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Women Surviving Hurricanes Katrina & Rita
Part 1
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Gregory, Elizabeth [host]; Jasper, Pat [panelist]; Harris, Glenda [interviewer]; Lindol, Carl [panelist]; Smothers, Sherry [interviewer]; McGee, Pamela [panelist]; Morgan, Dion [interviewer]; Morgan-Parker, Natasha [panelist]. Women Surviving Hurricanes Katrina & Rita - Part 1. 2006. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. April 23, 2014. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/living/item/6/show/4.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Gregory, Elizabeth [host]; Jasper, Pat [panelist]; Harris, Glenda [interviewer]; Lindol, Carl [panelist]; Smothers, Sherry [interviewer]; McGee, Pamela [panelist]; Morgan, Dion [interviewer]; Morgan-Parker, Natasha [panelist]. (2006). Women Surviving Hurricanes Katrina & Rita - Part 1. University of Houston Women’s Studies Living Archives Recordings. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/living/item/6/show/4

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Gregory, Elizabeth [host]; Jasper, Pat [panelist]; Harris, Glenda [interviewer]; Lindol, Carl [panelist]; Smothers, Sherry [interviewer]; McGee, Pamela [panelist]; Morgan, Dion [interviewer]; Morgan-Parker, Natasha [panelist], Women Surviving Hurricanes Katrina & Rita - Part 1, 2006, University of Houston Women’s Studies Living Archives Recordings, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed April 23, 2014, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/living/item/6/show/4.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Women Surviving Hurricanes Katrina & Rita
Creator (LCNAF)
  • Gregory, Elizabeth [host]
  • Jasper, Pat [panelist]
  • Harris, Glenda [interviewer]
  • Lindol, Carl [panelist]
  • Smothers, Sherry [interviewer]
  • McGee, Pamela [panelist]
  • Morgan, Dion [interviewer]
  • Morgan-Parker, Natasha [panelist]
Date 2006
Description Two-part video about experiences of New Orleans residents during hurricanes Rita and Katrina, and about the Surving Katrina and Rita Project in Houston. Video starts with commentary from Pat Jasper and Glenda Harris about the project. Harris then interviews her aunt, Helen Anthony, about the evacuation and trip to Houston. Carl Lendol and Sherry Summers then elaborate on the project, and Smothers questions Pamela McGee about the storm and about her experiences thus far in Houston. Jasper then interviews Dion Morgan, who introduces her sister, Natasha Morgan-Parker to the panel. Morgan-Parker talks about New Orleans, and Morgan asks Morgan-Parker about her evacuation, and her going to Houston. The interviewees also periodically answer audience questions.
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas
  • Hurricane Katrina, 2005--Social aspects--Louisiana--New Orleans
  • Hurricane Rita, 2005
Subject.Name (LCNAF)
  • Gregory, Elizabeth
  • Jasper, Pat
  • Harris, Glenda
  • Lindol, Carl
  • Smothers, Sherry
  • McGee, Pamela
  • Morgan, Dion
  • Morgan-Parker, Natasha
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • interviews
Original Item Location http://library.uh.edu/record=b4555844~S11
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name index.cpd
Access File Run Time 00:56:17; 00:58:38
Co-creator
  • Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program
  • The Friends of Women's Studies
Item Description
Title Part 1
File name 2011_17_044a.m4v
Transcript Living Archives Series 2006-2007 Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston Menil Collection EG: Good evening everybody! Can you hear me? Audience member (AM): Can you hear me now? [chuckles] EG: Can you hear me? [chuckle] AM: Yes. EG: Welcome, to this evening’s Living Archives panel which is sponsored by the Friends of Women’s Studies, which is a community group which supports the women’s studies program at the University of Houston and the Women’s Archive and Research Center which includes an archive library at the University which collects the papers of Houston area women’s organizations and the oral histories of women in Houston. And part of the building of the archive process is through the Living Archive process where we do oral histories at the Menil. And that’s what we’re doing here this evening. So we’re very happy to have a very special presentation today from the surviving Katrina and Rita project and in the course of the evening, those participating will tell you their stories [chuckle] so I won’t introduce them at length. They can do most of that themselves in the course of it, but I’ll tell you their names. And what we’re going to do as I understand it is there will be three different pairs of interviewed couples. So the first two interviewee, uh, interviewers is right here. Helen Anthony and Glenda Harris. And next to them is Pat Jasper who is one of the directors of the Surviving Katrina and Rita Project in Houston. And I’ll just ask the other participants to rise right now so we can just know who you are. Natasha Morgan Parker and Dionne Morgan. And Pamela McGee and Sherry Smothers. And also Carl Lindahl is here who is the other co-director of the Project. So we’re very happy to have you here. I want to thank Humanities Texas for their generosity in underwriting tonight’s program and please join me in welcoming the panel and Pat Jasper who I think is going to speak a little first. [clapping] Pat Jasper: We want to thank you all so much for coming out this evening. And I’m going to start by thanking all the people who absolutely must be acknowledged for helping us make this project and this evening in particular and of course first and foremost is Elizabeth Gregory who has gone way out her way to put up with me, Carl and our process and the bigness of this project and the many ways in which it is fascinating and complicated and hard to squeeze into a standard format. And of course we want to thank the Women’s Studies program and we’re delighted to be part, this evening, of the Living Archives series. The Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston Project is something I’m going to describe to you very briefly in a minute, but hopefully the projects broader contours will reveal themselves as the evening goes on. But before I do that we do need to acknowledge the three kind of major partners that made this project happen. These are all institutions that came to the fore at the point where this project was conceived. And they include the University of Houston which has provided office space, and classroom space, and Carl Lindol, and his incredible students, and all kinds of things that we’ve been able to sneak out the door without them knowing about it. The Texas Commission on the Arts which is the state arts agency and their role in this is very early on when we conceived the project understood that every dollar we raised was important for the project itself, particularly important for going directly to survivors of the two hurricanes as much as possible. They agreed to umbrella any grant applications that we submitted without any overhead or any administrative costs, which was remarkably important because every penny counts. And finally of course, in some ways certainly as prestigious as the other two institutions we need too thank the American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress which came on very, very early as a partner of this project because they understood the importance of documenting the stories of Hurricane Rita and Katrina survivors. The director of the Folk Life Center there, I think Peggy Bolger was down here in Houston. I think her first planned trip was literally the weekend of Rita. We did cancel that trip although we did not have a problem finding a hotel room for her. But she came back I think a week later and we had a heck of a time finding her a hotel room. And finally, I personally want to thank my co-director, Carl Lindol who is truly – he often likes to put me in front of audiences because I’m great at shooting from the hip, you’ll see. I don’t speak with the informed sensibility that he does but he is truly, both the intellectual and emotional author of this project. So without his early and intense thinking about the importance telling their story in any circumstance whatsoever this project really wouldn’t have happened. I’m going to open up, as I said, with a brief overview of what the Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston Project is, and it’s simple enough to say that SKRH – Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston, which you will eventually have to say because it’s such a long title is a survivor centered story telling and documentation project. The project trains and compensates Katrina and Rita survivors and evacuees to go out and document the stories of their fellow evacuees. And the documentation process that we encourage and engage in is one that involves non-directed interviews. This doesn’t mean that the project doesn’t have a list of master topics that we’re seeking in the documentation project. Certainly the central story that most people involved in Katrina and Rita want to tell is their storm story or their evacuation story. That’s often the most dramatic story we find in interviewing situations. That’s the people want to rush to. And we encourage our interviewers to let that happen, but in addition to that we encourage them to seek stories about the communities that individuals left behind and may in fact no longer exist. Because this is an opportunity to really document communities in a way that they never will be ever again. It also is a project that asks about the stories of creation of community here in Houston as people are rebuilding their lives. Finally, of course, we encourage all of the interviewers to open it up to their interviewee by saying, “Is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you’d like to talk about?” And that gets kind of to the meat of this project, which is that this project is something that we hesitate to even refer to as an oral history project because it really is a project about the stories about the survivors themselves want to tell about their experience. In thinking about this today, I was thinking the fact that this project kind of conforms – for me - a formula that always works with what I think are important and significant projects and that it is simple in concept, it’s hopefully elegant in execution, but most important it’s revolutionary in approach, and I’d like to break that down a little bit. The simplicity of this project is based in the notion that control over the collection and the telling of these narratives remains in the hands of the survivors themselves. That is the simple driving premise. The elegance of this project is ultimately the power of the narrative, unconstrained by a journalistic and academic or an authorial agenda, on the terms of