On September 16th, a coalition of African American leaders, including Bruce S. Gordon, President & CEO, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), urged President Bush and Congress to set an inclusive and proactive agenda in addressing problems caused by Hurricane Katrina. The group said relief efforts should also take into consideration the growing poverty crisis in the Gulf region and other parts of the United States.
Gordon said: "We want to make sure that going forward there are safeguards to assure that people displaced by Hurricane Katrina will be the first in line to get jobs rebuilding the affected areas. In addition, we want President Bush to see that there are safeguards to assure equity in the distribution of rebuilding funds and that minority contractors have a fair chance to be awarded some of the work that will be necessary to rebuild New Orleans and other affected communities."
During a press conference today, coalition leaders also called on the Justice Department to review all arrests and detentions to ensure survivors are able to vote in local elections, including the February 2006 elections. The Coalition, which met Wednesday at Howard University, issued a "Call to Action" that outlines steps and recommendations to achieve eight "critical" goals.
Rep. Melvin Watt (D., NC), Chairman, Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), said, "The CBC is absolutely committed to the principles addressed in this call to action and we will work across party lines" to have them carried out.
The action steps and recommendations proposed by the coalition were:
- Ensure displaced families' immediate and long-term right to return to the Gulf Coast region
- Provide temporary housing at military bases currently closed in the Gulf Coast region.
- Provide economic incentives for displaced families to return to the region.
- Rebuild and reconnect families and children
- Establish $100 billion Family Reconstruction Fund (providing unemployment assistance, job training, school placement, finding separated children, etc).
- Ensure that local residents have first choice at jobs and contracts in rebuilding effort
- Establish Gulf Coast Region Reconstruction Fund for rebuilding homes, business, universities, etc).
- Establish timeline to rebuild colleges and universities, including historically black universities, Xavier, Dillard, Southern and Jackson State (Mississippi).
- Set 50 percent residency target for all contracts.
- Set 40 percent minority vendor target for all reconstruction.
- Place moratorium on all contracts until civil rights provision can be reinstituted (Davis-Bacon requirements).
- Provide physical and mental health assistance
- Order the admittance of minority community-based counselors in facilities with evacuees nationwide.
- Assure health benefits to all affected citizens for a period no less than 24 months.
- Provide legal and voting protection
- Direct the Justice Department to individual cases of arrested and detained individuals.
- Ensure displaced persons' ability to vote in state and local elections.
- Ensure home owners right of first refusal to reclaim property.
- Freeze all foreclosure proceedings against property in affected areas for a minimum of 12 months.
- Build in legal protections against predatory lenders.
- Institute a prohibition of collections and deficiency judgments on real and personal properties.
- Institute a prohibition on negative credit reporting or the omission of negative events from credit scores when the incidents were a result of Katrina.
- Institute a voluntary waiver of late fees or interest on loans made to people in Katrina affected areas for at least three months.
- Monitor distribution of resources by federal agencies, FEMA and the American Red Cross
- Establish a diverse commission to monitor the equitable distribution of relief resources by FEMA and major relief agencies as well as the equitable reconstruction of the affected region.
- Secure the environment for future generations
- Develop an action plan to secure wetlands in coastal areas.
- Stop rollback/waivers of environmental laws.
- Develop a comprehensive strategy to address poverty crisis in America.
Contributors may donate online and read more about the NAACP's commitment to helping hurricane victims at www.naacp.org. To get additional information on the NAACP Disaster Relief Fund, call 866-996-2227. Checks, made payable to
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