This message is from Friends & Families of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children. The following includes a call for volunteers, reports of problems post-Katrina and information about making donations to the organization.
...Thanks to you all
First, of all we want to say thank you to all of you who have supported, donated, and volunteered. We cannot express fully enough how much your solidarity means to us as individuals and as an organization. If we have neglected to return your call or get back to you with a thank you email, please know that we sincerely apologize! It has taken us a minute to get organized and we know some people may have not received the prompt response they should have. Please know that we appreciate every dollar, every computer, every box of paper, every word of encouragement.
FFLIC is now working with Critical Resistance and Communities United to have volunteers all over the country go shelter to shelter with information for anyone who has a loved one who was locked up or detained in the affected areas when the storm hit. We have volunteers in Arizona, California, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Arkansas, etc. We are talking with people, collecting information, and helping folks call the hotline and facility numbers to locate where their family members are and speaking directly to them or leaving them messages. If you are interested in volunteering with us to help us help folks find their family members, please contact Daniel Horowitz de Garcia at Daniel@cuapj.org.
Going shelter to shelter, here’s what we can tell you about some of what we’ve discovered:
•Some shelters are well organized, providing needed services, with staff who are respectful and caring of the survivors. Houston’s convention center was a good example of this. Some are dirty, mis-managed, with racist and unpleasant staff. At the River Center in Baton Rouge, we witnessed dinner being served – a hot dog, a bag of chips and an apple. We also witnessed the National Guardsmen patrolling the sleeping quarters, two at a time with huge AKs slung over their shoulders. The woman who I was helping find her son as her grandson played around us asked me, “why are they here? Are we in prison?” We hear that many Red Cross staff in Lafayette and Lake Charles have been fired and replaced after serious complaints of prejudice and disrespect. One volunteer said she wouldn’t be surprised if folks just got fed up and started rising up against the Red Cross authorities.
•All around Louisiana and Texas, local responses to Katrina survivors vary from welcoming to hostile. In Houston, we saw signs and expressions of sympathy and support. In Lake Charles the city is planning to put a fence around the shelter and has doubled law enforcement in areas like the mall and popular restaurants. The theme of treating survivors like prisoners has been repeated over many of our visits and observations. In St. Louis, they just skipped the middle step and created a shelter out of an abandoned prison.
•We have been in touch with several of our long time members, for those who know them: Ms. Mathews now has an apartment in Houston after several weeks in the Astrodome, Ms. Flora is safe in Jackson, MS. Ms. Sabrina should be flying out with her 2 sons to Colorado Springs, and Ms. Cortez and Mr. Minoo are both safe. We are still searching for others. If anyone would like to send support to these individuals, please let us know. We are keeping a list of what people need and can get that information to you.
•Those who are left in the shelters right now are the folks who have no where else to go. Many are planning on staying there until they can go back to New Orleans. Many are separated from families that are in shelters as far away as Massachusetts, Los Angeles and San Antonio, TX.
•People have harrowing, horrifying, overwhelming and inspiring tales of surviving the storm, surviving the evacuation, saving lives, watching loved ones die. It is important that these stories be told and heard. It is important that people know the extent of what went wrong and how people paid the price for it.
•We continue to hear the stories of young people and adults locked up who were not evacuated but who had to break free from their cells, sometimes leaving others behind in chest high water that was rising. We continue to hear nothing from state officials that addresses this issue and commits to investigating who was responsible and what will be done to determine how many prisoners lost their lives.
FFLIC’s Hurricane Relief Fund
Our fund is finally being put to good use! We are helping folks with housing, transportation and basic necessities. We have raised over $10,000 thanks to the generosity of dozens of people across the country. We have been moved to tears by the letters and notes which accompany the checks apologizing for not sending more, not being able to do more. Our collective sense of powerlessness is profound. We are determined to overcome it and make something of this tragedy.
There is so much to do. Hopefully, by next week, we will have an office set up and operating in Lake Charles, Louisiana. We cannot stop with simply gathering the information, finding our members, and helping families reconnect. The fight for a transformed juvenile justice system must continue, but not in isolation. This disaster has illuminated that the racism and oppression which have fueled the juvenile and criminal justice systems in this state for years are the very same which abandoned people to die in our city after the storm hit. For these reasons, we must figure out how to continue to build membership and channel the rage, and righteous indignation that people have into a movement that demands justice on every level – in the short, medium, and long term. FFLIC has joined with Community/Labor United (CLU) to strategize how to do this in a unified, powerful way. For those organizers who would like to come down and support us, please stay in touch with us, we will soon have a clearer sense of all that needs to be done and how to begin the doing.
As folks know, FFLIC is a project of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana (JJPL), a legal and advocacy organization dedicated to transforming Louisiana’s juvenile justice system. JJPL and our Board of Directors have been incredibly supportive of and generous about FFLIC’s work in this crisis while also trying to continue on with the JJ reform work that has been years in the making. We want to invite anyone who would like to donate to JJPL and FFLIC’s efforts, to designate on your checks whether you are making a donation to “JJPL and FFLIC” overall or specifically for the “JJPL/FFLIC Hurricane Relief Fund” which goes to fund the immediate needs of displaced families and children with whom FFLIC is working. JJPL/FFLIC Hurricane Relief Checks can be still sent to:
920 Platt Street
Sulphur, LA 70663.
Checks to JJPL may be sent to Sonji Hart
392 Sisters Rd.
Ponchatoula, Louisiana, 70454
Thank you all – with love and respect,
Xochitl, Gina, Grace and Kori