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Securely Prosperous

April 27, 2008

Securely Prosperous

New Orleans.jpg

Opening up before us is New Orleans as we finish our last leg of the trip in Louisiana. Stories of ghosts fill our entry as they fill our first day in this town. Coming here for the People's Summit, opposing this year's Security and Prosperity Partnership, we're beginning to learn the true tales of surviving Katrina from the lives of those America has forgotten.

We've spent 41 hours on the road from Ottawa, but after playing through the Greyhound shuffle, switching routes four times, and spending two nights on varying buses, the hardest part of the trip was entering New Orleans from Mobile, Louisiana. The energy in the Ottawa contingent was rising, even with the absolute loss of the sense of time after so much travel. We've come here for the People's Summit, opposing the Security and Prosperity Partnership meeting of Canada, the U.S., and Mexico's heads of state with over 30 CEOs of the continents most powerful corporations. Our energy quickly died down once John, one of the passengers returning to his native New Orleans shared stories of what opened up before us.

Entering through the East Quarter, the poorest and most impacted part of the city, we see empty mega buildings of former Wal-Marts and strip malls. Today what was once the projects of the city is quickly becoming suburban townhomes as the city attempts to gentrify its population.

"All this was trailers," John tells us. "Now they've moved all these people away. They sent them up around the world."

We drive through collapsed roofs, and abandoned neighborhoods.

Talking about reconstruction, he tells us "they give us $25,000 to rebuild our homes, but it cost you $60,000 to do it."

"The projects' all boarded up, ain't no one coming home. They took it from you... it makes you wanna cry."

As we drive towards downtown New Orleans, he talks about the rescue missions and the government's intervention.

"These people don't give a fuck about us. We sat waiting for three days with no water and no food. I saw a baby sitting right there with us!" As for the upcoming elections and the possibility of change, he finished "Obama? He's not going to do anything for us."

Traveling to the French Quarter it would seem Mardi Gras was in the works. Happy couples dance through Bourbon Avenue, holding hands and throwing Chinese sweatshop-made beads at each other. This quarter was saved, as our Pakistani taxi driver Rahim tells us later, on the backs of the poorest neighborhoods. As we drive by families living in tents under a bridge, the downtown is busting on a regular Saturday night. The city opened the levies to unleash water onto East New Orleans, Rahim tells us. The did this to save the tourist center of the French Quarter.

The hypocrisy of our situation in the midst of this devastation is disappeared by the humility and humour of the people we've met. Returning to our beautiful hostel we try to concentrate on the days to come. Workshops and protests will line the streets of this incredible city in the coming three days as mobilizations raise awareness and build community opposition to the SPP.

An incredible day is over in anticipation of an incredible day to come.


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