the survivors themselves. Solely and voiced from the perspective of the speaker as intimately and as authentically and as in the moment as possible. And finally, revolutionary in approach, and I fell like I can sometimes brag about things like this. And I didn’t think this project up, I just work on it, so I’m kind of bragging on Carl’s early thinking about an important way in which this project happens and that is, that even though collecting stories in and of themselves of all kinds is important, tasking survivors themselves with the effort is completely innovative. It ensures a pure relationship and creates a symmetry of experience for participants that seldom holds in projects of this character. It is why with everyday we are more and more hesitant, as I said earlier to call this an oral history project because as Carl likes to say, ultimately when this project works, it’s best. The flow is not from the interviewer to the interviewee but the other direction of the so-called kitchen table. The flow is from the storyteller into whatever device is used to record it. And that is done without the expectation of certain information. In other words we’re privileging the story over information. This evening we’re exploring the story of mother’s and daughters through the hurricane experience and to me it’s interesting to note we’ve done, at this point, three field schools. We’ve trained forty individuals. We’ve collected over 300 narratives and by far the great majority of the participants in the field schools themselves have been women. It’s worth remarking that I can’t say whether the majority of narratives we’ve collected have been women. It’s made me realize that we need to go back and take a good look at that. But, invariably the stories people tell are certainly driven by their own experience, but invariably the very notion of family becomes a significant aspect of that story. And what we’ve been surprised by is the incredible role of mothers. And we’re going to kick off our first set of participants by talking about a special kind of mother-daughter relationship. I have the pleasure of introducing Glenda Harris. Glenda has really put up with me. I drag her to things like this, it seems like constantly, and she just keeps being nice to me. I don’t know why. [some chuckles from audience] PJ: And she even got here at 6:30, but that’s because I was smart enough to go through her aunt Helen Anthony who is a force even more formidable than Glenda herself. Glenda was in our first field school. And one of the important parts of project is of course the sovereignty of the story in the hands of the survivor themselves, the training, and the compensation. But part of our thinking about the training was the hope that through this training individuals who were involved in this project, use some of the new skills to take in to the work world with them or to enhance the work they were already doing. And the amazing thing about Glenda was that she just immediately did that. Glenda is a native of the lower ninth ward. A lifelong resident of New Orleans. She was the director of the Advocacy Center for the lower ninth ward and since coming to Houston – we tried to hire her. We immediately tried to hire her, but she was scooped up by the Children’s defense fund, a slightly better offer than the one we could give her, to work on the Katrina Task Force with a focus on the children of Katrina. One of our greatest, we think, accomplishments is what Glenda told us about the production of this booklet. And I’m going to turn it over to Glenda for a minute. Glenda Harris: Good evening ladies and gentleman. It is my pleasure, pat thinks that I do this because she asked me, but I do this because it is our way of empowering a community who has been voiceless and has been left without many resources and many areas of opportunities to have their real stories to be told. I’m fortunate to have been in the first class I call the boot camp. [chuckles from audience] GH: We were the guinea pig class that Pat and Carl got to play house with to learn what it takes to get students motivated and to get involved with this project. Immediately, before we could really complete all of my interviews, the Children Defense Fund called me and I shared with the Southern Regional Coordinator that I had just finished a project with America Speaks – I mean with American Folk Life under the Library of Congress to deal with getting stories from Katrina evacuees. But what I was concerned about, I had been in the process of getting those stories from adults, but it was interesting to me as we sat around kitchen tables, there were children there, and no one had heard from the children. Immediately Olita Fitzgerald and Mary Joseph, who were the Southern Regional directors, thought it was a wonderful idea and we launched what American has seen around the country called the Katrina Report. The idea was launched there. In this report, we heard from children both in Mississippi – that were in Jackson Mississippi, in the freedom schools there, here in Houston, Texas and in Baton Rouge and one of the largest areas of trailer parks in the country called the Renaissance Village, I’m sure you’ve heard of it in the news. And we heard the stories from these children and we heard their cries. And it was very fulfilling to me as we went through the stories of those children and helped them to really release. We realized that it was a very healthy experience for them. It helped them in their healing process as it did for the adults we interviewed through this progress. And so I’m grateful for the opportunity of learning this experience. And Pat didn’t know it, but there is going to be a follow-up report to this Katrina’s Children Account to Consciousness that will deal with the life of children as they are now. Unfortunately, because of my challenging schedule with America Speaks, that’s why I talked about it. As we deal with families come this Saturday, throughout the country, I’m not able to do the direct interviews, but I’m able to help out fashion the stories that we’re going to publish in that next publication. So I’m very to be here and to be a part of the project. PJ: Thank you. When I first contacted Glenda about being apart of this I asked her if she could possibly arrange for her daughter to come along with her and be her interview, and she for a range of reasons could arrange that, but very quickly suggested an alternative. And that was her aunt Helen Anthony. And that sounded like a good idea, but I wanted to find out a little bit more. So, as I kind of barked at Glenda’s heals and made her tell me how to get in touch with Ms. Anthony. I called Ms. Anthony and said, “Do you mind if I come and get together with you and we talk a little bit about the presentation? And she said, “No problem.” I said, “Well I look forward to meeting you because I feel like I already know you. You sound just like Glenda.” And she very quickly said to me, “Oh, no. Glenda sounds just like me.” [laughter from audience] PJ: And that’s when I realized that the mother-daughter relationship clearly held here. Glenda is going to do – we encourage the most intimate of interview sort of scenario and as you know this is an artificial setting. But Glenda is going to – and one of things we’re going to do throughout the course of the evening is a series of sample interviews so that you get a birds eye view of the way in which this project transpired. And so Glenda is going to interview her aunt, Helen Anthony on some of the issues facing mothers and daughters facing Katrina and Rita. GH: Ladies and Gentlemen, once again it’s a pleasure to be here tonight. One of the main reasons, I have to add this caveat to let you know all why I didn’t suggest my daughter who is still here. I have a set of twins that probably would have tore up all the chairs in this room by now. [chuckles from audience] GH: We would have never heard the interview [chuckles] before the evening was over with. So, it is my privilege and my honor. Even though this setting is artificial, we would normally do interviews, I try to make it known to the audience, that I try to do interviews around the kitchen table. Because in the South it is where we’re comfortable. It is where we talk. It is were we share meals. It is where family is family. It is where I can find out your most intimate views and understandings. It is around the kitchen table. It is where my grandmother talked to me. It is where my mother talked to me. It is where we get most things done in families. So, when I aunt said, “ I got to talk in front of all these people?” I said, “Just be yourself.” I’m sure that you would probably enjoy hearing her story. It is my privilege to interview my aunt because my aunt is the matriarch of the family now. Both my mother and my other aunt are deceased, and my grandmother. So she kind of tells us which way to go. [chuckles from audience] GH: Everyday! [more chuckles from audience] GH: Where are you going? What are you doing? But it’s a privilege to have her. I think God for her. Being a woman of faith it was good to still have her here in my life and have us all together as a family. But her name is Helen Anthony, and she is a nurse who lived in the lower ninth ward area, unlike what you might think, and there were working professionals that lived in lower ninth ward. Everyone was not poor, and worked for a hotel. And Ms. Anthony had her own home there in that community. And so, I’d like to start Aunt Helen is you would let them know a little bit about your background and then we’ll talk more about the evacuation. Helen Anthony: Well, I’m not a very talkative person, but I want to thank Houston, for being so gracious to New Orleans. They opened their arms for us, so I thank them very much. And I came out of the lower ninth ward. I’ve been a nurse for 30 years. My husband is a veteran and for the last couple years he’s been down. My praying for coming to Houston was to be surrounded with medical professions for him and other resources, which I’ve been having, trouble getting. But I think we’ve kind of been finding things around. We’ve lived in our home for about 30 years. And we both were working people. We worked all our lives. We paid all our taxes – property tax, sales tax, state tax, everything. And Katrina came. We lost everything. I don’t blame anybody for that. That’ wasn’t anybody’s doing. I would like for things – for people to get their own thing together. Nobody owes us anything. We need to step back and take a look at where we need to go, where do we need to be. And I think that I’ve kind of found my place and where I need to be and where I’m going. And I’m sure the rest of my family is doing the same. And we’re going to be okay. We doing pretty good with that. Like I told Glenda, you’ve got to ask questions because I can’t elaborate on things. I do get very emotional, when I talk about Katrina. GH: