[News] New Orleans - Call for the Second Survivors Assembly

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Feb 9 12:21:42 EST 2007

Call for the Second Survivors Assembly:
"We Must Build a Strong, Independent Katrina 
Self-Determination and Reconstruction Movement so the People Can Decide!"

In accord with the principle that "the People 
Must Decide", the People's Hurricane Relief Fund 
and Oversight Coalition (PHRF/OC) calls for the 
convening of the Second Survivors Assembly on 
Saturday, August 25th – Tuesday, August 28th, 2007 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The First Survivors Assembly was held in Jackson, 
Mississippi on December 8 – 9th, 2005, less than 
4 months following the horrific disaster and 
during the most repressive and emotionally 
devastating period for Survivors since the trauma 
caused by Hurricane Katrina. The First Assembly 
provided a critical organizing vehicle for the 
Survivors and helped outline a program for the 
initiation of a Gulf Coast Self-Determination and Reconstruction Movement.

The First Assembly was attended by more than 250 
Survivors and more than 300 allies from cities in 
over 10 states throughout the US. The First 
Assembly was followed by the "People Must Decide" 
march and rally on December 10th, 2005 in New 
Orleans where more than 5,000 people demanded 
justice, accountability and the right of return.

The program developed out of the First Assembly 
informed the basic direction of the work of the 
many social, political, religious and civic 
organizations, students and progressive legal and 
technical forces that have become involved in the 
broad social justice activities around Katrina 
and Rita recovery and reconstruction over the past 17 months.

However, a major weakness following the First 
Assembly has been the failure to solidify a 
coordinating body to bring about greater 
cooperation and coordination of the common areas 
of work of the various groups and campaigns. The 
Second Assembly must ensure that such a 
coordinating body and its role are discussed and 
put in place as major components of the 
Reconstruction Movement. The Second Assembly is 
thus a continuation and further development of a 
process of self-determination and empowerment of 
a Black-led grassroots movement for 
Reconstruction beneficial to all oppressed, 
working and poor people in the impacted Gulf Coast Region.

The Second Assembly is being held in conjunction 
with the 2nd Commemoration of Hurricane Katrina 
and the convening of the International Tribunal 
on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, where the US 
government will be tried for its various Katrina 
related human rights violations. This 
intersection of activities reflects the growing 
regional, national and international character 
and political scope of the Gulf Coast 
Self-Determination and Reconstruction Movement.

The peoples of the Gulf Coast need a strong and 
unifying Black led Reconstruction Movement and 
program to build and mobilize effective mass 
based power to bring about massive improvements 
and changes to ensure a just Reconstruction for 
the region and people impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

17 months after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the 
conditions in New Orleans in particular make 
clear that the US government does not intend to 
act in good faith in addressing the needs of the Black majority.
    * More than 400,000 remain displaced;
    * More than 200,000 are under or unemployed;
    * Most devastated housing remains uninhabitable;
    * Government policies systematically deny 
restitution and rental assistance to renters in all Gulf Coast states;
    * Rents have tripled on average in all devastated areas;
    * Government officials still have not 
dispersed 98% of recovery funds to homeowners in 
either Mississippi or Louisiana;
    * While disaster profiteers have made a 
killing, wages remain stagnant throughout the region;
    * Corporate and government action has 
destroyed the Teachers, Hospital Workers and Bus Drivers unions;
    * Corporations and other employers have 
largely excluded Black workers from 
reconstruction jobs, preferring to ruthlessly 
exploit unprotected immigrant workers; and the tragedies go on and on.

Over the past 17 months, there have been many, 
many valiant efforts of resistance to this 
program of Black ethnic cleansing. However, the 
resistance has been extremely fragmented and 
isolated from the masses. While there have many 
important ongoing areas of work to resist the 
government and corporate strategy of Black ethnic 
cleansing, they have not taken on the character 
of a coherent mass movement for Reconstruction. 
There is no united front mechanism to work for 
cooperation and unity around common areas of 
work. Competition, tensions and divisions among 
various organizations involved in Katrina work 
have brought about fragmentation. There have not 
been adequate funds and resources to support a 
solid core of fulltime organizers.  The 
solidarity movement has only developed to the 
level of a small network of progressive activists 
and lacks sufficient national and international 
scope and depth of organization and influence in 
key social movements like the Black. Latino, 
women's, labor, youth, student, transgender, 
etc., liberation movements.  There has been no 
focus on building a political organization to 
challenge for areas of political power and 
control for the Reconstruction Movement.

The Black, oppressed, and working peoples of the 
Gulf Coast and the movement desperately need a 
new course of action based on a comprehensive 
strategy, and they need it now. The Second 
Survivors Assembly is being called to develop 
this strategy and build the operative unity needed to execute it.

