Funds for Grassroots groups in the gulf coast-discussion

colist at colist at
Fri Sep 2 21:04:33 CDT 2005

[ed:  Deidre and David continue the discussion.]

Deirdre Silverman <deirdre at>

In response to Randy's comments about the potential usefulness of an 
organizing model in dealing with a disaster:
Cuba has been hit by 3 major hurricanes in the last 2 years, one of 
which passed directly over Havana. When we've contacted people and 
organizations in Cuba asking if they needed help in the aftermath, the 
response has been that they did not. This email explains how they 
handled the evacuation of Havana.

> This was sent to me by Ned Sublette this evening (Thursday, September 1).
> I just spoke to nelson valdes, a walking encyclopedia of knowledge 
> about Cuba, and asked him how civil defense is conducted in Cuba. 
> "Less than 2 months ago, cuba was able to move 1.7 million people out 
> of Havana on short notice.
> The whole civil defense is embedded in the community to begin with. 
> People know ahead of time where they are to go. They come to your door 
> and knock, and tell you, evacuation is coming, then they come and tell 
> you, now.
> If no electricity, they have runners who communicate from a 
> headquarters to central locations what is to be done.
> The country's leaders go on TV and take charge, but not only the 
> leaders are speaking.  The TV weatherpeople are knowledgeable and the 
> population is well educated about hurricanes.
> They not only evacuate. It's arranged beforehand where they will go, 
> who has family where. Not only pickup is organized, delivery of people 
> is organized. Merely sticking them in a stadium is unthinkable.  
> Shelters all have medical personnel from the neighborhood. They have 
> family doctors in Cuba (1 foir every 180 families! DS), who evacuate 
> together with the neighborhood, and already know who, for example,
> needs insulin.
> If they evacuate to a countryside high school -- a last resort -- they 
> have dormitories there. They also have veterinarians and they evacuate 
> animals.  They begin evacuating immediately, and also evacuate TV sets 
> and refrigerators, so that people aren't relucatant to leave because 
> people might steal their stuff.
> It's not throwing money at the problem.  It's not financial capital, 
> it's social capital. The U.S. in this sense has zero social capital. 
> Dealing with hurricanes in Cuba, as compared with how it's done in the 
> U.S., is similar to the differences in how they deal with medicine.  
> It's not reactive; it's proactive.  They act as early as possible. The 
> US. doesn't have civil defense, it has civil *reaction.*"

*Deirdre Silverman, Development Director
Alternatives Federal Credit Union
125 N. Fulton Street, Ithaca, NY 14850
phone (607) 273-4611 ext 816  fax (607) 277-6391 
dsilverman at 

From: "David Chavis" <dchavis at>

I think that the response of the national and local organizing networks 
is admirable and most appreciated to raise funds for aid. Has there been 
thought about organizing to help gain social control, improve self help 
efforts, and most of all, demand a better response? It seems to me that 
skilled organizing is as need as any assistance, now and into the future.

David M. Chavis
Principal Associate/CEO
Association for the Study and Development of Community
312 Frederick Ave.
Gaithersburg, MD 20877
301.519.0722 ext. 109 (voice)
301.519.0724 (fax)

