The October 2005 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

The Aristocracy and the Disaster

In Katrina's Wake, Oakland Batters Homeless

A Perfect Storm of Racism

Katrina: Ongoing Human Disaster

FCNL Speaks Out on Katrina

Kerry's Kids: Health Care for Poor Children

Fresh Start Gives Kindness Awards

The Dying Gift of Sharon Ostman

A 500-Year-Old War on the Poor

37 Million Live in Poverty in US

Julia Vinograd: Poet Laureate of Berkeley Streets

Innovative Plans for Homeless Housing

Disabled Woman on a Long Road Back Home

Photographer's Eye for the Dignity of People

Poor Leonard On Prejudice

The Flower Lady

October Poetry of the Streets


September 2005

August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005

Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

The American Aristocracy and the Homeless Disaster

by Robert Mills

Breaking News: "Bush: One of the Worst Disasters to Hit the U.S."
This televised image of Bush from Sky News Ireland has a sardonic double-message.

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this (she chuckled) -- this is working very well for them."
-- Barbara Bush, while visiting hurricane evacuees at the Houston Astrodome.

So said former First Lady Barbara Bush about the unimaginable suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina. The insensitive callousness of her attitude harkens back to a previous era of 19th century aristocracy. Such blatant inhumanity towards the poor and homeless makes this a strong indictment against our modern-day aristocracy.

Her son, President George W. Bush, said that we need to get on with rebuilding the damage done and ignore the fingerpointing. It is very clear, however, that the new aristocracy of the New World Order and its charter members -- the Bush family, Dick Cheney and his cronies at Halliburton, oil company CEOs, the disgraced Enron executives, and the rest of the super-rich -- have been pointing fingers for a while now. They have been using the "blame the victim" excuse to explain away persistent poverty and homelessness, and they honestly believe that it is the victims who are at fault.

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In Katrina's Wake, Oakland Officials Batter the Homeless

Editorial by Terry Messman

In Oakland, protesters rallied to denounce Bush's inaction and cronyism in his administration's failure to respond to Hurricane Katrina. David Bacon photo

For those who had eyes to see, an ominous warning sign of the long-term suffering still waiting in store for the poorest victims of Hurricane Katrina was foretold in the way a homeless encampment was cruelly demolished in Oakland only a few days after the storm struck New Orleans.

On September 7, even while the heartbreaking destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina was showing the entire nation the cruelty of poverty and homelessness, dozens of homeless people were evicted from a tent city under a freeway near Embarcadero and Fifth Avenue in Oakland.
Bulldozers demolished the homeless village even as members of the Oakland City Council made pious declarations of compassion and support for Katrina's homeless victims and invited them to live in Oakland and rebuild their lives.

With unbelievable hypocrisy, the same city officials who postured before the television cameras to offer refuge to the well-publicized hurricane evacuees, simultaneously presided over a bulldozer assault on their own homeless citizens. It was a classic example of the two-faced duplicity of politicians. Their public face of sorrow and support for Katrina's highly televised victims was shown to be only a mask concealing a hidden face of hostility and intolerance toward their own homeless victims in Oakland.

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Katrina: A Perfect Storm of Classism and Racism

by Carol Harvey

"Relief Not Racism." A sign at an Oakland rally held in protest of the federal government's slow response to Hurricane Katrina. David Bacon photo

"We must... come to terms with the ugly truth that skin color, age and economics played a deadly role in who survived and who did not."
-- Howard Dean, Democratic Party Chair

The televised news from New Orleans was horribly real and really horrible. We saw poor people, mostly African Americans, wading hip-deep in rushing water. Elderly women gripping walkers trudged down the freeway. Disabled folks in wheelchairs slumped dying or dead. A sign on a covered corpse read, "Here lies Vera. God help us!" It was a plea for divine aid when humans didn't send it. The sign restored her identity and rescued Vera from the anonymous death of the countless who drowned.

As Bush delayed sending the National Guard before hundreds of victims died, many black and white leaders agreed: Racism and classism factored into Katrina's displacements and deaths.
Rev. Al Sharpton called the government's lack of response "inexcusable," saying that when a less violent hurricane hit Palm Beach, Jeb Bush alerted the National Guard before the storm struck.

Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean told one of the country's largest black religious groups, the National Baptist Convention, "We must... come to terms with the ugly truth that skin color, age and economics played a deadly role in who survived and who did not."
Youth rapper Kanye West's agonized words startled a Katrina benefit national TV audience: "It's been five days [waiting for federal help]... America is set up to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible."

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