Ten years ago, it was the Gulf Coast. My eyes, like so many others, were fixated on the unfolding disaster following Hurricane Katrina–homes split in half by rushing water, trapped families struggling to flag down help from rooftops, people searching for loved ones swept away by the torrent.
Thousands of Black people, with no transportation and nowhere else to go, were left behind to die. They were all betrayed by a political system that was supposed to be accountable to them as citizens.
And the abandonment was only the beginning. Once the water finally receded, the dehumanizing political events to follow would solidify the sentiment that no one cared.
Bodies of Black residents of New Orleans floated in flood waters for Days and Days. As if they had no importance at all, Residents packed into the super dome were without adequate water and waste management, Leading to very poor conditions for those seeking help.
No one cared about the Black people left behind in New Orleans.
What happened during Katrina was a systemic failure of government, from the White House down to the mayor’s office. Understanding that pushing against the system would take more than just a few people, a month after the storm James Rucker and Van Jones sent the first ColorofChange email to 1,000 Black people across the country.
In that first message, they asked the recipients to add their names to the cause. James and Van had a clear plan–they would create an organization with the power to join together thousands of Black voices, and use Internet and national media outlets to pressure politicians to respond.
The first email was a call to action to Black people to make sure that even in the face of these failures, the poorest and most vulnerable among us would never be left behind again.
From the first 1,000 members, we have now grown to a membership of more than 1 million. As ColorofChange reflects on the time that has passed since the storm and thinks about how to amplify Black voices in the current political moment, we are reminded that Katrina was not an anomaly.
Since September 2005, our members have joined us in fighting to disrupt the most important leverage points in the racially biased system that governs our country.
Shortly after forming, ColorofChange members organized in support of the Jena 6. As our membership grew, we were able to partially de-fund the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has become an incubator for discriminatory public policies.
We’ve also targeted media giants, like Fox News, known for spewing toxic language that fuels hate.
And when the Movement for Black Lives intensified after the murder of Mike Brown last year, your donations enabled us to give $70,000 to the Organization for Black Struggle to help it build an organizing infrastructure on the ground in Ferguson.
Ten years ago today, it was the Gulf Coast. Now it’s Oakland and Sanford. It’s Ferguson and Staten Island. It’s Baltimore, Chicago and Waller County, Texas. And it’s still New Orleans. The fight to improve the lives of Black folks is happening everywhere.
Thanks and peace,