Before the day got started I rode my bike through the St. Bernard complex. It’s an enormous collection of buildings in the city’s Gentilly neighborhood built during the 1930s. Public housing developed under Roosevelt’s New Deal administration tended to be much nicer than what the government invested in later on. Perhaps this is due in no small part to segregation. A number of historians and sociologists have show that once public housing was integrated (mostly during the 1960s) whites abandoned it in mass followed by the black middle class who sought the newest form of subsidized housing available to more privileged segements of the population - suburbia. This is, in part, how public housing became synonymous with poverty and the ghetto in America.
Riding through St. Bernard early on the 4th I could only Imagine what the place was like before the storm. It’s very beautiful. The streets are lined with enormous oak trees, no building is over three stories tall, and there is a lot of greenspace throughout. Right in the middle of the complex I stopped to take a short clip of video about St. Bernard but was drowned out by two fighter jet aircraft screaming by overhead.
The housing rights coalition is facing a serious predicament. During the rally I couldn’t help but think of something George Lipsitz said about organizing in New Orleans; one of the biggest problems is that the constituents of this social movement are scattered far and wide without a surefire means of communication. They face a daunting geographic barrier in terms of organizing. Several of the residents I spoke with reaffirmed this point. They told me that they had driven out from Houston in a rental van with 15 other people in order to attend the rally. Few of them have reliable internet access. They rely on cellphones and word of mouth to stay in touch.
While looking around on the web for more information about St. Bernard I ran across Joshua Cousin’s blog. Cousin is a now former resident of St. Bernard living in Houston. Of HUD’s plans he writes;
“Tearing Down The Biggest Hood Will Keep ALL OF US OUT!.. You Dont Want us Back man.. Those Hoods Saved Lives.. Now You Wanna Build those SAME CONDOS THAT GOT TOTALLY DESTROYED IN KATRINA ... Hopefully that wont happen... [….] I’m Gonna Miss My Hood.. New Orleans... Man... Hud Just Took Away Apart of Me......”