Listening to New Orleans: Malik Rahim, Part One

IndyMedia New Orleans

Telephone interview with RadioActive San Diego. Audio link here.

Well, right now it’s getting much better. It’s finally getting a little organized. But it took, you know, I mean, the last week, the week and a half have been pure hell.

So many people have lost their lives, because there wasn’t no organization. And it’s sad to say that. It just wasn’t organized. It’s something different than what happened in the Pacific with the tsunami. We had prior warning that this was coming. We had two days that we could have got people out when we knew we were going to be hit in New Orleans or in the general New Orleans area with a catgory five hurricane.

You had all type of studies done on what would be the worst-case scenario, and with that it was nothing. It wasn’t nothing prior to the hurricane during those two days, because I’m going to tell you they said to leave the city. And many people couldn’t afford to leave. It came at the end of the month. Most people that was on welfare or social security, you know that’s gone at the end of the month, they normally don’t have anything.

It was over 100,000 people in New Orleans that had no transportation. And wasn’t nothing done for them. You know we sit and watched almost 500 buses — school buses that could have been used to evacuate people — we’re seeing them — and about 400 of them — just get inundated with water. You know, there wasn’t nothing to get people out.

That’s what kicked off a lot of this looting. Because you know they told a lot of people to go to the SuperDome, and they had to bring food for five days. Most people didn’t have food. So that’s what started all the fights up in the SuperDome.

A a lot of people was walking down the highways. Cars upon cars passing by. And I’m talking about military convoys, and state police, and all these different transportation. Didn’t pick up no one. I mean my son, he walked with his three kids and wife six and a half miles to get to the SuperDome only to be turned around, because at that time they was just taking women and children, and wasn’t taking no adult males.

She didn’t want to see her family separated so they wind up coming here. And it was just by the grace of God that I was here, because they didn’t even know if I was going to be here.

I’m going to tell you that I believe most of those [reports of people shooting at police] were just rumors. I know that the police shot a guy for looting. And that started retaliation, where guys started shooting back at the police. Because I’m going to telll you, you tell a person who don’t have nothing that hey, you know, you got to fend for yourself and there’s nothing to fend with. And then you’re going to tell them I want you to be more neighborly than anyone else.

People sit up here and watch people leave. And park cars. And just park them and lock them and take the keys with them. And they didn’t try to say, well hey neighbor, here’s my other car, you can use my second or my third car. No they parked them all in the yard. That’s the reason, that’s the thing that really started this frustration. You know you want the poor to have more morality than anybody else. And it just don’t work. I mean it’s just sad. I think it was criminal the way this transpired.

The murder rate in New Orleans is ten times the national average. Poverty in New Orleans: the average income of a person in New Orleans, a poor person, is roughly between five and seven thousand dollars a year. So when you talk about a person that’s only getting seven thousand dollars a year, and that’s basically for a family of three, and there’s no work. The work that they do have there’s no real training programs. There’s over 90 million dollars of Hope Six construction going on in New Orleans and no training. And part of those funds was supposed to be set aside for community and supportive services. Nothing is going on. There’s no training.

I believe Louisiana has the highest dropout rate in the country. And even though it’s high in the country, the highest part in Louisiana is here in New Orleans.

Our juvenile justice system is basically a disgrace, especially the detention centers. You know, we had to fight for almost four years to get Tallulah, which was a juvenile detention center — a for profit juvenile detention center — and it was classified as the worst detention center in the country.

What you see happening in New Orleans is not something that is just happening here. There was a study that Tom Hayden did in California on violence in California — and I believe he commissioned a person by the name of Dr. Gilliam — that’s while Hayden was in the state senate. And he said that outside of war, the most violent environment in America is prisons and jails.

Here in Louisiana we incarcerate — here in our county jail we have over seven thousand people in that county jail. And almost five thousand of them are in there for nonviolent misdemeanor offenses. I mean it’s just a breeding ground. They go up in there, they come out no jobs, nothing to do and next thing you know either their second or their third offense is violence.

