(Photo by A.J. Sisco / The Times-Picayune)

(Photo by A.J. Sisco / The Times-Picayune)

In honor of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina,  Carol Bebelle, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Ashé Cultural Arts Center, native New Orleanian, and longtime V-Day activist shares this letter about the ongoing recovery efforts in the city and need for art in activism in the face of mounting obstacles.

Letter from the frontlines of Katrina Recovery

It’s rough being responsible and learning yourself and improving yourself as you are trying to support others to do the same.

It is hard being accountable seeing and hearing things you have a real disagreement with, but knowing that the disagreement is the bridge to something stronger and better. It is so hard having to remember to breathe, because the pace is so dizzying.

So hard saying goodbye to more and more people, and being thankful it’s not you and wondering will you be ready when it is. 

Hard understanding, too well, the mind of those you wish were non-existent or neutralized in your life and the life of those you hold so dear.

Harder still, seeking the light always, because you know it’s best for you, and you must contort yourself if necessary for that warmth, that feeling of alive that only light brings.

Hard to be baffled at how you can be the person you want to be and also have the love, laughter, and time with sister/friends, mother friends, brothers and brother-friends who call you forward and invite you to play.

I am trying to keep my eyes on the prize. I’m trying to encourage us to imagine our troubles gone and to work toward whatever that looks like.

I am looking for the things I am for, and how to create them.

I am working to be informed, but not constrained, by numbers.

I am trying to keep my head, when all around me are blaming it on others. 

I am trying to be an encourager for us to activate our own personal power, and watch it do its thing as it connects to others creating this magnificent WE! 

I am trying to be about beauty.

In New Orleans we are rising and resisting everywhere. Dr. Denese Shervington, President & CEO of The Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies (IWES) is finishing a Community Uprising Conference, featuring a fabulous psychiatrist Dr. Mindy Fullilove from Columbia who introduced us to a concept of “serial displacement” going back to the Emancipation proclamation, the displacing of Black folks–in prisons, inner city projects, sub-urban exiles, Katrina resettlements in other cities. The point being to use us to help to hold space till it is valuable. Too valuable for us, and then to move us yet again.

100,000 folks are still missing–mostly Black folks, not all in low wealth circumstances. The City has become a land rush. Apartments are too expensive, and home purchases impossible. Median incomes: Black folks $25,000 to $60,000 for White folks. Black folks’ median rose by $3,000 in 10 years, White folks’ by $17,000. 

Mental Health services are sorely lacking. Bio-Medical industry building a medical-careers destination, but most jobs not accessible to the un- and under-employed.

Two Consent Decrees, civil and criminal sheriff.

Crime growing

Four major Confederate public monuments at center of move to take them down. 

All this and Katrina 10 observances everywhere. I think of Swimming Upstream.

WE, all together, are such good medicine for each other.  


Much Love and Light,


READ more about Swimming Upstream, a tribute to the women of New Orleans and the Gulf south, co-produced by V-Day and the Ashé Cultural Arts Center. 

READ Carol’s One Billion Rising Blogs:

Shall We Dance

The Rising In New Orleans