To rebuild or not to rebuild?

Kevin L. Clark

There was nowhere that you could go to not experience the disaster known as Hurricane Katrina.

It impacted everyone across the globe, none so more than those down south. On a personal note, the majority of my family resides in the Louisiana area; mainly parts of New Orleans, Baton Rouge, St. Francisville and Morganza.

The tragedy of those events hit on a level that very few could understand. My Aunt Odessa and my cousin Cal both lost their homes to this tragedy, amongst other relatives. They both lived in the eastern part of New Orleans’s ninth ward – Cal now lives in Mississippi, and my Aunt Odessa stays in Baton Rouge.

What was once their home now looks like remnants of a war zone. Fear was their companion for those eight days, wondering if anything would ever be the same. And as they left their homes for the last time, they also wondered if they would ever be able to return.

Since the hurricane, many people have had the opinion that the rebuilding of New Orleans would kick out those who lived in its hardest hit areas. With rebuilding comes gentrification. For those who are not familiar with that term, according to, it means, “the process whereby a low-rent neighborhood is transformed into a high-rent neighborhood through redevelopment, usually in conjunction with changing demographics and an influx of wealthier residents.” What does that mean? It means, according to an ongoing study being conducted by Brown University, 80 percent of New Orleans’ black population may not be able to return home. That leaves the $85 billion that Dictator Bush proposed to give to rebuild the Gulf Coast up to his and Cheney’s closest friends to split.

Ray Nagin believes New Orleans should remain a “chocolate city” – but that raises the question: Is it worth it for blacks to live in such perpetual fear of another hurricane? If you know any of our black students from Franklin High School, they represent New Orleans to the fullest. Their swagger and dialect embodies the place that they’ve left to gain higher education here at Kent State. Would it be right to destroy the homes of the displaced in favor of a park or a redeveloped Shangri-la?

New Orleans, as a whole, has a history of vibrancy and culture that is sustained by the people that live within its confines. Is gentrification the answer or the problem?

With many families displaced, this spells a huge shift on all levels from the economic to the political. Or is this a no-win situation? Significant changes in preparing New Orleans for another hurricane season have been slow to occur. It is no secret that there is a thin divide between the haves and the have-nots in New Orleans – will rebuilding or not blur the already exaggerated gap?

For now, I’ll be most satisfied with the answer that makes the most sense, because there seems to be no clear-cut answer in this dispute.

Kevin L. Clark is a sophomore magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]