Unlikely vacation unveils desolate reality

Many students will agree that spring break is the perfect opportunity to visit a foreign land, relax, hang out with friends. Cancun, Mexico, Jamaica and Panama City Beach are some of the top spring break destinations for college students.

But while many students spent their entire spring break clubbing, lying on the beach or visiting family members, Florida A&M University had 39 students participate in the “Katrina On the Ground Student Spring Initiative.”

As volunteers, students were responsible for physically and emotionally rebuilding communities and lives, and financial literacy and empowerment for the affected citizens and region, as written in the “Katrina On the Ground” press release.

It’s been seven months since Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast. Some may think New Orleans has been restored, especially if you have been watching the Mardi Gras coverage on CNN. It’s all an illusion.

First of all, New Orleans is shaped like a bowl. On the highest two points of the bowl, you have the French Quarter, where Mardi Gras took place, and on the other side of the bowl near Lake Pontchartrain, you have the elite side of town where million-dollar homes are located. The upper and lower ninth ward, where the levee system failed, is at the bottom of the bowl; lives, families and homes were completely destroyed.

People lost everything and the worst part is the city of New Orleans has not given the citizens of the ninth ward building permits to restore their community. Personally, I think it’s the oil in the lower ninth ward the government is truly after.

Because the federal government has taken over several public facilities and the city of the New Orleans has deemed many areas uninhabitable, thousands of people are not allowed to come back into the city; they have no place to live.

Down Claiborne Avenue, every housing-project unit had a steel door nailing the entrances shut and signs reading “Do Not Enter.”

Why is the government not allowing these individuals to return home? I believe some officials don’t want to see Ray Nagin’s “Chocolate City” restored. New Orleans’ population was once 85 percent black, since the hurricane hit New Orleans’ population is now about 30 percent black. There has been in influx of whites and Hispanics. Elections for the city are in April and there are 20 white candidates, but only three black candidates, including Nagin.

The “Katrina On the Ground” experience was life changing. I heard some compelling stories and learned it’s going to take ten to fifteen years to restore the city.

Angela Green is a senior broadcast journalism from Panama City. She can be reached at famuanopinions@hotmail.com.