August 29, 2005 marks the day the world has now recorded as one of the deadliest hurricanes to hit the United States. Hurricane Katrina struck the poorest region in this country, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. She changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
The following story was inspired by an interview I conducted with my neighbor. He moved to Los Angeles after losing everything to the storm in New Orleans. Although the story is fiction, and written to connect with the other short stories in the book, some of the incidents, times and locations are true accounts of what he described to me during his four day ordeal of waiting to be rescued. My neighbor declined interviews from dozens of Los Angeles newspapers that contacted him. His simple request to me was that his name be Chris in the story. I am honored he felt comfortable enough to share such an intimate story with me. He cried twice and broke down once. A man who can no longer sleep when it rains. A man proud to be from New Orleans but angry that he was left to die.
I dedicate the story, When Chris Met Katrina to EJ from apartment #7
my Grambling State University roommate, Kelly Lawrence. A Louisiana native whose face flashed on CNN news with her three children at the Houston Astrodome.
to the millions of people
effected directly and indirectly.
love, libations and prayers.
the lavender is too soft.
pitch of the flame more vehement
/exquisite in determination
purpose planted until spring
courage folded like Sunday morning laundry
it’s for the fittest to win this
but this is not yours
this fire is mine
my anthem for life
nikki skies copyright 2014
There is a difference between telling it like it is and being a truth teller. Telling it like it is is primarily used when we are angry and used as a weapon to demean someone. Being a truth teller is used by a liberator to patronage freedom.
As I was re-reading the chapter, “Seeking After Truth” in Sisters of the Yam by bell hooks, the Jamaican quote in the title of this blog brought about great contemplation for myself. In the past years of me trying to be a clear vessel for my art to come to fruition, I have had to un-learn some things passed on to me by my mother. In addition, I have had to find a place to put these undermined honesties my mother passed on to me.
In past generations, it was deemed necessary for African Americans to lie as a means to survive. Now, a lot of our families live by appearances. (I suppose a softer form of lying.) Like me, a lot of children are raised in illusions of presenting how things seem in comparison to the truth of what they really are. This is done with parents staying together and pretending to be in love, parents blaming drugs instead of the user/person or as innocent as the tooth fairy and santa claus. I was taught that creating an illusion everything was fine was the protected value and ultimately this undermined a comfort level for me in lying.
This really stimulated thoughts about the way I am rearing my nieces and nephews. Was I creating as much of a reality based life for them or repeating to them what my mother and her mother knew? Dissimulation encourages us to deny what we experience and how we feel and we eventually lose who we really are and what we need. I was fortunate to grow in an extended family with my mother and grandparents and be surrounded with free arts programs for me to express but this is not the story for my nieces and nephews. If I was disempowering them with illusions, they would not be equipped to face the institutions of racism, sexism and domination.
This critical thinking can be the saving grace for my nieces when they encounter degrading images or insults. If I keep them out of illusion (as much as possible) they will be able to identify the ills and have a sense to protect themselves. “Our mental well-being is dependent on our capacity to face reality,” bell hooks.