We then continued on to Pensacola, Florida to discuss the oil spill’s impact with locals there and inspect beachfronts. Our team scoped out Casino Beach in particular, pictured below, and its tar balls rolling up on the sand (…my foot in comparison to a tar ball).
Fishing families had just started to rebound from Katrina, then the oil spill emerged…
Would you join DC’s Social Media Club chapter and CitizenEffect to create next steps for Gulf fishing families? It’s all happening on an awesome National Day of Action, Wednesday, August 25th.
Since joining CitizenEffect’s Gulf fact-finding mission trip last month (called #CitizenGulf on Twitter), there are memories of certain stories, small clips of conversations, that keep coming to mind. A few in particular clarify the vulnerable ways many fishing families and Gulf residents find themselves since the oil spill. I haven’t shared them much beyond the fellow bloggers that experienced these stories too during the mission trip. There’s something tender about these specific memories that I think have caused me to shy away from talking more about them. It seems time to be more direct and open now, especially as CitizenEffect’s National Day of Action on August 25th draws near.
A local Louisiana resident shared a conversation she had with a priest in St. Bernard’s parish. The priest had been supporting a local community center that distributed meals to fishing families. He realized the confidence and pride many of his parish shared, including one woman in particular. He hadn’t seen this woman for a while and grew concerned on her well being. Recently he saw her approach the food line for a meal. He realized then the level of need she must be facing in light of her pride and resourcefulness he’d observed in her before the oil spill.
Another conversation involves a neighborhood where many Vietnamese fishing families live. Many stand in line at a particular community center weekly, supported by Catholic Charities of New Orleans, to collect food vouchers. There were a range of parents and children. And some local center counselors described the impact on family dynamics: children acting out from family tension and fathers, often the head of the fishing businesses, refusing to stand in food stipend lines due to hurt pride about lost means to provide family income.
A waitress that we met in Pensacola, Florida, who raised her sons near a neighborhood beach there, said she didn’t know what to tell them (her sons) about how their cherished beach had been affected by the oil spill. She and her sons want to go back to the water but, as the waitress/mom admitted, it’s too toxic. She knows their way of life will change for her family and in her words, she: “…doesn’t want to burden her sons’ spirit by telling them the truth.”
After completing CitizenEffect’s Gulf Mission last month, called #CitizenGulf on Twitter, I returned home to Washington, DC grateful for the chance to have learned about the oil spill first-hand. Yet feelings of overwhelm and strain overshadowed appreciation for that newly gained insight. Processing the spill’s environmental, financial complexity had left my emotions bewildered.
The upside was CitizenEffect’s response to the trip: a National Day of Action on August 25th. People across the country will meetup in their communities and host events to raise funds for children of Gulf fishing families.
Please join us for this Day of Action later this month (…with music, friends, more).
Our fact-finding blogger team had spent 4.5 days meeting Gulf fishing families and learning the oil spill’s impact from their viewpoint. Nonprofits including Catholic Charities of New Orleans spent a lot of time introducing us to local areas in need – the fishing families standing in line at community centers awaiting grocery money and the out-of-work deck hands helping to keep oil from entering the inner marshes.
I have not encountered such vulnerability and strength all at once as seen in these communities. The fishing industry in Louisiana parishes is precarious at best. Fishermen that we met would express relief their children were not planning to work on Gulf fishing boats, saying:
“There’s nothing for our kids in this business; it’s gone.”
The thought of one’s profession evaporating overnight finally began to take hold in my mind, launching those feelings of overwhelm. I began to consider what it would be like to have one’s livelihood abruptly not exist (not just the job itself but the entire profession that created it).
What would that look like? What alternatives would exist?
I work online a lot, so the hypothetical equivalent (…as hard as this hypothetical is to imagine) would be to wake up one day to a world without the Internet. My ego would like to think my husband and I would carve out a way and be ok, but we both work heavily on the web. So relocating, re-thinking skill sets, or creating new marketable skills would immediately be required. But how? We shop online. We order food online. We work online. We commune online. What would be sustaining options with immediate, long term income?
It would be a huge paradigm shift that would scare the daylights out of my family.
And many Gulf fishermen and their families are confronting this type of metaphorical severity. But instead of the Internet, it’s the Gulf habitat at stake.
Can we join together and help Gulf families and their children? Yes.
On Thursday, July 1st
The “Gulf Coast Benefit” is set to take place with music venues across the country hosting performances with the sole purpose to help the Gulf. People can attend these music events and donate onsite or can contribute in many other ways using social media.
In this video (2.5 minutes), we talk about many things — her inspiration, the community building used with social tech, and her respect for New Orleans and preserving the Gulf in light of the oil spill disaster.
And to learn more about tomorrow’s big music event helping the Gulf Coast
…feel free visiting Gulf Coast Benefit.
I traveled to the Grand Isle for the first time this week, expecting to see a community of locals. The goal, along with fellow Washington, DC bloggers on CitizenEffect’s Gulf Mission blogging trip, was to meet and learn from fishing families about the oil disaster – hoping to find ways to help out. Despite beaches being inaccessible due to disaster response, I assumed neighborhoods and eateries would still be active hubs for local folks we could talk to.
But it was all quiet.
Those visions I had of neighborly conversations on porches or in the popular diner or beachfront restaurants were nowhere.
Other things became apparent there though and elsewhere in the state, making me uneasy for the environment here:
Grand Isle beaches are roadways now traveled by huge humvees transporting supplies and staff to cleanup sites. As logical as this scenario may be for response efforts, it brought home this point: containing oil in the Gulf has consequence to not only water life but species from shore environs too;
As for the Grand Isle’s perceived emptiness, that’s the telling factor: according to many I’ve met, that area is a big family vacation spot. The fact the cleanup effort restricts access creates an inevitable drain on the local economy;
teams of local deckhands and fishermen are now working on oil containment in the inner marshes. Our CitizenEffect bloggers and myself enjoyed meeting many of them in St. Bernard’s parish. They showed fantastic pride in their efforts, managing vast amounts of orange booms hoping intensely to protect the inner marshes and surrounding marina. Yet a few entered into side conversations on how vulnerable they see the inner marsh area. They know if efforts don’t succeed, their life as fishing families will evaporate.
What I’ve come to consider is how much the unseen maintains heavy impact here — shore life unseen by beach based rescue vehicles; unseen local populations that normally fuel local summer economies; and Deep Horizon oil absent from inner marshes (but angst of its arrival pervades generational fishing communities).
So far from blogging experience this week, invisible and evident factors both stimulate concern and dread on what comes next.