted by the 2020 Louisiana teacher of the year Chris Dier. Then, he continues a Twitter thread listing critical, documented events when the government ignored or failed citizens.
He writes, “the events, personally and systemic, shook my worldview.”
This worldview shaking is vividly documented in “Katrina Babies,” an HBO documentary by filmmaker Edward Buckles Jr who was 13 years old when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005.
The film asks what happened to the children. What did they live through? How did they survive the hurricane’s destruction? Who checked on them then? Who has helped them recover?
The answer: No one.
During an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered, Buckles said the lack of empathy caused thousands of children to be left behind and without support.
“I am only led to assume, and God, I hope that I’m wrong. But it is the lack of empathy. It is the lack of care. And it is the lack of respect for Black people in this country—specifically speaking from experience, Black children in this country.”
Through “Katrina Babies,” Buckles exposes many of the harsh and immeasurable impacts the hurricane and these lacks had on children.
Until now, their stories were unknown. And their stories are in contrast to the stories of the 49 children born in Baton Rouge’s Women’s Hospital and the 121 babies who arrived in the days following Katrina’s landfall. Those families celebrated the delivery of beautiful babies but were soon discharged home to power outages, damaged property, limited food, and displaced family. Some went to shelters.
Their birth stories are forever narrated by Hurricane Katrina.
What can be said to these children—many of whom are now adults? Ten women answer questions for a Katrina-born child: “How should youth prepare for the world? What things should they do to live where or how you live doing the work that you do?”
Let these women’s answers guide and encourage more youth– those whose lives have been marked by Hurricane Katrina, those who feel ignored or abandoned, and those who are cautiously celebrating—as they evolve as adults.
“Learn emotional management. Do not be emotionally driven but be purposefully driven and spiritually driven. Allow those things to drive you instead of emotions. Alot of times we miss opportunities or destroy opportunities because we are not emotionally stable so learn to manage emotions. You will have to make sacrifices for the greater good but don’t be self-sacrificing. We are all gifted and smart. Most of the time we know what we want and what we want to do but you have to have the stability and constants in your life that will keep you moving forward.”
Shontill McNabb, Sound Global senior pastor
“I know that it’s very cliche but I would say, “Be you!” Accept and know who you are before you look for acceptance from the world. Get comfortable with who you are. Foster and accept who you are. No matter what society tells you to do or be, no matter what areas society tells you that you belong in, you belong wherever you want to be. Be you. Be unapologetically you. Learn to break down walls and barriers and go after what you truly want.”
Brittany Lawrence, holistic wellness business owner
“Follow your passion while working in your career and they may not be the same things. Career will allow the funds to explore the passion. Live unapologetically. Stand up for what’s right, even when it’s not popular. Learn to like and love the person you are and work towards that every day. Save your money and invest your dollars, talents, and treasures wisely. Help others as much as your help yourself.”
Dawn Mellion, PhD, executive director, veteran, and former vice chancellor
“Getting prepared to live in this world of ours after completing school, can seem exciting, and scary, but you must come up with a plan. Before cutting the cord and moving out of your family’s home, get several jobs if need be, and save up as much money as you possibly can, you will need it for the move. Put yourself on a schedule, learn everything you can about the city you plan to move to, and stick to your schedule. This is one of my favorite quotes, ”Do what you have to do so you can do what you wanna do.” Follow your heart and your dreams, and anything is possible.”
Brenda Andrus, retired Army and current flight attendant
“Discuss and understand self-awareness, emotional intelligence, financial literacy, and end game/end goals. Push hard to self-identify before encountering the inevitable life-altering moments that happen in early adulthood. Just know who you are and want to be and be unwavering in your identity or pursuit of your future identity. Unwavering doesn’t mean you won’t change your mind but rather that outside influences aren’t the sole reason for that change. And financial literacy is also a part of your identity, it helps to mold and sometimes justifies the sacrifices you will make. See the finish line, whatever that may be, zig-zag your way to it but always remember your why or your end game. To live where/how I live doing what I do, you must work toward mastery of public speaking and constantly tinker with creative problem-solving strategies. Critical thought is huge and it requires you to be skillful in developing solutions. People want solutions, convenience, and creativity. You thrive best when you can provide all three effortlessly. The execution of it is embedded in your personality, therefore you have to exercise the muscle!”
Charlaya Washington, electrical engineer and project manager
“Always be true to yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or go against the grain. Listen to your inner self. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not right. Sometimes it may result in you standing alone and that is always okay. Choose a profession that makes you happy doing something that you love, that you feel is impactful and is a contribution to the world. Don’t go after a job for money because money doesn’t always bring you happiness. Do things that will allow you to learn yourself and discover more things about yourself. Don’t be afraid to do things by yourself. Travel, explore, live fearlessly. And love those who love you.”
Malissa Fair, Federal project manager
“If I had to keep them safe and advise them, I think I would tell them, Black women carry the weight of the world on our shoulders…and this is only made worse by this generation’s use of white tears and white fragility to claim the victim role. Do not be moved or feel guilt for their shame. Know that you must be ten times stronger, more intelligent, and superior to your counterparts in every way. Know that nothing is given to us. Know that you have earned your accolades. And, know that you matter! Always be hyper-aware of your surroundings. Be cautious of those from other persuasions that you may call ‘friend.’ They will never understand your experiences and will often blame you for any emotional reactions to such experiences. You must gird yourself against such attacks and know that your truth is powerful.”
E. White, microbiologist
“Life is to be lived, and you my dear must run at your own pace. Social Media can oftentimes give a false perception of reality. I posted a meme a few days ago that said, “Life is like a helicopter, and I don’t know how to fly a helicopter.” Don’t mistake this quote because proper planning can take you a very long way, but sometimes there are emergency landings. This is what I like to call figuring it out. This is the process where you recall everything that has gotten you to this point. Strategize. Now fly.”
Nicolette Gordon, public information director
“I would prepare high school/college girls for the world we live in by offering this — Everything that’s been done can and should be undone. Challenge every system; stand up for yourself and each other. To live where and how I live doing what I do, you have to stay ready. You should keep track of your work and outcomes and have it handy. Relationships are overwhelmingly important and when utilized in conjunction with your skills, you can change the world. ”
Leslie D. Rose, journalist and communications strategist
“Be aware but be fearless. Surround yourself with people who support you and work to make the world better. Flee from people whose conversations consist of gossip. Don’t let love separate you from your dreams and do dream. Dream big. Continue to evolve and don’t be afraid to walk into new rooms. Love yourself first.”
Gerri Hobdy, owner, Pleroma LLC
In the memory of South Louisianans, August 29, 2005, remains a devastating breaking of the city of New Orleans and its people. Like much of disaster recovery efforts, healing hasn’t fully come for many Louisianans even after 17 years. Now, social services have been established to help people cope on the anniversary of a significant life change or trauma like hurricanes.
The collective message from these 10 women is clear: To the thousands of Katrina Babies, the 121 infants in Baton Rouge, and all of Louisiana, we care for you.
By Candace J. Semien
Jozef Syndicate reporter
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