Sweet *Cynamon* Sessions

Children –

I know I have been absent from the Blogosphere of late, but work is puttin’ my through it as I prepare for my Book Launch, writing my own book, working my day gig, and trying to get some other stuff together so I can run my own thangs. In any case, I really need the kids to come thru for this event on Saturday. It’s another Katrina benefit, but money will go to some progressive orgs, some HIV/AIDS related work to support those in the Gulf living with HIV.

And guess what? Ms. Cynamon Jones will be hosting the affair! Not only that, many of you may remember Jones’ CD project, The Big Easy Vol. 1. That will also be on sale at the event, and those proceeds will go to helping Critical Resistance rebuild it’s Southern office in New Orleans, which is where I worked for the year I lived in The Big Easy.

NOT ONLY THAT – But the Sweet Sessions kids are also serving up some go-go of whatever gender you desire.

So, show up and show out. The flyer is attached, and you can learn more about the Sweet Sessions party, and their other joints, by checking out the Restless Produxions website.

Restless Produxns presents…

S W E E T *Cinnamon* S E S S I O N S
*benefitting progressive hurricane relief causes down south
Saturday, Oct 1st
9p-until…

@ Big 6 Bar
97 Bowery (@ Hester St.)
N R Q W 6 to Canal | D to Grand

http://restlessproduxns.net

*Hosted by Cynamon Jones….

*Go Go Tranz, Girlz n Boyz, Jay-qua, Romeo Cruz,
Serena Kitt, and more will be givin it startin @
11p and again after Midnite!

*2-for-1 Well Drinks between 11p-1130p.

* Red + Brown Cinnamon Colours: Wear it… and be
fabulous in it dammit!

*DJs Squeak, Ang, Billy Bailey & dj:ayden spinning
hip-hop, house, b-side soul & old school classics.

*Proceeds from this party will benefit progressive
hurricane relief causes down south.

The Difference Between being Displaced and a Refugee as it Relates to ‘African American Refugee’ Debate after Katrina

By Tamara K. Nopper

9/19/05

Since Hurricane Katrina, various political leaders, pundits and the general public have debated about how to describe Black people displaced by one of the greatest “natural disasters” ever to hit the US.

In particular, there has been a great deal of tension regarding whether or not to describe Black people as “refugees.” Various African American political leaders and celebrities, including Jesse Jackson and Oprah Winfrey, have spoken out against the term refugee being applied to Black people, pointing out that African Americans are US citizens.

This criticism and dismissal of the term refugee has raised a red flag among many “progressives,” some of whom are suggesting that African Americans are attempting to distance themselves from the third world where refugees are everywhere. Others have suggested that African Americans are getting more attention, sympathy and services from the Federal Government, the media and the public than other non-whites because they are not refugees or are refusing to accept such a label. Some are even suggesting that African Americans are being treated as “real Americans” whereas those groups with a history as refugees in the US are being “forgotten.”

I will not try to determine whether African Americans are refugees. But I do want to contribute to this debate by exploring the distinctions between being displaced and being granted refugee status.

First and most important, there are distinctions between being displaced, being recognized as a refugee by different world organizations, and being granted refugee status in the US. Displaced people are basically people who have nowhere to go or at least can not stay where they are at without the threat of violence, genocide, etc. Refugee status is a formal category.

On many blogs, people have discussed how they looked up the definition of refugee in order to figure out their own thoughts regarding the current debate about its usage. The most obvious site to look up such a term is the United Nations website. So let us turn there.

When you look up refugee on the UN website, you will be directed to the site for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which was established in 1950. In 1951, the UN convened a conference to discuss the status of refugees. That gathering produced a formal definition of refugee, which, according to the website of the UNHCR, is still the common definition employed today. As described by the 1951 convention, a refugee is someone who: “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country…”

Along with refugee, there are other various categories of displaced people used to assess the world refugee situation. The other category that concerns us here is Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), who basically are displaced for the same reasons as refugees but have not crossed international borders and therefore will probably experience different legal and political responses to their situations.

*Distinctions Among the World’s Displaced Peoples*

It is important to note that refugees in the US do not usually come directly from their country of origin but rather will often come from a country in which they have been resettled. But the UNHCR does account for a refugee’s region of origin. This information can be helpful in assessing what national/racial groups are acquiring refugee status.

According to the UNHCR Statistical Yearbook, in 2003 there was a total number of 9,680,263 refugees around the world. The main origins of world refugees were the following: Afghanistan (2,136,000), Sudan (606,000), Burundi (532,000), Democratic Republic of the Congo (453,000), Occupied Palestinian Territory (428,000), Somalia (402,000), Iraq (369,000), Vietnam (363,000), Liberia (353,000), and Angola (330,000). By the end of 2003, 48% of the world refugees originated from the Asian region, 36% from the African region, and 11% from Europe. It is not entirely clear where exactly each refugees was placed but we do know that in 2003, 38% of all global refugees were hosted by Asia, 32% were hosted by Africa, 23% by Europe, and 6% by North America.

Yet there is a distinction between being recognized as a refugee and as an Internally Displaced Persons. In 2003, there were 4,186,759 people categorized as IDPs. Countries with some of the largest numbers of IDPs are Columbia (1,244,072), Azerbaijan (575,609), and Liberia (531,616). While there are certainly more refugees than IDPs recognized by the UN, the distinction is not insignificant considering that refugees often have access to some level of protection and forms of assistance to deal with their displacement not always or equally available to IDPs.

