The story of black poverty in New Orleans always describes a post- Hurricane Katrina conspiracy by white conservative elites and ambitious black politicians to change the city’s economic, political and social image. Poor African-Americans displaced whose lives were destroyed by Katrina had their public housing demolished and were not given financing for their home repairs.
Author John Arena wrote and recently a published a new book titled, “Driven From New Orleans: How Nonprofits Betray Public Housing and Promote Privatization.” In the book, he passionately describes what he believes was a strategy designed in the 1980s by wealthy New Orleans powerbrokers to drive poor black people out of the city.
Many people may challenge his attacks on prominent social change activists and large nonprofit groups. However, Arena’s claims are still relevant and nedd to be raised. Whether directly or indirectly, there was a concerted effort to destroy New Orleans’ largest sources of low-cost family housing. Arena lays out his argument in the book and makes his point that the motivations behind this process were very costly to the city’s poor and disenfranchised. Most people would agree that a gross disregard for the poor in any plan for a city’s economic expansion process is immoral.
In the two efforts to halt the demolitions of public housing complexes Arena describes in the late 1980′s and into the 1990′s, there is no plan of reciprocity by the land developers who sought to replace the old housing units for the poor. He states the new housing plans were designed for those with higher incomes. He raises the important question: How did demolition backers get poor tenants to agree to their own evictions? Arena blames rich nonprofit groups aligned with developers and African-American politicians for helping convince tenants that there was no alternative to demolition, and that rather than fight they should work out the best relocation deal.
The book looks to be a good read and places emphasis on the serious questions raised after the horrible disaster of Katrina. The onus on the sources responsible for giving answers does not seem to be going away. Over seven years after the awful disaster in crescent city, Driven From New Orleans is seeking to drive a still relevant arguement home.