This past Sunday, August 29, Hurricane Ida battered southeastern Louisiana, ravaging power lines, uprooting trees, and leaving at least 10 deaths and many others injured in its wake. Nearly one million people have lost electricity, which may not return for weeks; some have lost their homes. Damage assessment is ongoing, but Louisiana’s residents — especially those in the most hard-hit areas, like Lafourche and other parishes on the Gulf of Mexico — need urgent help.
As is the case after most tragedies, when the state and federal emergency response is insufficient, Louisiana locals have improvised and mobilized a robust relief response, and members of the state’s thriving arts sector are getting creative to lend a hand — from raising thousands of dollars for direct aid to helping patch up wrecked roofs.
“It’s been a real grassroots, community-led effort,” Abdul Aziz, a photojournalist, told Hyperallergic. “It’s overwhelming and beautiful, and I don’t want to say shocking, but it is incredible that we’ve been able to create this sort of de facto emergency response government. People have amplified these efforts to the moon, and for that, I am grateful.”
Ida made landfall on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the devastating 2005 tropical cyclone that killed nearly 2,000 people in 2005 and cost billions in damages. Aziz, who lived through the storm, remembers the terrifying lack of information and updates in its aftermath, a challenge that the wider use of social media today can help correct. With the help of friends and supporters, Aziz started @IdaSupportNetwork, an Instagram account that reposts requests for aid and ways to give. The group has connected dozens of people with transportation, housing, and other time-sensitive resources, circulating a spreadsheet of individuals in need and others who can help, as well as running an emergency support hotline.
A few days later, they created @IdaSupportNetworkNY to do the same in the Northeast, where remnants of Hurricane Ida, including flash floods and tornadoes, have killed at least 48 people this week.
New Orleans-based filmmaker Bron Moyi and colleagues Satie De Gend, Edward Buckles, and Cassandra Rumping have raised over $30,000 to supply impacted residents with generators and access to power.
“Our collective experience in the film industry definitely played a part in how we were able to organize ourselves to respond to Hurricane Ida,” Moyi told Hyperallergic. “Assembling a team, delegating tasks, using creativity as a problem-solving tool, and a high tolerance for stress and operating on lack of sleep all to achieve a common goal.” The team has delivered nine generators so far, with plans to deliver 22 more tomorrow, and distributed 540 gallons of fuel as well as lanterns, canned food, and other supplies.
Cultural organizations have also taken a hit: the Whitney Plantation Museum in Edgard, Louisiana, known as the country’s first institution dedicated to telling the history of slavery from the perspective of enslaved people, “sustained tremendous damage,” says director Ashley Rogers.
“Given the extensive damages to multiple historical structures that need specialized care, we expect that full recovery could be many months from now,” Rogers told Hyperallergic. “We have several severely compromised roofs; windows have been blown out; a chimney collapsed; and we have several downed trees.” The museum has a website for tax-deductible donations.
Jasmin Mara López, a filmmaker, journalist, and audio producer, volunteers with a network of youth and single mothers in New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana. She says the need is especially great among historically marginalized communities, including people of color, who don’t always trust official authorities and city-backed aid programs.
“Some people aren’t getting on the buses, because they have no idea what they’re going to walk into,” López said. “For that reason, there’s a lot of mutual aid and support happening on the ground.”
There are myriad ways to help, López says, including sharing and encouraging donations for trustworthy organizations. She lists among them Imagine Water Works, NOLA Black Youth Fund, Mutual Aid Louisiana, Trans Queer Youth NOLA, and Cajun Navy Relief. Fellow artist Devon Dewulf and his organization, the Krewe of Red Beans, are also accepting donations to purchase and install tarps on buildings affected by the storm.
López hopes to raise $10,000 on her own GoFundMe page, all of which will help supply families and mothers with generators, gas, meals, and water.
“One group of women had to stay in a small house with about 20 people, and they have their children with them,” she told Hyperallergic. “It’s an awful situation, and I don’t think people understand the level of awful, especially with the pandemic — it’s incredibly dangerous right now.”
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