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“…the fantasy of the notion of making people whole again…”

Jacqui Patterson, NAACP Climate Justice Initiative Director – speaking on the NAACP’s report on the impact of the BP oils spill on the Gulf region at the opening press conference.

At yesterday’s opening press conference the NAACP released a report of an investigation conducted by their national office to “document the impact of the BP Oil Drilling Disaster.” From the report overview:

…The PB Oil drilling Disaster has overlaid another travesty over a region devastated by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina when communities were still far from recovering from the impact of those disasters of 2005. Therefore the largest disaster in US history was visited upon communities who already suffered from compromised economic status, displacement and substandard housing, fragile mental and physical health status, and socio cultural disruption.

The timing of the tragedy also places the disaster at a time when it has the most potential for negative impact. It comes at the nexus of great economic impact because it occurred at the beginning of harvest time for shrimp, crabs, and oysters. There is also the threat of elevated pervasive impact because of the start of hurricane season, which has the potential to setback clean-up efforts as well as accelerate and intensify the onslaught of oil and dispersant on the shores of the Gulf Coast….

The report provides a synopsis of the disaster impact on communities in the region, a critique of the “mitigation systems/processes”, and a list of thirteen recommendations from those communities.

After the press conference I spoke with Jacqui Patterson, the NAACP’s Climate Justice Initiative Director, about that impact on the region:  

Show Me Progress: How long did you spend on the Gulf?

Jacqui Patterson, NAACP Climate Justice Initiative Director: Three weeks in total.

SMP: And, and you traveled through the communities  just gathering information?

Jacqui Patterson: Yes.

SMP: What’s the most striking thing?

Jacqui Patterson: The most striking thing. The most striking thing is the kind of, what do you call it, the fantasy of the notion of making people whole again. Because, like people talk about making people whole? And it’s just, a, it’s just, uh, the, the, the devastation is just so pervasive that, you know, there’s no one outside of that person that can really do that. You know what I mean? So people who lo, lost, not just their, people have a lot of focus on livelihood and so forth, but people who, like the, the Houma Nation that’s connected, that’s really connected to the land spiritually, culturally, etcetera, to have that land defiled in a way that’s not gonna be reversible, really, in their lifetime, you know. And to have that, the generations of connection to that land just, you know, gone in some ways, or at least defiled, that like was the most overwhelming thing to me. Like the notion just, not just the Houma Nation, but the Vietnamese, Vietnamese folks who have just kind of, not just when they are here, but back when they were in Vietnam their, um, their connection to, to shrimping, to crabbing, to fishing that’s just gone now. They’re not, they’re not, a lot of the folks aren’t speaking English because that’s just what they’ve been doing, just been them on the water with their, with their craft. So, just the obliteration of like everything that, you know, what’s made people, what’s kind of comprised the majority of their life was kind of the most striking thing for me.

SMP: Is there a  realization, um, obviously in the communities, but of people that you’ve talked to outside of those communities that this is the case?

Jacqui Patterson: I don’t think, no, because people do kind of focus narrowly on like this or that. But you don’t really hear people talking about the totality as much. You know, some people, of course, that the totality of the loss, you know. So, yeah, that, so that struck me.

SMP: Um, were you able to actually witness some of the devastation yourself?

Jacqui Patterson: Yes. I mean, ’cause I was in the, the various communities where I spoke with the Vietnamese, I spoke with the Houma Nation, I spoke with the, you know, all the various folks and so, and, you know, went out and saw the oil situations and that kind of thing, so I was in the communities, very much so.

SMP: Well, thank you very much.

Jacqui Patterson: Yeah, sure. All right.


The 101st NAACP National Convention in Kansas City

NAACP in Kansas City: Benjamin Todd Jealous at the opening press conference

NAACP in Kansas City: EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson at the opening press conference