Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Day 2...and the Elections.

It's Day 2 of our training here in Gulfport, and as it happens, it's also election day here in Mississippi. Today's the day that state senators and reps, not to mention candidates for governor, face off in the primaries.

Driving down old Route 49, where many varieties of the traditional shotgun house dot the roadside, you see hints that this election means something to folks: not one, but two, lawn posters dotting every other lawn; giant billboards announcing candidates of "change" rising high above the railroad tracks that separate the commercial strip from the residential areas. It wasn't by design, necessarily, that we ended up here on this date--but that we did is somewhat of a delicious turn of fate. It brings into even greater relief the importance of the work these grantees are doing--and the immensity of the challenges they face as they try to effect change in their home state.

The organizations who have joined us this week offer a great look at some of the work going on in the region that you might never hear about if you just read the national coverage. For example:
  • Karissa McClane and Lywanda White are here representing Moore Community House of Biloxi, which assists low-income residents secure quality child care and family services, and nurtures local economic development.They're currently working on a women and construction project, which will train women and youth to enter the construction field; their media project will involve talking to women who are interested in construction about their training and what they hope to accomplish with their new skills.
  • Our host for these meetings has been Jason Mackenzie of the North Gulfport Community Land Trust, an organization that is dedicated to providing permanently affordable homeownership to residents in North Gulfport, MS. Since Katrina they've been helping people wade through the mess of insurance bureaucracy, and their media project will focus on land and development issues around the Gulf.
  • Sharon Hanshaw and Cass Woods of Coastal Women for Change are here to work on compiling an oral history; they hope to interview seniors on the history of Biloxi, and how life used to be before the storm--both to provide background information to volunteers who have come to the region, and to offer an opportunity for the community itself to take pride in its deep and exceptional history. Coastal Women for Change was founded in the aftermath of Katrina to secure and revitalize affected neighborhoods, and provide them with timely information as the recovery process continues.
  • The Mississippi Workers Center for Human Rights is a worker advocacy organization that provides organizing support, legal representation and training for low-wage, non-union workers in the state of Mississippi. They are currently running a "Housing is a Human Right" Campaign to try to ensure that all Mississipians have access to adequate housing in the wake of Katrina. Staffer Anchanese Levison is here to put together a report on how housing policies are failing survivors of the storm.
  • Will McElhinny of the Mississippi Center for Justice has joined us as well. MCJ was formed to advance racial and economic justice, and has been working in the aftermath of the storm to encourage attorneys to donate their services to the region pro bono. During this training, Will plans to interview a number of lawyers and paralegals who have come down to help since the storms, and compile a report that will run on their website to help encourage other attorneys to lend their skills.
That's a look at who's here, working to expand the media landscape. Shortly you'll be hearing more from my Ms. Foundation colleague, Mia White, who's been working on Katrina since the storms hit and who can give a bit more nuanced context to what the work going on here means, etc.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really feel fema should do more to help the people that it taxes in the time of need. But to believe that you have to believe in Alice in Wonderland or something like that... It's not going to happen... As bad as i would like for it to happen... it's not. you have to take care of the people close to you and pray everything else will work itself out....