New Orleans Black Activists Denounce Obama and Shame Misleadership Class
Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
"Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and trade union leaders denounced unemployment, home foreclosures and war in general, but did not dare to hold the corporate Democrat in the White House responsible for any of it."
This weekend saw two major Black demonstrations - one in Washington, one in Detroit - and a presidential speech at Xavier University, in New Orleans, on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Yet a small, hardly noticed protest outside what used to be a public housing project in the St. Bernard section of New Orleans, was probably more relevant to the burning issues of today than the rallies held by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
A relatively small group of New Orleans activists gathered in the rain outside the project to protest the visit to the city by President Obama, whose housing policies spell doom for the entire concept of public housing in the United States. When Katrina struck, the Bush administration's Department of Housing was quick to call for demolition of all the public housing units in New Orleans, even though most of the buildings were salvageable. The residents were locked out, 3,000 of them, like hundreds of thousands of others across the country since the early Nineties, victims of corporate greed for the land the projects sit on and a racist prejudice that holds that Black and poor people are inherently dangerous when concentrated in one place. Katrina was simply a convenient excuse to get rid of public housing in New Orleans, where four major projects were demolished.
In New Orleans and elsewhere across the country, the poor who are evicted from public housing are expected to disperse, get out of the way of corporate development that serves the needs of other people, and be quiet. But this weekend, the former residents of the St. Bernard project refused to scatter and be silent. They had earlier built a tent encampment nearby, called Survivors' Village. Now they denounced President Obama and his friend, Warren Buffett, the multi-billionaire hedge fund baron who is developing the site of their former homes under a new name, Columbia Parc, for a new class of residents.
"The former residents of the St. Bernard project refused to scatter and be silent."
The Obama administration has taken the anti-public housing policies of Bush and previous presidents to a new level, with a plan to abandon any federal commitment to building and maintaining housing for the poor. Instead, fat cats like Warren Buffett and huge private banking institutions will inherit the nation's public housing properties. In New York City, the Citigroup bankers now own a piece of 13 public housing projects - a taste of what Obama has in store for what remains of America's public housing stock.
At the start of this commentary, I said that the St. Bernard neighborhood demonstration was "probably more relevant to the burning issues of today" than Al Sharpton's Washington rally and Jesse Jackson's Detroit event. That's because the demonstrators in New Orleans knew whose policies they were protesting against, and called out his name: President Obama. In Detroit and Washington, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and trade union leaders denounced unemployment, home foreclosures and war in general, but did not dare to hold the corporate Democrat in the White House responsible for any of it.
Obama's wars range from Asia and Africa to the streets of America's cities, whose schools and housing he is turning over to the likes of Warren Buffett, rich finance capitalists that have already exported all the jobs. The demonstrators in New Orleans understand that. What currently passes for Black leadership, does not.