Well, unlike most people, you hear your – you call your aunt Auntie. My aunt was raised with me like a sister so I always call her Helen. So don’t take that as unusual. Most people wouldn’t have thought about calling her aunt by name but she’s always been comfortable with that. Helen, I think the audience would love to hear about our evacuation, what happened, and the process with our family. How was the family evacuated out? HA: We evacuated the Saturday night, which was the 27th. We were supposed to leave at 4 o’clock in the evening. But Ms. Glenda had to run around the little 9th ward trying to get everyone else together. GH: [chuckles] HA: So we wind up leaving about midnight, about time she got straight. Everyone was at my home, waiting for Glenda, like I said, waiting for Glenda for about 5 hours. When we finally left about midnight it was 7 carloads of us. And we evacuated. We started out – we were the first cars to come out of the contra-flow. And naturally she was tired because she had been running around the whole day. We had to do a number of stops, and my son a truck driver, he didn’t want to stop. He’s just a – just going straight through. He didn’t want to stop. And I had to instruct him, that when one car stops, we all stops. And he kind of had a fit about that, but he stopped. Another one of my other son’s, he’s not a highway driver. He had to stop because he kept getting – we had to slow down a lot because he kept getting lost, even though we all were supposed to be traveling together, he fell back and he’d get lost. We’d stop. But we did make it here in Houston about 7 o’clock in the morning. All of us came to the same hotel. We stayed there for a week. We left the hotel and went to a suburban state and we stayed there for a week and then we all wind up in the same apartment complex. Everybody stayed together. GH: Tell me what the communication was like? Talk to us about when we were on the highway and we were stopping? How was that? [chuckle from few in audience] HA: I never wanted a cell phone. [laughter from all] GH: [chuckle] HA: Never. [chuckle] HA: I always had a bad vibe about cell phones – what people do with cell phones. GH: Mmm Hmm. HA: But I had a cell phone. That was the most blessed thing that has ever passed this way! [laughter from all] HA: A cell phone. And every car – there were 7 carloads of us – and every car had a cell phone. And that’s the way we communicated. The one that I said that wasn’t a highway driver he had to stay in the back. I had to keep calling. “Where are you?” “I’m passing mile marker 20.” And we at mile marker 30. GH: [laughs] [laughter from audience] HA: So quite naturally, we had to slow down. I tell the one in front to slow down. “Why we got to slow down?” “We have to wait for him.” So later on I call, “Where are you now?” Well he’d been caught up 10-mile markers up to us, right after we slowed down. But we had to use the cell phones, quite frequently. I had about 1500 minutes on my phone. By the time we got to Houston I think I had about 20 minutes. [laughter from all] HA: Because we used those minutes on that phone. GH: Let’s talk about a very natural experience. I’m going to take a moment – I’m going to take the liberty to do that – that something that had happened you had shared with me – and it happened right before I got there, about your husband who is a paraplegic and a bilateral amputee. HA: Yeah. GH: Talk about that in reference to the family. What actually he said to you. I mean just be as candid as you can about what had happened. HA: He said - we left home for Ivan. We did 13 hours from New Orleans to Port Arthur for Ivan. And my husband is a bilateral amputee and he’s paralyzed on his left side. And he was very uncomfortable. So for Katrina, “I’m not going. Bottom line, I’m not going. I’m not going anywhere.” So if he didn’t go, I would have to stay. So I told my son, “You gottta to talk to your Daddy. He said he’s not going.” He said, “Nah, I ain’t going to talk to him.” I said, “You gotta talk to him, you just can’t leave him here.” “I don’t need to talk to him.” I said, “You have to.” They call me Nanny. “Nanny. I’m gonna pick Daddy up, put him in the car. What is he going to do? Jump out and run back inside?” Glenda: [loud laugh] [loud laughter from audience] HA: I thought that was awful. [laughter from audience] HA: I didn’t laugh at all. [chuckles] Because I didn’t think that was funny. GH: Mmm hmm [laughter from some in audience] HA: Because the man cannot do anything. [chuckle] So he made it plain. What is he going to do? Jump out of the car and run back inside? [chuckles from some in audience] HA: It’s okay, Rod. So we go outside and he’d like, “Alright Daddy, are you ready to go?” “Alright man, I’m ready.” [chuckle] HA: I could have found his leg that they took off of him and beat him with it. [loud laughter from all] HA: Because he gave me so much lip. But he wasn’t going. “Y’all just leave me here. I’m not going nowhere!” And he told my son just, “Alright man, I’m ready.” And we picked him up and put him in the car. No problem. [chuckle] GH: Well thank you ladies and gentlemen for allowing us to share just very briefly what the interviews were. We try to keep them as natural and comfortable as possible. Talking about the real life experiences of what happened with families as we went through this process of evacuation. Thank you again. HA: Thank you. [clapping from all] PJ: Helen Anthony and Glenda Harris, thank you all so much. Now I’m going to invite up Carl Lindol and Sherry Smothers, and Pam McGee. [brief pause, footsteps break in tape] Carl Lindol: Everything that we do in this project depends on that 60 - oh say 30 minutes to 2 hours that core moment when two people are facing each other across that kitchen table, that is the very special moment that is the source of these interviews that we think that are unique. Much different from the kind of interviews you get from an outsider asking these questions. Without those particular interviews there is no project. But I want to stress to you how much work the people in our project do in addition to listening. The first goal is listening, that’s the heart of it, but we also stress when we talk to the interviewers in our boot camp that they have a very special obligation to be the first archivists of this project. Not only do they listen during the recording, but they have to have a professional sense of how to get a sense of these recordings and they also while listening so well have to think of questions to ask if something happens during those moments when the interviewee gets stuck. But beyond that that’s just the beginning because every interview is an 8-hour day. After listening to that interview, after recording the interview we stress that the interviewers listen to that entire recording again. And then they create a log from that interview - a table of contents. Every single important thing that happened in the course of that conversation. And if there’s any time left in that 8-hour day, the go forward and make a transcription word for word of those parts of the interview they think are most valuable and most worth saving. Now, I’m just going to circulate a book that features some of these interviews. Thanks Pat! And you’ll see 5 sample interviews in there. One of them made by Dion Morgan, whom will be talking to you a little bit later - is someone, who after she went out for her first interview, came back with an 11 page, single-spaced log. Which is a masterpiece. And we’ve shared these things with the Social Science Research Council, with the American Folk lore society and several other professional groups who are deeply impressed with the type of work they do here. So there is an awful lot to do beyond creating that all important and central moment of an intimate situation around the kitchen table. These logs, furthermore, are put on a database and it is through his database that we hope that people around the country or around the world will have a chance to listen to people on topics they think are most important to them. For example, people are interested in our topic tonight, “Mothers and Daughters Surviving Katrina and Rita.” We have put together a database, largely with serious mothers whom I’ll be introducing in a moment – in which the details of each of these interviews become available and people can access that information as easily as possible. The people who tell these interviews deeply want to share them with the interviewer but it’s important to them to share them with everybody else who wants to listen. So that’s a very special part of what we’re doing. Helping us in the process also, are students of the University of Houston. And I see a few of them tonight who have worked very hard with these interviews. There’s Anna Schmaltz sitting there in front of us. I don’t know if you’ll stand up, Anne. Okay. And Laura Flinn sitting up over there. And I believe I saw Nichole Zata over here as well. And in listening to these interviews and marveling at the works that the interviews have done, we’ve also had the honor of listening to the interviewees tell their stories. And we feel a great deal of excitement over what we get to hear. And as we listen to these stories we also identify certain heroes among ourselves – not among ourselves, but among the interviewees whom we listen to – who we would really like to meet. And one of the interviewees identified by Nichole, in her work with the project is Pamela McGee. And we all thought this is someone we would love to meet and love to hear from. And it was my great honor a couple of weeks ago to get to meet her. Her interview was not well recorded in terms of sound quality and we had so many other questions we wanted to ask her that we turned to our intrepid archivist for this project, Sherry Smothers to go back and talk to her. Pamela said she’d gladly give us another interview for which we’re very grateful. And Sherry who’s been doing just about everything we’ve asked of her and quite a bit more over the last 6 months, was happy to oblige and conduct that interview. So that was a very special occasion for us, to be able to meet some of these people whom we know only otherwise only by their voices. Now I also want to introduce here, before I talk to them a little bit more – talk about them a little bit more - the family members whom they brought with us today. Sherry Smothers had interviewed members of her own family, her parents – I would wonder if you would just stand up for a second and be acknowledged for your contributions! Not only in giving us Sherry Smothers in giving us the very important stories that you have. And also, Pamela who in the course of sticking out the storm in New Orleans, took care of 4 children and two other people. Had some folks with her that were very important to her and one of them whom I met for the first time tonight is her daughter Shewanda. And I