by James Harper
Special to the NNPA from the Florida Courier
Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and other areas along America’s Gulf Coast, put the spotlight on thousands of people, especially minorities and poor communities who are left out and forgotten by the federal government and others.
Katrina was one of America’s deadliest hurricanes. It killed almost 2,000 people. Katrina formed over the Bahamas on August 23, 2005.
It was after Katrina that the national NAACP began working with the Red Cross and others to help those neglected by the government who needed help after a natural disaster. During future disasters, the NAACP wants to make sure all are treated the same way.
On July 12, the NAACP signed a memorandum of understanding with the Federal Emergency Management Agency cementing a partnership around preparedness and response. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate signed the agreement with NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous at a press conference during the NAACP’s 104th Annual Convention in Orlando.
Leon Russell, vice chairman of the NAACP board of directors, said the NAACP would be working with FEMA “to make sure no communities are left out for disaster relief.”
Fugate, a Florida native that President Obama appointed to his current position, said the agreement was based on common interests. He said people dealing with natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, fires and tornados must not be called “victims.”
“Call them survivors. People take care of themselves if you give them an opportunity,” he explained.
Fugate admitted there are people who have been and are still being neglected when they help during natural disasters. He said either they didn’t seek help or “nobody reports it up.
“We all have responsibilities. A first responder is a neighbor helping a neighbor. It’s a two-way street. We can’t fix what we don’t know,” he said.
Jealous said the NAACP’s partnership with FEMA “is what racial healing looks like.
“All people deserve to be counted when hurricanes hit, fires occurs or another disaster. We as a nation must come together. We don’t expect you to do what we can do better,” he said to Fugate.