Hurricane Katrina, A Motivating Force And Breath Of Life (BlackElectorate.com)
(FinalCall.com) – On Sept. 3, New Black Panthers from Houston and Dallas under the direction of National Chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz, along with Houston Chairperson Krystal Muhammad and Dallas Chairperson Robert Williams, left the Houston Astrodome headed for New Orleans in two Black-owned chartered buses.
Embarking on a mission to rescue Black people stuck in the disaster of New Orleans, deliver much-needed supplies and access the situation firsthand. Atty. Shabazz provided The Final Call with updates throughout the entirety of their courageous and loving operation.
When they arrived in New Orleans, it was nightfall, and they were stopped at a military checkpoint several miles out of the city. Due to security measures, no vehicles were allowed in at night. The two buses became numbers 161 and 162 in the line to enter the devastated city.
Instead of waiting, the Black soldiers accepted an assignment to pick up approximately 60 Black people who were stuck at a truck stop. While the military charges the Black group with stealing the bus that took them out of New Orleans, they maintain that the police in the city gave the OK for them to take the bus which was not in use. In any case, when the group stopped to get something to eat at a truck stop, the military took the bus from them.
The two buses picked them up and took them to Shreveport, La., then returned to New Orleans. When they arrived they were directed to wait at the airport with other vehicles for instructions, but the convoy was split up. After no instructions came, they left the aiport with the determination to save our people from desperation, looming death and disease.
They traveled along I-10, passing by uprooted gas stations that looked like “aluminium foil, like someone snatched them up and twisted them up,” observed Atty. Shabazz. “It is straight up Armageddon on the ground.”
They were able to follow the highway to the point within the city where it was submerged in water. Dozens of emergency buses and vehicles were halted, as medical personnel dragged dead bodies out of the water. They backed out of that line and, using the map and residents that were on the bus as the best guides for the mission, they headed into downtown New Orleans.
This time, the military let them through checkpoint, surprised that they had returned from their first assignment. As they journeyed into the heart of the destroyed city center, they were granted permission through additional checkpoints without incident. With bullhorns, they called Black people out of the projects and their homes, and filled both buses before returning to Houston and working overnight Sept. 5 to settle them with supplies.
“People were saying you all are Panthers, they are going to kill you,” shared Atty. Shabazz. “But we must understand that we are military, and at a certain point in this operation, they treated us with military respect. We were the only group of civilians bold enough to head to the frontlines. The Army approached us asking what help they could give us. Bottom line, we rescued a busload of our people.”
Back in Houston, their are still on the job–headed to the Houston Astrodome at Final Call press time to look into reports that the people are up in arms about the decision to move them out of the dome onto cruise ships for temporary shelter.
Look for more coverage in next week’s edition of The Final Call of their operation, which will feature eyewitness accounts of the treatment of Black people, such as Lynelle Washington, who gave her story directly to The Final Call afer she was rescued by them:
“I have been here through it all. I never left my house in Gretna, La. It’s right across the bridge from New Orleans. I got completely flooded out. I have been trapped here the entire time. The cops came by on Saturday and they saw that I was alive. They gave me two bottles of water and kept going. I was scared to go out of my house. The boy down the street went into the Walgreen’s across the street to get him something to eat and they (police) beat him. They thought he was the one who broke in, but he wasn’t, it was already broken into. I saw him, he went in after it was already broken into.
“They keep changing up their stories. First, they got on the loudspeakers telling people to go into the places and get them something to eat, then when the people go in, they beat them. They beat up the boy and left him on the street. I went out after the police left and gave the boy one of the bottles of water they gave me. Thank God for these Brothers that came to get me.”
Her son Turrenzo Washington was evacuated earlier to Houston and he joined the Brothers on the buses that left Houston to rescue people from New Orleans. He told them that he needed to go back and get his mother who was trapped in her home.