hope that you’ll also welcome Shewanda for being here and sharing this time with us. Now, before we talk to Pamela a little bit, I would just like to mention that Sherry has been doing an enormous amount with archiving and I was just wondering if you’d like to say anything in particular about the work that you’ve done there - about the mountain of work that we’ve put in front of you. Sherry Smothers:[chuckle] It’s very interesting. It’s one thing to collect the stories, and another thing to hear other people’s stories as well. And they really are quite fascinating. So every chance I get I try to listen to them until I can’t …. take it any more! [chuckles] [chuckles from some in audience] SS: Because you do have to take a break. But the work that goes into it – I thought we did a lot of work when we collected the interviews with the logging and everything. But the work that the students are doing is amazing! They go back and they re-look at what we did, and they re-listened and they pull out more information. Because sometimes you get a little too close to process it. And so they pick up the things that we miss. And the transcription, ideally we would like to have them all transcribed from beginning to end, but time doesn’t allow for that, so they go in and add more transcription to what we initially turned in. And then putting that in the database is just a special kind of beast. [laughter from some in audience] SS: But it’s all coming together now and we’re looking forward to doing more with the children. And that’s pretty much it. CL: Well thanks Sherry. Another thing I want Sherry to talk about a little bit is about this phenomenon of one survivor interviewing another survivor. The other two interviewers who are with us tonight are interviewing people they’ve known all their lives. But the substantial majority of interviews we have are conducted with people whom the interviewer has seldom or never met before. It is our premise in doing this project that survivors have a kind of bond with each other anyway, which makes them much better interviewers even with people who have been trained years and years to conduct interviews. And Sherry, I’m just wondering about your reflections on that – having interviewed members of your own family, but also people who were strangers. How was that connection made? How did that work for you and for them? SS: Well family/friends, is kind of given, you know. There’s a bond – and immediate bond created when you share the same experience. I mean , even people you’ve never met. We share this HUGE experience. I interviewed a couple once, and the wife - she was amenable immediately when I talked to her, but her husband was a little more reserved. It took him a while to come out of the room [chuckle] to where we were interviewing. His whole demeanor was skeptical and reserved and he asked me, “Are you a student?” and I said, “No.” And he said, “Well what do you have to do with this?” I said, “I’m from New Orleans. I was there for the storm.” “Oh! Okay!” [laugher from audience] SS: And he was fine. We can talk now! [more laughter from audience] SS: And a lot of times we would talk, he said that, you hear the things on the news and you hear different people make comments and you expect to see you though a certain light without giving you a clean slate to just speak from. So it immediately gave me an in to where he was comfortable to sit and talk. And that helps a lot. I think that it’s a good thing. Like we talk about. It’s a good thing, to talk to somebody who shares the experience. Not necessarily, necessary though. I think there are just some people who want to tell their story. And if there were nobody present they were just talk to the walls, they just need to get it out. And we just happened to be there to hear it. CL: Thanks Sherry. You’ve also shared with me the fact that a number of people who are interviewed get quite emotional, and still they feel that need you’re talking about to tell their stories. SS: Yes. Yes. It’s a very personal story that people are telling and a lot of times they’ll sit and they’ll tell you their story and they’re fine. But then you’ll get to that one particular aspect, memory, experience and it just takes hold o them. And what was interesting to me was the people who were surprised by being overwhelmed. I had one man who told me – he said, “I’m going to cry throughout so don’t stop the tape.” I interviewed another gentleman who was telling a story and just something happened and he just started crying, and it surprised him. I interviewed my brother and he was telling his story, and he was very animated, and when we interview we make notes of questions we want to ask because we don’t want to stop people when they’re telling their story to ask a question. So I was making notes and all of a sudden he stopped talking. And I looked up and his eyes were huge! He was CRYING! And he surprised himself because there were tears flowing and he was saying how it was just the little things. So it’s a very moving experience and people - they process it at different times and I think we step away from it as a matter of survival and then when you’re telling the story it kind of lets it out. It gives you the catharsis that you need, whether you are paying attention to it or not. CL: Okay. I also want to mention that Sherry’s expertise has – that she has shown us in this project, has a lot of expertise coming into this project. She has a degree in social work from Southern University of New Orleans. And she’s also published a book of poetry. And that’s about all the time I have to talk about right now. [chuckles] CL: But I do want you to get to meet Pamela McGee who is a real hero of ours. Uh, Pamela, you are [brief pause] let’s see, 37 years old. [laughs] [laughter from all] CL: Should I have said that? Pamela McGee: You weren’t supposed to say that! [chuckles] [more laughter from all] CL: Oh I’m sorry about that. PM: Just kidding. CL: The mother of 4 children. PM: I have five. SS: Five. CL: Of five children. I’m sorry. And the grandmother of one. PM: Yes. CL: And also someone who deeply impressed someone who’s gotten to hear her story so far. SS: Pamela, would you tell us about the night of the storm and what you and your children did to get through it. PM: It was hard to get through, but we did it. To me, Katrina was the rebirth of death for me. We lost a lot of things. Nothing material, you know, just basically a lot of mental stuff was lost in Katrina and if a lot of people would just focus on that part of it then we can heal. And, I don’t want to get emotional [quivering voice] because I do want to talk. My kids they are survivors. I lost my son some years ago and I tried to teach them strength. I tried to teach them to be able to go on, you know, when it seems like you can’t go anymore. The biggest thing with me with Katrina was that no one came to get us except for Jesus. We was inside for three days and there was not a helicopter. There was not a – anybody of authority to see or come to get us. But God is good. There was 10 feet of water in front of us but the grass was still green in front of my house. We didn’t lose anything but sleep. So by that I say, a lot of people were calling me saying, “You gotta get out there’s 20 feet of water.” I said, “Let me call you back, I’m sleeping.” [chuckles] And to me, I mean where I lived at the lake punches right in the back of us and I’ve never really had any fear in anything but God. And sometimes I don’t utilize that as much as I should or as much as I want to, but [chuckles] He’s got me this far. So when it was like 20 feet of water, I said, “Oh! 20 Feet of water!” And I never realized how little New Orleans was until I came to Texas. [chuckles from audience] PM: And if I would have known that, maybe I would have left. Because I’m like, “20 feet of water, it’s a big old city, I won’t get but 2 feet. I’ll be okay. But that wasn’t the issue with the 20 feet of water. I haven’t seen my only sister that I have and her kids for over a year and a half, since Hurricane Katrina. She’s in Atlanta, and I’m here. And the people of Houston – 99% of them, because I don’t want to suck up – of the people, have been good people. And the just 1% are the crabs that bring the good people down to the level of – you know, if I go on a job interview, I can see some people, you know, looking at me like, girl go home. My home is where my heart is, and I love Louisiana but I don’t really want to defend New Orleans on foolishness. [clears throat] If it’s not positive I like to stay away from it and I don’t get involved in tedious situations and I just pray until something else comes about. But, there are some good people in Texas, lets make no mistake about it. But, there are good people in Louisiana also, and they need to be appreciated for who they are and not for where they come from. I’ve been working since I was 14 years old. And the reason that is that I had a son, but it was my mother’s son, but it was my son so I took on womanhood at an early age and I’ve been taking care of my kids a long, long time without having to shake a can. You know, I thank God for grace and mercy. My kids can tell you that I don’t turn anyone away from anything. The people I helped in the Hurricane it was a blessing to me. It was a baby I was in care of that I REALLY wanted to keep, [chuckle] but she – it’s something else that happened with that, her family wanted her too. [laughter from all] SS: [giggles] PM: So her mother kind of got away with the negative part of hurricane Katrina, more of the hurt part of it than the heal or the help part of it. And she wind up in my care and we kind of got attached to her and I really didn’t want to turn her over, but I had to. So she’s doing fine now. And I also had one of my nephew’s friends with me and I didn’t realize that the young man was that old until when Sherry came and interviewed because I thought he was like, you know a teenager, but my daughter said he was like 28. [chuckling] It was like, Can you ask your momma, can I come with y’all. [laughter from all] PM: It was like, yeah, come on. And he had some real bad asthma, and they had some real courageous people coming out of the hurricane that never gave up. He was like having his asthma attacks and we like, “Do anybody have an asthma pump?” And a lady was like, “I got that. I keep that.” So we was able to save his life once again. And I think about the people who drove us out of the city of New Orleans. We had a bus driver, she said that, she told us that – and this was white lady – she told us, she said, “They wanted us to come get you all Friday.” And we was like, “No, we not going Friday. We going NOW.” Which was that Wednesday. She said that when Friday come they’ll be dead. And this lady drove all night to get people – not only her, but just the school buses, and like the little areas of Louisiana where the storm wasn’t