The Survivors Assembly is a constituent body of 
the mass of the people most affected by the 
disaster convened to address a crisis of the 
state (i.e. the government) and its operations. 
The crisis being addressed by the Survivors 
Assembly is the failure of the United States 
government to protect and repair the lives of the 
people and most impacted communities and vital 
social institutions affected by Katrina and Rita. 
In addressing this crisis, the Assembly serves as 
the venue where the Survivors directly exercise 
their voice and power to decide the platform and 
program of the Gulf Coast Self-Determination and 
Reconstruction movement. In the spirit of equity 
and human rights, the Assembly seeks to give 
voice to those most affected by the Hurricanes, 
this includes the Black, Native, Asian and 
immigrant communities of the region in particular 
and the whole of the working class of the area in general.

The main purpose of the Survivors Assembly is to 
create a collective strategic vision, platform, 
and program to guide the Gulf Coast 
Self-Determination and Reconstruction Movement. 
One of the most fundamental questions we believe 
the Assembly must address and answer is who's 
vision and program for reconstruction in the Gulf 
Coast will prevail? The developers, the 
governments, or those displaced and affected by 
the Hurricanes and the governments racist and 
exclusionary policies? To answer this question we 
believe that the Assembly must seek to 
comprehensively articulate the vision of the 
Internally Displaced Persons (IDP's) of 
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, turn that vision 
into a social and political platform, and develop 
a broad, coalition program to carry forth this 
vision. This political platform – which will 
synthesize and crystallize IDP needs and 
aspirations – will inspire and drive a movement 
capable of addressing people's isolation, despair 
and distrust and thereby become strong enough to 
successfully challenge the governments and developers schemes.

Who can participate?
As an Assembly of the people and communities in 
the Gulf Coast most impacted by Katrina and Rita, 
the Survivors must be the main participants in 
the Survivors Assembly.  As the Assembly is not 
mainly a place to give testimonies about personal 
suffering experienced by individual Survivors, 
participation is geared to involve Survivors and 
allies in organized discussions, planning and 
strategizing that develops a program of action. 
The main outreach will be to Survivor 
organizations especially in the Gulf Coast region 
and the South, to solidarity committees and 
organizations throughout the country working 
directly with Survivors and to allied 
organizations and individuals working in legal, 
technical and educational areas related to 
Survivor issues.  Survivors will have voice and 
vote and others will have occasional voice and not vote.

We are also calling on all of the pre-Hurricane 
organizations of civil society from the 
Mississippi Gulf Coast Region (including the 
Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas 
coastal regions) to come, participate and make 
your voice heard. These include:
    * Trade Unions
    * Social Clubs
    * Neighborhood Associations
    * Women's Groups
    * Youth Groups
    * Spiritual Organizations (Churches, Mosques, etc.)
    * Community Organizations
    * Political Organizations
    * Cultural Organizations
    * Etc.
Finally, we are calling on all Katrina and Rita 
Solidarity Committees to participate.

We ask that all Survivors Councils, independent 
Survivor formations, Gulf Coast civil society 
organizations, and Solidarity Committee's 
interested in participating in the Second 
Survivors Assembly please contact us by March 
1st, 2007 via email at <mailto:phrfoc at gmail.com>phrfoc at gmail.com.

To plan the Assembly we are seeking to convene an 
Assembly Organizing Committee. We ask that each 
above organizational categories above interested 
in joining this committee nominate a 
representative and an alternative backup, 
depending on your capacity, by March 1st. Send 
all representative information, including 
organizational name, individual name, phone 
number(s), email address (es), and mailing 
address to 
<mailto:kaliakuno at gmail.com>kaliakuno at gmail.com. 
The majority of the meetings will be conducted 
via conference call, however we will try and 
convene at least one face-to-face meeting in New 
Orleans during the spring or early summer (PHRF 
is seeking funds to cover the expenses associated 
with advancing this organizing process, however, 
organizations may have to cover some or all of 
their own travel and accommodation expenses).

Preparation Questions
For general programmatic preparation for the 
Assembly, we ask that each interested 
organization submit in writing your answers to 
the following questions (Please note that we will 
be asking a series of such questions throughout 
this process to clearly formulate the agenda of 
the Assembly. Ideally we would like this process 
to be mass in character to elicit as much input 
as possible. Our hope is that the organizing 
process itself will enable us to come to the 
Assembly with clear strategic proposals in hand 
that we can collectively discuss, debate, and decide upon.):
1. What are the three most important objectives of your organization?
2. What do you think the three primary strategic 
focuses of the overall movement should be? How 
does your organizations goals and objectives relate to these objectives?
3. What organizational form do you believe is 
best suited to accomplish these goals? A coalition? A network? Etc.
4. What are the keys in your organizations 
estimation to building programmatic and operative unity within the movement?
5. What do you think are the major internal and 
external challenges confronting the Movement?
6. How do you think the movement should address these challenges?

Please try and send all feedback to these 
questions by Friday, February 23rd, 2007 so that 
we can share them with all of the parties 
interested and committed to participating in the Assembly planning process.

For more information please visit our website at 
or email us at 
<mailto:phrfoc at gmail.com>phrfoc at gmail.com. You 
can also reach us via phone at (504) 301-0215 or fax at (504) 301-0306.

The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9977
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