> (I am dividing this thread into discussion of the issue and funds. 
> This is the discussion sub-thread.]
> From: "ACORN News" <acornnews at>
> As we write this to you, thousands of New Orleans residents at the 
> Superdome are stranded and without water. According to many news 
> reports, people are dying from dehydration while 82 buses sit outside 
> the Superdome. There are confusing reports about why they are not 
> evacuating people.
> We know for certain that there are ACORN members and their families in 
> the Superdome. They need water. We do not know why FEMA is not 
> bringing water. We also heard there was water available at the Ritz 
> Carlton Hotel nearby, but we can't enter the city or reach folks there.
> Please call your Members of Congress and ask them to pressure the 
> Administration and FEMA to save the people at the Superdome. You can 
> call toll-free 1-800-643-9557 and ask to speak to your representative.
> Your immediate action right now can save lives.
> *********************************
> From: "PICO National Network" <sreed at>
> Our hearts are broken over the death and destruction we are watching 
> unfold in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. We are filled with sadness, 
> anger and many other emotions. So much of the relationships and 
> history that connects us together as a network runs through New 
> Orleans and Louisiana.
> We are watching catastrophic failure by public officials to respond to 
> those who are most vulnerable. Our brothers and sisters are dying. 
> Everything we stand for says that each of us has dignity and that we 
> are responsible for one another. Those who were able to flee tell us 
> of overwhelming needs - to save the lives of those still in harms way, 
> to shelter, feed and clothe those who have lost their homes, to 
> rebuild homes, communities and congregations.
> As a network we are responding with all the resources and love we have.
> #1: As an immediate step we ask that you call your Congressperson and 
> Senators and express your outrage at what is unfolding in New Orleans 
> and ask that they use their power and influence to pressure FEMA and 
> the Federal Government to do more to save lives now. Call the 
> Congressional switchboard at 1-800-643-9557 and ask to speak with your 
> member of Congress. The Whitehouse switchboard is (202) 456-1414.
> #2: PICO organizations and congregations in Louisiana, Alabama and 
> Florida are overwhelmed by the work they are doing to help those who 
> have sought refuge in their communities. One way you can help is to 
> send money or provide other resources to congregations and agencies 
> that are providing refuge to people. Our organizations in Baton Rouge, 
> Houma/Thibodaux, Baldwin County, and Pensacola can help you direct 
> resources to those providing shelter. Call Alia Zaki, PICO Operations 
> Manager, who is coordinating this effort. Her phone number: 
> 619-501-1804 (azaki at We have also been told that the 
> Red Cross (1-800-435-7669) is another good way to provide assistance.
> #3: We are working to match up PICO federations and congregations with 
> sister congregations from New Orleans to help make sure people get the 
> help they need to rebuild their lives and communities. STAY TUNED FOR 
> #4: We have created an information board at: 
> if you have information that 
> you want to share or if you are looking for information.
> Our deepest prayers go out to our brothers and sisters who have lost 
> so much that they have the strength to go on. We pray that our public 
> officials act always with the understanding that in God’s eyes each of 
> our lives is precious and that we must do everything in our being to 
> save each other.
> ****************************
> From:
> Andrew Schoeneman <mistershoney at>
> As are many who've watched the Gulf Coast nightmare unfold from afar, 
> I am alternately reduced to tears and furious about how the situation 
> has been handled. It is a given in this country that poor people and 
> people of color are forgotten and left behind in greater numbers than 
> the privileged, but what do we do about it when the stakes become so 
> high so fast and the relief efforts immediately become so centralized 
> and so top-down (and so inept!)?
> In addition to being about creating an alternative power structure and 
> an alternative avenue for addressing community issues, it strikes me 
> that organizing is very much simply about creating an alternative. 
> Period. We don't want to play the game, or even win the game; we want 
> to come up with a new game. So what is the alternative that we'd like 
> to create in this horrid aftermath? How can we act? In addition to 
> learning from this collosal mistake, as Randy suggests, how can we put 
> our tools to use NOW? It goes without saying that local organizing 
> efforts should get our unwavering support during the weeks, months, 
> and years of putting lives and communities back together. But for 
> those of us who are NOT local, how can we provide concrete examples of 
> how the values that us self-described liberals and progressives and 
> radicals are so good at talking about can translate into action? 
> Clearly there are many gaps in the military-corporate model of 
> disaster relief. Clearly there are a lot of things people COULD be 
> doing besides clicking on "donate" on the Red Cross website. But what 
> are they? Provide shelter for the displaced? Build decent affordable 
> housing where there used to be decrepit shacks? In this case perhaps 
> it is ourselves who need organizing as much, or more, as the people 
> and communities who are so often targeted for organizing efforts. I 
> know craigslist has become a resource for people looking to offer 
> practical help, but there are the usual issues that go along with 
> internet-based strategies, particularly lack of access. Are there 
> other efforts that anyone knows about?
> I know I am asking more questions than providing answers or 
> suggestions, and I'm sure I'll get slammed for saying that people who 
> don't know the community should come in and start doing stuff without 
> identifying concerns through a bottom-up process. But that's not the 
> point, or that's not MY point anyway. I'm just saying that I think 
> sometimes we are so adament about not pushing any agenda that we lose 
> sight of the fact that we too are implicated in this mess. We've 
> screwed up, not just "them." So what can we
> Andrew Schoeneman
> Richmond, VA
> colist at wrote:
>> <><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
>> This is a COMM-ORG "colist" message.
>> All replies to this message come to COMM-ORG only.
>> <><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
>> [ed: please feel welcomed to copy COMM-ORG with responses to Mark's 
>> query. And feel welcomed to discuss the community organizing 
>> dimensions--which are many--of this disaster. A bit from me about 
>> this below.]
>> From: "Mark Sherman" <MSherman at>
>> Hi,
>> We're wondering what funds have been set up by or for the grassroots
>> groups that have been doing work in the Gulf Coast areas destroyed by
>> the hurricane. We'd like to get them pubicized.
>> We found that ACORN has started a fund (based on looking at their
>> donation page, but there is not yet information about it on their home
>> page) and we've blogged about it on PTP's web site. We're looking for
>> requests from other area community organizing groups or funds oriented
>> to them to publicize.
>> Does anyone else have some links to share?
>> Mark Sherman
>> Executive Director
>> Progressive Technology Project
>> msherman at
>> 2801 21st Av S, Ste 132E
>> Minneapolis, MN 55407
>> 612-724-2600 ext 15
>> Toll-Free 1-866-298-6463
>> FAX 612-395-9153
>> ***********************
>> [ed: As an outsider to this horrific event, I am speaking out of 
>> ignorance except for almost constant watching of the local New 
>> Orleans news webcasts. But from what I have been learning from those 
>> webcasts, I have seen again and again what appears to be the failure 
>> of authorities to get the most from the people of New Orleans. 
>> Locking up people in the Superdome, and not organizing them to care 
>> for themselves and perhaps even preventing them from caring for 
>> themselves, amazes me. Every report gave the impression that those 
>> running the Superdome lockup didn't bother to organize people into 
>> teams to collectively manage and clean the place. Now they are being 
>> sent to the Astrodome, and will the mistakes be repeated? In another 
>> case, volunteers that arrived with boats for search and rescue were 
>> prevented from going out instead of organizing and providing a quick 
>> training. I have been thinking for the past three days, what would an 
>> organizer do? And it just seems that there are so many fundamental 
>> lessons being neglected. Of course, I am not there, and have no idea 
>> of the practical difficulties, but I hope that the people who are 
>> there, when they have the chance to take a breath, reflect on whether 
>> some of the basic lessons of community organizing could be deployed 
>> the next time something like this happens.] 
>> _______________________________________________

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