affected, they came and they left their families and stuff to get us to safety. And the lady was falling asleep on the bus and I feel real bad for her because you know, she came to help us and now she was hurting and there was nothing that nobody can do. And I never got a chance to say thank you. You know, wherever you are I sure appreciate what you did [quivering voice]. But we doing fine. And I appreciate you guys for having us and you know, my kids are doing okay. They just happy kids though but I guess that’s because I throwed off a little bit, but pretty much they good kids and they just – thank God they know how to go right when somebody saying go left because there a lot of situations when things could have been bad for them because of where they are from and so … we’ve been okay! And we’ve been blessed and we thank you, and we appreciate you. SS: Okay. Thank you. And you said your children are doing fine now. Did they want to go home or do they want to go home now? PM: My baby, she want to go home. And I was – I mean, once my son was killed I always wanted to leave, but when the hurricane came I was saying that I never want to go back, I miss home and I do want to go home and I want them to rebuild New Orleans. [brief pause] SS: Okay. Alright. You uh… what are you doing here in Houston now? PM: I work at Sam’s Club. I go to Houston Community College. I’m saying I’m majoring in business but I’m kind of stuck between where my heart is and where – when I say that, I want to be a nurse, but emotionally I can’t take it. So in the business aspect I can do it. So I’m still praying and I’m hoping. SS: Okay. Did you have any trouble finding a place to stay once you got to Houston? PM: I had some problems with that. I had some family members that was here that came and got us from Shreveport Louisiana. And it’s like, they had a meeting as to where we was going to way as if we were throw-aways or cast-aways. So, just from – you know, a lot of people don’t understand that the reason why a lot of people were left in the city of New Orleans it was because of the laid back mentality that we have, “Oh the storm is not coming.” And then for the most part a lot of people couldn’t afford to leave and you know, some people were saying that, “Well, everybody should have left.” But everybody was not given an option to leave because what about the people that have the TV and the lights off or what about the people that have the lights but don’t have a television or don’t have a car. Enough – too many people – nothing was really resourceful for us to get out, not only – well not me personally cause, like I said, my biggest fear is of Jesus and I try to stand still when he’s moving. So one of my biggest things is that I have to raise my kids under the leadership of God, but at the same time, my religion is my religion and I felt that somewhere I made a choice for them when it wasn’t given a choice. [chuckles] So, but – God, he said to me, “You know whatever it is that you gonna go through, I’m gonna to bring you through it. And it’s going to be okay.” And that’s basically what happened. But the resources wasn’t there. The manpower wasn’t there. Even to me, and like my neighbor – I stayed in some apartments in New Orleans, it used to be called, ____________ Apartments. And I stayed downstairs on the bottom floor, and my neighbor she evacuated and they had patio doors and they were saying the biggest thing that you needed to do was go up. And to this day I can’t figure out, “Why would you lock your patio doors if you knew I was home with my kids.” But then you will call me and say, “Neighbor, how it look?” I say, “ Girl, there ain’t nothing going on. Oh, not yet.” “Okay, well fine.” So then after the storm she called and you know it’s like I always try to stand still and let the Devil reveal itself. So I said, “well I don’t need to tell her what’s going on because I’m here and she there.” [chuckle] You know so, - but it’s, it’s, I don’t know. SS: It took you how long to find your home off of Highway 6? PM: Like, I want to say 3 weeks or so. Yeah, 3 weeks. SS: And you’re comfortable there? PM: Yes. It’s very comfortable where I live at. It’s a real good neighborhood. We don’t have any problems other than that they stole my dog. SS: Mmm hmm. PM: And that’s real emotional for me. It sounds kind of funny but to me it’s not. I had my dog for like 5 years. I brought her out of the hurricane. I her in my purse. And somebody took my dog. I got that dog after my son passed to kind of like – to keep me occupied because I don’t think my daughter can really tell you too many a times she’s actually seen me cry, because the biggest thing with life is that our comings and our goings and not ours, but what’s in the middle is, so I try to – I want them to be strong, to be able to go on after hard situations and not fall down. SS: Did you have any trouble getting your kids into school? PM: Um, none. No problems. All the doors were open to kids, when they came here from the hurricane. There was no problems with that. SS: And how did they make out in their schools? In their elementary schools. PM: Okay. My daughter, she’s just a ___________ kid, she just bounce back. [chuckle] SS: Okay. PM: My son and my daughter go to like, this little Wharton Junior College. So, it’s a little – it’s a different surrounding than just the high school so she’s okay. SS: Well, okay. Thank you very much. And we’re out of time. Thank you for sharing with us. [chuckle] [applaud from all] PJ: Thank you Sherry. Thank you Pam. [brief pause] Oh sorry. Next up is two participants. Dion Morgan was in our second field school along with Sherry Smothers. She’s here with her sister Natasha Morgan Parker who is actually our latest recruit. One of the things that I think I failed to do when I opened up and did my thanks is that I believe I failed to recognize, perhaps one of the most important institutions to this entire project and that’s the Houston Endowment Fund. Very early on the Houston Endowment Fund understood the significance of this funding project, rushed us through their process and funding us at – what we thought was a pretty high level, but it’s amazing how quickly you can burn through what seems like even large dollars. But our rule of thumb is that every dollar counts and so thought we were funded for two field schools, we are now about the mount our 4th field school and Natasha is gonna join us for that 4th field school which will be January 8th through 12th 2007. And, I’ve asked Dion who is as _____________ [break in tape] [chuckles] and Dion’s another excellent example of that. But she’s going to talk a little bit, before she does her interview with Natasha, she’s going to talk a little bit about boot camp and what the actual field school involved and comprised. Dion Morgan: Okay, well first of all I have to say when I started working for the SKR project, people would ask me, why did you get involved with the project. And I was like, “Well 6 months after Katrina, it was a job. Hello!” [laughter from all] DM: So then, you know, when I really got involved and I started working, I started thinking, “Well I kinda like this!” And besides I was a communications major when I was in college. Boot camp was really boot camp. And I salute all of those people who is going back transcribing things that we did not transcribe. And I apologize to every person who – I did that standard form and I did that 11-page log. I apologize! [laughter from some] DM: Because it was long and that was a lot of work. You’d think that, “I can interview somebody. I watch the interviews on TV all the time.” But then you learn all those neat things like, “Oh I really do have to cut her off, because she’s going a long time. [chuckles from some in audience] DM: Or then you’ll say, “Oh, I can’t just tell her, that’s it I have to move on to question number two.” You know, so you really do get to learn all kind of awesome things, right? So, when the guys came down from the Library of Congress and they showed us how to interview we were all sitting there just like falling off our seats and I didn’t even think he got to the Katrina story, he was just asking what his life was like, you know, in New Orleans. And so what we really found out too was that we actually have stories to tell. You know, so that was really cool. And then we spent about two days learning how to operate these little microphones and stuff. So if you think that it’s really easy when you have to start plugging stuff in, [laughter from all] DM: and then these little zip cards that you gotta stick into these machines, read these books and pages. We were like, “Is it that hard?!” [laughter from all] DM: But YES! Boot camp was long. And then the logging – I’m telling y’all – when I did that 11 pages log, I think I did it just because I did not want Pat to call me like, “Diiiioooon! I think something is wrong.” And the only thing I was thinking was that I cannot go back and do this all over again! [laughter from all] DM: You know, so boot camp was really boot camp! 8 in the morning to 5 o’clock. And Pat and Carl would never give us a break! Ugh! [chuckles from all] DM: So it was long. [more laughter] DM: But it was worth it. In the end it was worth it. It was worth it. They pushed us really hard and I think we turned out some really good material. So this is my fabulous sister Natasha. She’s my older sister. Natasha Morgan Parker: Yes. DM: Does she look older than me? She is. [laughter from all] NP: No. No. No. No. DM: [giggle] Pat did you wanted to – were you going to say something, I’m sorry. PJ: No I was simply going to identify myself as the mean co-director. DM: Oh yes, she was. PJ: that’s the reason why Dion was concerned. DM: Right, I really was. PJ: Be really careful Natasha. NP: Okay. DM: And then the first assignment, I kind of like - I didn’t do it all the way. So Pat was really pushing me. I was like, “Okay, so I really gotta knock her socks off.” But like I said, I do apologize [laughter from all] DM: to everybody who came behind me. [laughter from all] DM: Okay. So this is my FABULOUS sister Natasha Parker! And we have been in Houston what, like a year now, I guess. NP: Yeah. DM: A year now. Natasha has 4 beautiful kids. 3 of them who are here in Houston and one of them a stepdaughter is in Jackson Mississippi. We’re going to talk a little bit about Natasha’s evacuation process. I guess our evacuation process was kind of similar. Natasha and I both went to the University of Minnesota. We graduated from the University of Minnesota in about 2001 and then we moved back to New Orleans. We were in New Orleans right up until the time that Katrina hit and we’re here in Houston. Soooo, tell me a little bit about YOU Natasha! [chuckles from some] NP: About me? DM: About YOU! NP: Okay. Um, she said it. I was thinking Pat was going to read my bio because I worked really hard on it and I thought it was…. [loud