Reflections on the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

Maria Scruggs

Dear Editor,

August 29 marked the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation on New Orleans. The weeklong commemoration paid tribute to the 1,000 plus lives lost and the estimated $100 billion in property damage. Throughout the week images of the devastation played out on social media and on television to include signs being held by many saying, “Help us!”

The images reminded many of us of the sense of helplessness we felt because we were not directly affected. Yes we could send money, and send supplies, and that we did, but there was still a sense of helplessness that we should have been able to do more.

While the beauty of this week’s commemoration honored the lost lives and property, there was an equally significant focus on the rebirth. The rebirth that was anchored by those who believed that the resurrection moments they experienced and in many cases still experiencing were just opportunities for the greatness of God to come through even in what appeared to be some of the darkest moments for many.

While reflecting on the rebirthing process New Orleans is experiencing, I could not help but think it should serve as a beacon of light to those residents of St. Petersburg who have committed to take on a rebirthing process of a far less magnitude — the revival of the St. Petersburg Branch of NAACP.

While the devastation in New Orleans can in no way compare to the suspension of a local branch of the NAACP, the principles and concepts of rebirth are the same. Faith, hope, leadership, integrity, teamwork and planning must serve as the core of any rebirth. While it is important for there to be an assessment of the circumstances that caused the branch to be suspended, it is important only in the context of bringing matters into focus and resolution that would prohibit the branch from moving forward and to utilize past mistakes as “lessons learned” and the parameters for future progress.

Like the rebirthing of New Orleans, the St. Petersburg Branch of the NAACP will only be resurrected as a result of conscientious and constructive leadership, teamwork, integrity, and a clear focus on where we are trying to go. There have been many reports, statistics and exposes to demonstrate the need and relevance of a local branch of the NAACP.

It is incumbent upon the residents of St. Petersburg to decide if there is a collective will for a community mired in socio-economic inequities to get bogged down by egos, petty jealousies, and endless rhetoric, or if there is a collective will to strategically, effectively and efficiently resolve the socio-economic issues that plague our city!

In President Obama’s almost hour-long speech at a community center in the 7th Ward, the following statement really struck home. He stated: “No matter how hard it’s been, and how hard the road ahead might seem, you are working and building and striving for a better tomorrow, I see the evidence.”

This is the mantle that those who decide to take on the challenge of rebuilding the St. Petersburg branch of the NAACP must always strive for — the evidence.  As the membership grows and stabilizes every member and every stakeholder must be able to see the evidence! The NAACP can’t be defined by its president. The NAACP must be defined by the collective work of its executive committee and its members!

~ Maria L. Scruggs

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