Filmmaker Spike Lee premiered his new HBO documentary, "When The Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts," at the New Orleans Arena this week. The four hour film will show on HBO on August 21st and 22nd, and then again in its entirety on August 29th, the first anniversary of Katrina's landfall.
UPDATE: August 24, 2006. I've been putting this off for too long. I like to procrastinate, but I've really been avoiding writing this update. In five days we will mark the first anniversary of the greatest man-made natural disaster in U.S. history. And it didn't have to happen. If I could, I would give back all the assignments, the accolades, the exhibitions, and even the images that have come to define my career, if only I could once again make it August 28, with the guarantee that we would be spared Katrina's wrath, and the incompetence of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. Unfortunately I don't have that kind of power.
I hope that all of you had the opportunity to see Spike Lee's HBO documentary: "When The Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts." Spike told the truth, but he also captured the soul and spirit of New Orleans. It wasn't always easy to watch. Never mind the heart wrenching scenes from the days immediately following the storm; or one man's account of his mother dying at the convention center, and having to leave her body there, where it sat for four more days after he was evacuated; or seeing the arrogance and stupidity of federal officials who had, and continue to have, no clue; or musician Terrance Blanchard holding on to his mother as she sobs uncontrollably after seeing her flooded home for the first time. I'm angry. Everyone is angry. How, in what is supposed to be the greatest nation in the world, could such a thing happen? We have been living with these scenes and this emotion for the last 361 days. And there really is no end in sight. An anniversary is just an arbitrary marking of an occasion. I have long maintained that after the first anniversary of Katrina's landfall, we will truly be forgotten. We'll be on our own. We had the six month annniverary, we had the first post-Katrina Mardi Gras, the first post-Katrina Jazz Fest, and the opening of the first post-Katrina hurricane season. Now it's been a year. Where do we go from here?
For my part, I plan to wrap up my personal project on Katrina. It will span the first year, but I don't have the emotional strength to continue. I'll still take Katrina-related assignments, although I suspect they will start to slack off in the fall. Perhaps there will be more renewed interest by the fifth anniversary, but who knows where we'll be then. I want to know where we will be at 15 months, four days? Or 22 months, three weeks? What about two years seven weeks, four days, sixteen hours, and 23 minutes? I don't think anyone will mark these anniversaries or return to town to see how we are doing. But we'll be here. For now, life is supposed to get back to normal. That's easy to say. But we live less than a mile from the breach of the Industrial Canal. It is a daily reminder of the flood waters that engulfed the Lower Ninth Ward claiming homes, dreams, and many lives.
On the bright side, there is some progress, I guess: after ten months, our land line is finally working again. Feel free to call! Over these last months, friends from afar have asked how they can help. The best way for you to help, if you're up for, it to come see the devastation for yourself. If you are a member of a church, organize a mission to come down here for a week or two. There are still plenty of houses to gut and rebuild. Failing that, there are many local agencies that can use your help, either financially or as a volunteer. Here are just a few that are trying to keep the spirit of New Orleans alive:
Habitat for Humanity
Metropolitan Battered Women's Shelter
The Katrina Krewe
WWOZ-FM 90.7 Community Radio
I'll amend this update next week after the anniversary. Until then, please take a moment to remember those who were taken by the storm last August 29, and for those of us who remain.
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