laugh] NP: I thought it was really, really good. [loud laughs from all] NP: do you have it? [loud laughs from all] [inaudible comment off stage] NP: Yes! PJ: Maybe I rewrote it a little bit? NP: Oh. DM: We don’t need it. NP: That’s okay. DM: Keep going. NP: I um, yeah, I’ve been in New Orleans really all my life. I love New Orleans. I plan to move back. Um, I do have 4 children. When I met my husband, he had a 9-month-old baby girl and I had a 2-year-old son. And we just kind of hit it off and we liked it, and I had already been in Minnesota, and I was like, “Look, I’m going back, you wanna come?” So he said, “Well, yeah I wanna come.” So he came. He came, I had another sister that came and we all graduated in 2001 and we moved back home. And I raised Aaliyah, that’s my stepdaughter up until 3 years ago, she went to live with her mother. Her mother is in New Orleans, and we would still see her on the weekend, and so that’s different not having her after all of those years, but we evacuated before the storm. Aaliyah evacuated with her mother to Jackson, Mississippi and we evacuated to Pine Grove. I like to say Ameet, because nobody ever heard of Pine Grove. It is Mayberry. But, [laughter from audience] NP: Ameet is about one hour from New Orleans, and 30 minutes from Baton Rouge. My dad grew up there in Pine Grove. My daddy is a truck driver so he is like Mr. Weather Channel. [laughter from all] DM: Yes. NP: He knows the temperature in every city, in every state. DM: Yes. [chuckles from some in audience] NP: He knows how to get there. He knows how colds it’s going to be. What did you pack, what are you bringing? Okay? [chuckles from a few] NP: Always. Every storm we leave. Every storm we evacuate. That’s just the way it goes. We don’t have a choice. I’m 30 – my oldest sister’s 33. It’s actually my mom and my dad have 6 children, but you didn’t have a choice. It was like, you’re going. So, but it wasn’t a problem. We knew it and that was okay. So we evacuated to Pine Grove, Louisiana. DM: So since you’re a mother of Katrina – before the storm tell us a little bit kind of what was a the day like with you and the kids. What was a normal day like? NP: I lived in the 7th ward in New Orleans. Right around the corner from St. Augustine High School. My area – I had a lot of older people in my neighborhood, my entire block. And older like 65 and up, so they all own they own home and they didn’t have kids in the block but my kids and they didn’t play any loud music. It was just a good block. I enjoyed living there. In my interview I talked about being from two communities because when I was a little girl we lived in the 9th ward but we moved to the East when I was about 3 years old. So I only remember New Orleans East. But my school and my church and the children went to school in the East. So I lived in the 7th ward, but I was part of the East because everyday I was going back and forth from the East. And a typical day was, my husband got up he went to work and I was with the children. I’m self-employed so I do just different grant writing and grand researching and just different business consulting with a lot of nonprofit organizations and volunteering a lot at the children’s school. So I would just get up and bring Christopher, my son, Christopher, he did attend a private school in the 9th ward. Light City Christian Academy. And Dion was actually teaching there right before Katrina. So I would bring him to school and then I would go back to the East and drop my other two children at the nursery and just did whatever I did after that. DM: So when you found out that Katrina was coming what was that day like? When you got prepared to evacuate what were you immediately thinking? What did you think to pack or to take? NP: I knew about a week before Katrina was, when it was really serious because my Daddy was saying, do you see. Look what’s on the Gulf. Put it on the Weather Channel. [excited mumbling in audience] NP: Put it on the channel, do you see it? Look. Look at it it’s coming! [giggles from audience] NP: You know, so we were saying, “Okay Daddy. You know. Okay Daddy. Okay Daddy.” So we kind of knew. The week before Katrina I went to Ameet, Pine Grove. I have a cousin. She’s like my best friend. So I went out there that weekend and I pack a bunch of stuff. I took the children. I packed about two weeks of clothes. I packed jewelry. I packed everything. And, I still had everything packed and so a week later I had to leave for Katrina and I said, “You know what? I’m not bringing all that stuff again. I’m not bringing that stuff. And I remember hearing Mayor Nagin and Kathleen Blanco, say, “Just bring three items. Bring 3-5 sets of clothes. You know, I think you’re going to be a few days.” So I said, “Okay. 3 that’s good.” Because I’m trying to under pack, right? So I said, “I’m going to bring 3 outfits. Three for myself and 3 for the children.” So I brought three. But I just remember packing in the house and I just remember saying, “I’m just getting smaller things on purpose.” Getting a smaller suitcase and getting a smaller…. Because I was not bringing all that stuff… again. DM: So when you packed all of the kids up and you got in the car, what happened? NP: My husband has a sister, she lives in Houston and she’s been in Houston for about 15 years. And he said, “Tasha, my mama wants to go to Houston by Maria and she wants me to bring her. But you go with your Mama and your Daddy to the country, we called it the country, and Ima bring my mama to Houston.” And I was like, “Are you sure?” He was like, “yeah, you know Ima go to Houston.” And he wore slippers and he only brought one or two things too. And the idea of it was that we’d be back on like Tuesday, so it was okay. [muffled background noises/voices] NP: And I um, remember in the house we kind of put some things up high. I was just convinced that I was not bringing anything extra. So we put some things up – my husband has a really thick history in his family. I guess we all have a history, but he has a documented history. They have photos. He has family members that were Buffalo Soldiers. He has a thick photo album of the 10 metal pictures. And he has papers of his uncles were freed as slaves and he had all these just wonderful documentation, so he said, “Well I’m going to bring this stuff with me.” And I’m like, “Well you bring what you want to bring, I’m not brining anything.” So he kind of brought some stuff and he put some stuff up high. And I just remember leaving, and we went DM: Drive NP: I was driving and I was going to my parents’ house and I remember – I just know God, the voice of God inside of me was saying, “Look. Look around. What if it doesn’t look this way when you return?” And I just kind of stopped and I just slowed down. And I was playing the radio really loud. I was playing Diana McKirkland, “Great is thy Faithfulness.” And I just began to look. And I was thinking, “Well, what if this doesn’t look like this when I return.” DM: So you got to your parents house. You were getting ready on the road to Pine Grove. How long did it take you to get to Pine Grove, was it a straight shot or did – was it longer than usual. Was it shorter than usual? What happened when you arrived? NP: It usually only takes one hour to get there. It only took us three hours and I think that was a blessing. We did not go through contra-flow and we left Sunday Morning. DM: What is contra-flow? NP: Contra-flow is when – Dion is a good – see why she had 11 pages of notes? DM: Shut up and go! [chuckles] [laughter from all] NP: Okay. Contra-flow is when they close the interstate off and they make everybody go certain way, right? They make everybody go a certain way. [laughter from some] NP: Okay. They shut off the exits, you don’t get to exit where you want to exit. You don’t get to go where you want to go. You get in the contra-flow lane and you end up in Florida. [laughter from all] DM: Right. NP: Right. That’s true. We had people that ended up in like Florida. [audience laughter winding down] DM: So you didn’t get stuck in the contra-flow. NP: No, we didn’t get stuck in contra-flow and it took us about 3 hours. DM: So it took you three hours to get to Pine Grove? NP: Yes. DM: And when you got to Pine Grove were you the only people there at your Grandmother’s house? NP: My Daddy’s from Pine Grove, his mother had 12 children. DM: 16. NP: No! NP/DM simultaneously: 14?/16? DM: I think it was 14. NP: 13. [brief pause] NP: she had like 12 or 13 children. You know, so she had this big house. She a really big house. [muffled sounds from audience] DM: A lot of children. NP: Right. A lot of children [chuckles] [chuckles from audience] NP: So she had this really big house. Her house I think is 5 bedrooms. She lives alone, just with one aunt so we went to Maman’s house, we call her Maman. We went to Maman’s house saying she had a lot of room. And my mom and dad had 6 children so it was all 6 of us because my Daddy made us go. [giggling] NP: My three children. I have one other sister, she has a daughter. She went. And then we have a set – My mother and her sister they married two brothers. So my dad’s, we’re like double cousin’s, so they were there. So there was 4 of them. We had a person who jumped on the truck too. You know, like somebody said the 28 year old came. My sister, she had a boyfriend DM: Right. NP: And he came and he brought his baby. [chuckles] DM: He brought his son. NP: He brought his son. [Chuckles] DM: He was like 2 or 3 years old. NP: Right. DM: Did anybody bring a dog? NP: We had a cousin and she brought a dog. [laughter from audience] DM: It was like so many. NP: You know, so many. It may have been like 5 different families in this house, but it was, like a said, not just your average 5-bedroom house because this is a house they added on to, and added on to, and added on to, and it’s on 10 acres of land. DM: Mmm hmm. NP: And we have an aunt who lives in the back and people that live across the street, all family living really close. But it was different because it was – it was different, I never lived DM: Mmm hmm. NP: in a house like that with all these people DM: So now you live in this house, with all of these people NP: Uh huh. DM: … and a dog. NP: Uh huh. DM: Your husband is gone right? NP: And I don’t like dogs! DM: Because he went to Houston. NP: Right. DM: So he went to Houston and you’re here with these 3 kids and you have all of these people in one house. How was that? What was it like living in a house with TEN people and then still having to take care of your kids at the same time. NP: The lights went out, remember? DM: Yes. 5 in the morning and I was in the shower. NP: Five in the …. Okay the lights went out Monday morning because Katrina hit that Monday morning. The power went out. We actually did not have power for about 2 weeks. So, we did not have any television. We couldn’t even see New Orleans. We could hear it on