My Proposal for a better Hurricane Ike Response: The Equality in Rescue Act (ERA)

Hurricane Ike in TexasHurricane Ike did serious damage in Galveston and other parts of Texas, and is still causing weather-related issues for people as far north as Ohio. Our prayers have been in full force for all of those impacted.

The Local, State, and Federal government response is under close scrutiny. While we should always pay attention to how a government takes care of and tends to its citizens, natural disaster response watching has be come a professional sport since the governmental disaster that was the response to Hurricane Katrina. Oh boy, is there a lot to talk about.

FEMA is still getting it wrong

Rather than saying it myself, hear this from Sable Verity (an excellent blog written by three Black women):

This is Missouri City TX, on the outskirts of Houston in Ft. Bend County.  Blacks and minorities make up 57% of the population in Missouri City and nearly 60% of the nearly 500,000 people who live in Ft. Bend County….there are large populations of edler African Americans who live in these subdivisions, who are still without power.  Many of them have medical conditions, such as diabetes, and cannot properly medicate themselves because their medications have gone bad without refrigeration.  These elders do not have access to food, water or ice.

The local FEMA station, known as a “POD” ( on Hillcroft @ the Fountain of Praise Church) began turning folks away who arrived on foot, claiming that it was unfair to those who were waiting in a longer line of cars; apparently tempers were short.  If you lost your car in the Hurricane or never had one to begin with, you’re SOL when it comes to getting help- that is criminal -and it must be said- stupid.

Black people in and around Missouri City feel that they are being passed up in favor of helping more affluent neighborhoods.  Of course anyone and everyone would deny that outright, but it doesn’t change the fact that a large population of people, who just happen to be Black, are going without right now.

More FEMA Genius

It gets worse. According to Gov. Rick Perry, as retail stores open, FEMA Points of Distribution (PODs) are being closed as stores open.

Yes, they can’t wait to get that money back into private hands. Oh wait, these are people who have been devastated and are probably both low and cash and high on credit card bills. And we are in a recession which is hitting the Black and the poor harder than everyone else. I guess those are personal problems because our economy’s fundamentals are still strong.

The reality

People, it’s been 5 days since the hurricane hit. There are old and poor people that need help. FEMA has not set up a real, effective disaster recovery center, apparently because they didn’t know where to send the supplies, according to FEMA spokesperson Marty Bahamonde. WTF? Something needs to be done.

The ERA: The Equality in Rescue Act

FEMA talked all this noise during Hurricane’s Gustav and Ike about how they had been building capacity over the last two years, and event that they now have the manpower to go door-to-door and help people. Well, it’s time for them to cash that door-to-door check, if indeed there’s any money in that account. And by door-to-door, I mean literally every structure in the city. Don’t give me that crap about areas being inaccessible. They are inaccessible to me because I can barely swim and don’t have a boat.

FEMA should be mandated under what I’ll call an Equality in Rescue Act (ERA). All of these “resources” were deployed there in terms of National Guard, FEMA personnel, Red Cross volunteers, etc. These people and entities do have the means to access any and all of the people that they want to access. Thankfully, the NAACP and the Urban League and other small groups and organizations and individuals are working to make sure that everyone is equally accessed. They are the enforcers and watchdogs for the ERA.

Let’s all tune in and make sure we know what’s going on down there. I hate seeing people drown in despair.

Big thanks to Sable Verity, who is feeding a lot of great info for this coverage. Check them out.

One Love. One II.

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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at MoveOn.org. I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

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