The Rev. Jesse Jackson and Mayor Ray Nagin led hundreds of marchers Saturday to the crumbling houses that still dominate the Lower 9th Ward to draw attention to the area’s slow recovery from Hurricane Katrina.
Jackson said the Bush administration and much of the nation had largely forgotten the working class and mostly black hurricane victims in the Lower 9th, while areas that draw tourists and more affluent sections recover more quickly.
“The waters have subsided, but the abandonment continues. The president did not mention Katrina in his last State of the Union address,” Jackson said. While the Saints, the city’s professional football team, and Mardi Gras have returned, “the people are not back,” he said.
The mayor, whose leadership since the storm has been questioned by many residents, indicated that problems with New Orleans’ recovery stem from the slow flow of government aid.
“This march is important because it basically sends a message to the nation that people in New Orleans are still here,” he said. “We’re still fighting for our land. We’re fighting for our recovery. We want the resources to flow much faster.”
A few hundred people walking with Jackson and Nagin marched about 10 abreast over the Claiborne Avenue bridge that arcs into the Lower 9th, stopping near the site of the levee breach that allowed in the storm surge flood that destroyed homes and took lives there in August 2005.
Resident Gail Woods, 58, said only two weeks ago that huge chunks of what were once neighborhood homes were finally removed from her front-yard fence, where they had been deposited by the flood. She said she made repeated calls to city, state and federal officials before a debris-removal team finally showed up.
“I felt I should come out and show support, because we want to be here,” said Woods, who was raised in the neighborhood. “We’re going to be here. I love the Lower 9.”