the radio [tapping table] you know, I’m sorry. Okay. People would get in their cars, you know and turn the radio on. We would just go to – um, even the convenience stores, they were running on generators. And, you know we - Everybody had cell phones. WE had the cell phones, and I was talking to my husband on the cell phone and he was here in Houston and he was telling me, “Tasha, you have to put it on CNN. You will not believe this. You have to see New Orleans is under water.” And like I told Dion on the way coming here, you cannot image – you can’t think that everything is gone. You just – your mind cannot comprehend everything being gone and so my son Christopher, he’s 13, he was saying, “Well no Mama, our house is okay. Our house is okay.” And I remember getting in the car one day, turning the car on, just listening to the radio, and I lived on New Orleans Street. And I heard a lady say, people were calling in for help. And the lady said, “I need help. I’m on my roof. I’m on Abundant Street.” And she was like, right around the corner from my house. And I said, “I live around the corner from Abundant Street. If she is on her roof, my house is under water.” And so everyday, all day, my husband would give reports about what was going on. And we would go to like the gas station and we could kind of catch blurbs of CNN or we would go to Baton Rouge, which was 30 minutes away, and some people in Baton Rouge didn’t have power either. But the relatives that had power, we would go and we could kinda watch it, and we got newspapers. And I saved every newspaper that came out of New Orleans and it was just unbelievable. DM: You said that Christopher is 13, and you have 2 other kids. NP: Mmm hmm. 3. Aliyah. DM: Right, Dylon and Callie? NP: Right. DM: Dylon is 2. Callie is 5. What was their reaction when you – first of all you were in Conroe for so long, you know, how did they respond? What was going on? NP: That was different because they were out of their element. And when you have children and you go to other people’s house and they think you not watching your children and they tearing stuff down and pulling stuff down and you know, so that was different. They were just kind of tearing down the house [laughter from all] NP: and everyone was fussing at me, “Get your children. Get your children!” Okay, but um, it was – at first it was a vacation. The children enjoyed being away from home and they didn’t have to do any chores, they didn’t’ have anything to do but they really enjoyed it. But it was hard cause like I said the lights were out two weeks. So we had a cookout everyday. We had to cook out. We Barbequed everyday. DM: You made rib beans remember, on the barbeque grill? NP: We made rib beans outside on the grill. We did … DM: A lot of stuff. NP: We did a lot of stuff. And then we got a generator. DM: Ooooooh! When we had the generators. NP: Thank God for generators. [laughter from all] NP: We got a generators. DM: The fans, remember for the air mattresses on the floor? NP: Yeah. Oh, and we hate air mattresses. We had air mattresses. [loud laughter from all] DM: Hate’em NP: We hate air mattresses. DM: So how did you get to Houston? NP: Because my husband was in Houston and I was in Pine Grove and he said, after – we kinda were watching the news and they would not let anybody go back to New Orleans and it was like they would not let anybody go back to New Orleans. And it was amazing that we could not get back into New Orleans. Oh, the boyfriend that evacuated with my sister, he worked for Entergy in New Orleans, so he was able to work like a week later. So he would come and he would give us reports and tell us, bodies were everywhere and this and – you know, he would give us reports about New Orleans so we knew some stuff that was going on, but…. What’d you ask me? DM: [chuckle] How did you get to Houston? [giggles from some in audience] NP: Okay, my husband! Right! DM: Well, actually let’s talk about your children since you’ve been here. NP: Because my husband was here already. And he decided that, you know we cannot go back into New Orleans and his sister lived in an apartment and he was in that apartment with his sister and he decided, “I’m just going to go.” I looked for housing in Baton Rouge because I actually didn’t come until \October. Housing in Baton Rouge was just ridiculous. DM: Mmm hmmm. NP: You couldn’t find any housing. They were price gouging. Rental property prices were ridiculous, IF anything was available. And then he said, “I’m just going to get an apartment in this complex and we’re just going to stay here.” And that came up in October. DM: So you have a visual aid here. NP: I brought a picture. My daughter Callie, she is 6 now, she was 5. She was in school one day in aftercare, drawing pictures of things she like to draw. And just like Pat said, everybody – the children really do have a Katrina stories. And it was interesting when I heard Christopher’s story, he’s 13, and I hear Aaliyah’s story, she’s 11, Dylon, he doesn’t have a story, he’s 2. [chuckles from all] NP: And Callie, like I said she was maybe 5, she was drawing pictures. She drew 3 pictures in aftercare. This is her first picture. [papers rustling]. And I think the people kind of talk to her about New Orleans and they ask her things. And she let’s everybody know that she is from New Orleans and she is going home. She does know when. She DOESN’T know when, but she’s going home. She likes rainbows so this was her first picture that she drew. [papers rustle] Then she drew a second picture. This is just a tree and she said – oh, it’s upside down, [chuckles from all] NP: Okay, this is a tree and three black blobs. One is Aaliyah, Christopher, and Callie. She said Dylon was somewhere else. [laughter from all] NP: She said this was the sun, and this was everything. This was New Orleans. She said she was playing. And this was amazing! [rustling papers] Audience: Whoa. NP: This was Hurricane Katrina. She’s – if you look close, you can see the green on the bottom, that’s grass, and you can see clouds on the top and a sun. She had drew stuff and then she said, “And then the storm came and everything is gone.” And so I was looking at it and I said, “Well, yeah Callie.” And so this been in the closet a year because she drew this a year ago when she was in kindergarten. And so when I pulled it out today I said, “Well, Callie come and tell me about this picture again so I’ll know what to say, you know when I get there.” And she said, “Well this is Hurricane Katrina, and this is our house here and this is Maman Gerry’s house, and that’s Maman Dearies house.” But I don’t see any houses. [chuckles from audience] NP: You know, and I was saying, “Well Callie, what is this again?” “This is the storm. This is the storm” And so I said, I have to frame this one and it’s just – this is her memory of it. She just knows that we lost everything and everything is gone and that’s just her story. It’s black and it’s gone. DM: So, this was one of my interviewees that I interviewed when I was in the field school. And the fabulous field school taught me how to interview people. It taught me how to listen to what people were saying and not just pushing my own way in there. And then also, to take what they were saying and transcribe the most important details. And you know, to just listen to the words, and go back replay the information, replay the tapes over and over again, you know, consistently re-edit it and taught us how to interview people and how to put it all together, so that it could be a document that was useful. So, that’s us! [applaud] PJ: Natasha and Dion, thank you so much. I’m going to ask you all to stay up here and ask Glenda and Ms. Anthony, and Sherry, and Pam McGee to maybe come up and maybe we can field some questions if you all have some. I also want to take this opportunity to recognize a couple of people in the audience who are also participants in the project. I see in the back, Nichole Eugene. Nichole, wave and let people know you’re here. And I believe that Tia Landry is somewhere here too. Are you somewhere in the house? I think maybe she snuck out on us. She was here with her daughter Leah. She was in the first field school. Oh, is she behind the uh…. AM: She was right here. PJ: Um, if you all have questions, I think what would be the wisest is for people to come up to the microphone so that we can get it on the video. And we will ask you all to pass the microphone around as the questions are asked. Who’s game for the first question? Now Carl, I know you can kick it off. NP: Dion has a question. Dion has a question she was going to ask me but she didn’t. PJ: Sure. NP: Go ahead. Ask us the question. DM: No. NP: About what is it like [mumbled answer] DM: About refreshments? NP: No! [laughter from audience] NP: You said, mothers or daughters…. [to inaudible] CL: Could somebody pass Sherry a microphone over there. DM: Ohhhhh! Okay, I’ll ask y’all a question. When we say mothers and daughters of Katrina what immediately comes to mind? What do you think about? [brief pause] DM: What do you think about, Natasha? NP: Okay. She planned this question and forgot to ask me. [laughter from audience] NP: But it’s a good question because we’re talking about mothers and daughters of Katrina. When I think of mothers and daughters of Katrina, I honestly think about strong, resourceful, survivors. I really think about strong women and women who just really – just really – I don’t know what everybody did, but to just hang in there. You know, I think you kind of said something about that. And just to be tough. Just to be really strong. And I hear people a lot are saying, “Well get over it! You can replace things and things are replaceable, you know and just get over it” But it was – it was hard. And it still is hard and I have – I think I’m emotional and I think I’m over Katrina and then when I see something – I saw the R. Kelly video and he had the Hurricane Katrina Relief video and he’s flashing all these hurricane photos and then I get kind of sad. And then I saw the Spike Lee movie and then I got sad again. So there’s still something there so I just think about us just being survivors and us just being strong and hanging in there. DM: I did an interview with a lady and she told me that right when Katrina hit her baby was I think about ages 4 or 6 months old. And her and her husband had strategically planned not to have a baby. They had been married for a number of years but they had planned not to even have a baby until this point when they knew they were secure in their employment and house and everything. And they decided that this would be the time that they would have this baby. And so, she said, just after that, I think a few – I think he was born in March and of course Katrina of course hit in August and so she said she remember after the storm, she was at a relatives house and she was standing over the sink and she