Most of the murders — and listen, we’re approaching 300 murders right now — in New Orleans. And I’m not talking about during this hurricane, I’m talking about prior to it. 300 murders. And that’s just for one year. And what is this, September? We still got four months left? And we’re already approaching 300 murders. And most of the murders is ex-offenders killing ex-offenders. Because there’s no jobs. The only equal opportunity employer here is drugs.

But now, all of a sudden it take a hurricane to devastate the city for it to become — for work to come out of it.

And the first bit of looting was people stealing food. But then they started hearing the horror stories of if you don’t have any money what happened to you? Then they started stealing anything that they feel like they could barter for to get out of town. If that means me stealing a tv to sell that tv to get some money, then that’s what they was doing. You know, because common sense will tell any sane person or any rational person what you going to do with a tv when your house is flooded? But what this guy is saying is I have this tv and maybe I can trade this tv for some gasoline.

Because right now here in New Orleans, gasoline is worth more than gold. There’s not even one functioning filling station in the entire city of New Orleans. So what people are doing now, they’re going around taking any car that they see empty, they’re puncturing holes in the gas tank trying to get gas so they can leave.

And I’m going to tell you the orders just came today, and they came with the military. All the way up until then you had white vigilante groups — and I’m calling them vigilantes, because that’s what they were — they would ride around in trucks, five, six of them to a truck with shotguns and rifles, you know talking about they were going to shoot looters.

Well they said there was three [shootings]. But it was only by the grace of God that the police finally came and stopped it, because it was about to be a riot. It was about to break into a race riot here in New Orleans. When guys found out this was happening, they started breaking into gun stores, pawn shops, stealing guns. So the next thing you know you had a whole bunch of armed people saying yeah if they shoot at me I’m shooting, because I’m not going to allow my family to sit here waiting on a government that have no idea what they’re doing to make sure that I have.

I took a guy to the ferry today so that he could be transported out. He didn’t really want to leave, but he was running out of insulin. He had insulin, but the insulin he had, he didn’t know whether it was good or not, because he didn’t have no place to keep it cool, to keep it refrigerated. And these are the kinds of cases where you hear of people dying like this.

We have dead bodies in this city right now that have been laying there that we went and covered up Tuesday, and today it’s Friday, and they are still laying there. This is what creates the insanity that’s going on.

Racism? No. No. I’m going to tell you it’s a small segment of whites that’s doing this, because I’m going to tell you I’ve seen many whites take their own personal boats to go into a black community and, excuse me for a second (crying) I’ve seen many of them take their own boats and go into a black community and rescue people. Listen, it’s bad, but I’ve seen too many acts of heroism between different individuals. Individuals sharing ice, sharing water, not knowing whether they’re going to get water, because the city didn’t even tell any damn body when they could have water.

We went to fire stations and in those fire stations they had water almost up to the ceiling. The firemen had guns, and wouldn’t give out the water.

We had a group of my neighbors and we were going to cook food to bring out to those families that they were evacuating. Why? Because they had them sitting there starving. Some of the people were stuck up on their roofs of their houses (crying) for two or three days with nothing. And then they made then sit outside in this hot sun, because I’m going to tell you here when it gets to 95 that’s a heat index of over 100. And you see people steady dropping. And they wouldn’t give them nothing! It was like they was trying to do whatever they can to force them to leave.

I mean when you talk to people and they have lost everything. And the few valuables they have, once they get to the ferry here, they have to leave it, because they only allow them to take one bag. I mean it’s heartbreaking when you see people who have lost everything and the last bit of valuables and possessions that they have, and then they have to leave it, you know, to go anywhere. Because any place beat here.

I mean it’s sickening, especially when you are seeing individuals who have literally watched some of their loved ones die. Charity hospitals, they have worked the doctors almost to death up in there with no lights, no gas, and backup generators didn’t work. Some of them run out of fuel. There was no fuel sent to them. And they watched their patients literally die.

Like I said, we did more for the tsunami than we did here….


Note: this is roughly half the audio file.–gm

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