said that tears just started rolling down her eyes because she was opening his last can of milk. She said, the only thing she could think was how she had planned for this baby, now she didn’t know where she was going to get milk for him from. GH: I think what we’ve experienced throughout the city as families and mothers and children, is that the hardest adjustment for families from New Orleans is finding neighborhoods. The apartments are nice and the schools are beautiful, but it’s not like neighborhoods. The closest thing resemblance to New Orleans neighborhoods I think, that we had both in the 7th ward, the 8th ward, the 5th ward is if you get an opportunity - when I, I got lonely as a single mother and I longed for New Orleans, I’d ride through 3rd ward. The 3rd ward was the closest resemblance to me of what our neighborhoods looked like, and they vary. And often time when we were coming up here – my aunt has never been in this neighborhood before in the university area, and I said, “Doesn’t this look like Tulane University in Loyola?” Panelist: Mmm hmm. GH: But even when I get lonely and I think about New Orleans and I long to be there, I’ll ride this neighborhood and I’ll make believe that I’m around Tulane. Panelist: Mmm hmm. GH: And it gives us a reassurance and as mothers and especially as being the in between of a mother, I am between a matriarch and I have daughters. Often times we have to, in facing this crisis, being in the middle we have to give some guidance to our children but we have to respect the fact that they are adults and that they’re making decisions, but then we have to hear from the matriarch and say, “Now you know that’s not right!” [chuckles from all] GH: [laughs] what they’re doing. So it takes a challenging balance for families, but I think the one thing that we have tried to do and the one thing I strongly encourage, and I thank the City of Houston for allowing us to do that, is that when we cannot find and help families get back into neighborhoods and houses, because most of New Orleans was made up of double houses or single shot gun houses. The only areas we saw big apartment complexes were at Metery or Western New Orleans. Most of the neighborhoods were like houses and so – but what we did is help migrate families back into apartment complexes and that meaning moving families from the southwest side to the north area where then you start finding apartment duplexes where you had more families that were cousins, aunts and nieces, and it brought about a sense of community. And in that sense of community our children start feeling more comfortable. Anyone else? [mumbling] [footsteps] AM: Thank you so much for sharing your stories. It’s really very interesting and I’m looking forward to hearing more transcripts and hearing more. But, I in fact the question that I was cooking up in my head really addressed what you were addressing which is community building. I’m very curious about that. I’ve heard a lot about New Orleans community being really vastly different from Houston and that New Orleans is a very person to person world. Everybody knew each other neighborhood-wise and Houston is definitely a very different kind of place and so I’m just curious to hear more about that. GH: Well there’s a lot different. As a matter of fact tomorrow morning the Regional Director from HERD is coming down and we’re helping, once AGAIN [chuckles], the interviewing process moving forward. We’re helping to facilitate that discussion as we look at families – there are 27,000 households here in the city of Houston, still from the evacuee community. As we look at really re-migrating those families into the Houston community over the next 24 to 36 months is what we’re expecting until the housing stock is redeveloped in New Orleans. Many developers are going to be coming to the table to try to create communities and create neighborhoods. A lot of the evacuee families now are looking at purchasing homes here in Houston. They want neighborhoods that look like New Orleans. And so, we look for places! Like the Red Cat Café that looks like clubs in New Orleans, and we look for places like this area. Dietrich’s coffee that looks like the area around Tulane, so we’re hoping to see as HERD comes in and the new developers, KB Homes, and some of other developers sit down with us tomorrow morning, that we will be able to bring in communities that will foster that new atmosphere of the new New Orleans here in Houston. DM: You know what, I would think too is that, what builds communities too is the people in addition to the neighborhood. So a lot of times – sometimes you look for things like, in New Orleans I had an annoying neighbor who just would cut the bushes with a hearing piece right before I went to leave to go to work so if I was running late I would have to strand there and wait for him to finish. So it’s like, you just look for people. and those people in your family make up those communities. So like in our case, we all just move into the same apartment building. So we all move into the same apartment complex. And we have a cousin who comes, and when she comes she’ll move in the same apartment complex too. So now it’s like 10 of us that live in the same apartment complex, so when Dylon and Callie are outside and I’m coming in the driveway, I’m like, “Callie get out of the street with the bike.” You know, so it’s not her mom and it’s not her dad, but it’s like familiy and a community. Now because we were all 10 in a house, I chose to live 10 minutes down the street. [chuckles] DM: you know just to have a little break. [laughter from audience.] DM: But that’s how you rebuild your community. Everybody just transplants to the same place. GH: Right. NP: I’ll just add one quick thing about community. One immediate difference or drastic difference from New Orleans and Houston – and I know all the people from New Orleans will agree. I don’t know if it’s just our Southern Hospitality, or if it was just old school, the way we were raised, but we speak to people. We speak to people! GH: Right. NP: We say Good morning, good evening, goodnight and hello. And how you doing, and people walk by and just don’t speak to me and I’m just saying, well you know I said, “Good morning.” I said, “Hello.” And even Dylan, he is 2 years old and he’ll say in a grocery store, “Hello! Hello! Hello! [chuckles from some] NP: Hello! Hello!!!!” [laughter from all] NP: And they never acknowledge him! DM: Me and Callie were a swimming and she was saying, “Hello” to a man a he just brushed her and he kept going. And she said, “I said hello to him!!” [chuckles] NP: Yeah! DM: And so we said, “We know Callie. And so just let it go.” NP: And you know, I don’t know if it’s just a Southern thing or what but we speak all the time and I’m used to that. And so when I go to my mailbox and when I get in my car and I go somewhere and somebody standing so close to me it’s unnatural not to say “Good morning” or “How you doing” or “Hello”. I miss that. I miss it. And when people DO speak to me, I pick up on that New Orleans style and then I say, “Okay you’re from New Orleans, “How you doing?” [brief pause & rustling of microphone] CL: Nichole? EG: You were talking about the way you were influenced by Houston. Being in Houston and feeling the difference from being in Houston, but do you feel it going the other way where you see there’s an effect having? Because I remember [stutters & tears up], I remember just after Katrina came around and there were all these people standing in the streets and my response was to say “Hurray.” [chuckles] NP: Mmm hmm. EG: You know? That this is such a – I’m not from Houston but I like Houston and I’ve been here a long time, but it is a place where people don’t talk to each other. And I come from NP: Mmm hmm EG: A place where people walk on the streets all the time. And I just thought, “Oh that’s wonderful. Maybe they’ll come and change the culture here!” And I don’t know if you felt that occurring at all. NP: Oh. EG: You see that happens sometimes? You see that maybe restaurants or change of … [chuckles] NP: In my neighborhood, with the people who I speak to all the time and you know what she’s always speaking. You know they kind of speak back. [chuckles from one] NP: Or when they kinda see me, I’m like, “Oh well, speak to her before she speaks to us,” [chuckles] [laughter from audience] NP: But in my neighborhood I do. I do. GH: The one thing I’d like to share and I really don’t want hog the mic, is that I have a lot more jeans than I ever had! [laughter from all] GH: And I have more – I’m more comfortable, even in office environments where you didn’t see that in corporate America in New Orleans where you would wear comfortable jeans and starched shirts. [giggles from a few] GH: I see that a lot in Houston and I’ve gotten too comfortable with it because I have to go to other environments. Panelist: Mmm hmm. GH: And the acclimation from even from Many stores like Fiesta now has some pork seasonings that we’re used to and even the hot sausage. I think it was a very smart man who said, you know, “You have 130+ people in the city who bring into this city a market, I would have cut a hog too!” [laughter from all] GH: And it is a wise thing to do, but I find that we – the trends for – and I share that with Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco, that as constituents come from throughout this country and we come from cities as Houston and we go into the Health clinics and the health clinics have all the resources that we need. Where schools are clean. Health care facilities are beautiful. When they come back to New Orleans, they’re not going to come back the same. The demand is going to be higher. Panelist: Mmm hmm. GH: So get ready for a community that has been more educated and more exposed, and what you have to understand, some people that evacuated were 10 generations strong! I interviewed a lady who, 10 generations back had never left New Orleans, that are now – one in Atalanta, one in Alaska, one in Indiana. So they’re going to be different so it’s going to affect us. [mic rustles] CL: I didn’t hear one thing Pamela, when I first met you, was that “Katrina’s not over!” And I think a number of you during your talks right now expressed similar ideas about why Katrina is not over. I also think you also have some other thoughts about that same idea. So if you, any of you could share some of those thoughts right now I’d like to hear that. [mic rustles] Panelist:He called your name. NP: He said Dion, right? [laughter from audience] [mumbling among various panelists] HA: Well, she says she’s a cry baby, I think I’m a bigger one. [chuckles form all] HA: But Katrina’s not over for me. Katrina will never be over for me. I’m a senior citizen. I don’t have as much ahead as I’ve got behind. So the more I think about Katrina, what it’s done to me, I’m not bitter, but I can’t go back [tape ends]