Overall, then, we see that there are significant distinctions between the different categories employed to address the global situation and that not everyone who is displaced around the world is categorized as a refugee by the UN. While some debate the relevancy of the UN in really shaping world affairs, the UNHCR does play the extremely important function in determining who meets the requirements for refugee status, assisting many countries in this process. And as stated on the website of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS), in order to be eligible for refugee status in the US, one must be referred by the UNHCR or be part of a group that the US Government considers at risk. In other words, resettlement in the US is usually a third effort at resettlement that is bureaucratically determined and more often than not involves the UNHCR.

*World Refugee Status v. US Refugee Status*

More central to the conversation about Hurricane Katrina’s survivors is the crucial difference between being a world refugee and being a US refugee. In short, being recognized as a refugee by the UNHCR is not the same as being given access to US refugee status. For one, to be defined as a US refugee, one must, according to the Immigration and Nationality Act be “any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

This description of course reads strikingly similar to the 1951 UN definition. But the US, like any other nation-state, can arbitrarily determine who meets their criteria even if its guidelines are similar to those of other supposedly neutral world organizations like the UN. As such, the US determines who out of the world’s displaced population it will accept and confer refugee status upon.

Indeed, in 2003 the US only had 452,548 people who were recognized by the UN as refugees, which means that the US housed a little less than 5% of the 2003 global refugee population. Thus, access to US refugee status is difficult to get and is only given to a small number of the world’s refugees. Simply put, US refugee status is a relatively exclusive one.


*Who Gets Refugee Status?*

This of course raises the important and interrelated questions: who is applying for refugee status and who is getting denied? The Yearbook of Immigration Statistics helps us answer this question. In 2003, there were 42,705 refugee applications filed, there were 25,329 refugee applications approved, and 16,550 denied.

In terms of who applied for US refugee status in 2003, people were from the following “regions of chargeability”: Europe (18,960 applications), Asia (6,235 applications), Africa (12,522 applications), and North America (4,963 applications) (which includes the Caribbean). Bear in mind that there may be a difference in region of chargeability and the origins of the refugee given the bureaucratic process that requires people to have crossed an international border so as to be given (global) refugee status.

The 2003 total percent approved for all of the regions who applied was 60%. But of course not all of the regions had the same percentage approved in 2003. Those from the geographic area of Europe had 62% approved, those from the geographic area of Asia had 81% approved, those from Africa had 56% approved, and those from North America had 37% approved. The BCIS calculated the total percent for the year by dividing applications approved by the sum of applications approved and applications denied. More, the numbers regarding Asia may actually be an undercount given that the figures for the Vietnamese only include those who were processed through the Resettlement Opportunity for Vietnamese Returnees (ROVR) Program, a special program that is not replicated for all ethnicities.

*Conclusion*

Overall, we find that there are important distinctions between being displaced and being a refugee. Further, what the 2003 data provided by both the United Nations and the US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services tells us is that we can not conflate the experiences of people recognized as US refugees with the situations of global refugees or internally displaced persons. To do so dismisses the internal global refugee hierarchy but also the exclusive nature of US refugee policy in terms of who can apply and who gets approved and the politics involved in such policies.

While it is of course not a privilege to be displaced and in search of a place to live, getting US refugee status IS a privilege on a global scale because it means that the US government takes some level of responsibility for helping people move towards resettlement. As described by the BCIS, resettlement means: “Permanent relocation of refugees in a place outside their country of origin to allow them to establish residence and become productive members of society there.” Resettlement involves getting access to various forms of assistance in the areas of education, housing, and economic development in order to be “productive,” although there may be variations in terms of which groups get what.

In sum, US refugee status is a relatively exclusive status that is denied to many who apply or is just downright difficult to be eligible for. Moreover, further examination of the applicability of the term refugee to African Americans should consider an area that is not explored here but is certainly relevant to what was: US refugee policy and its relationship to thwarting opposition movements against capitalism, forging possibilities for emerging markets and maintaining white racial hegemony. These dynamics are of course central to the current debate about whether African Americans are refugees.

Tamara K. Nopper is a sociology graduate student at Temple University whose research explores immigration, race, and citizenship. Direct all correspondence to tnopper@yahoo.com.

Donate $$ To Local New Orleans Fund

NEW ORLEANIANS CALL FOR ACTION- PLEASE FORWARD WIDELY

Displaced New Orleans Community Demands Action, Accountability and Initiates A People’s Hurricane Fund

Not until the fifth day of the federal government’s inept and inadequate emergency response to the New Orleans’ disaster did George Bush even acknowledge it was ‘unacceptable.’ ‘Unacceptable’ doesn’t begin to describe the depth of the neglect, racism and classism shown to the people of New Orleans. The government’s
actions and inactions were criminal. New Orleans, a city whose population is almost 70% percent black, 40% illiterate, and many are poor, was left day after day to drown, to starve and to die of disease and thirst.

The people of New Orleans will not go quietly into the night, scattering across this country to become homeless in countless other cities while federal relief funds are funneled into rebuilding casinos, hotels, chemical plants and the wealthy white districts of New Orleans like the French Quarter and the Garden District. We will not stand idly by while this disaster is used as an opportunity to replace our homes with newly built mansions and condos in a gentrified New Orleans.

Community Labor United (CLU), a coalition of the progressive organizations throughout New Orleans, has brought community members together for eight years to
discuss socio-economic issues. We have been communicating with people from The Quality Education as a Civil Right Campaign, the Algebra Project, the Young
People’s Project and the Louisiana Research Institute for Community Empowerment. We are preparing a press release and framing document that will be out as a draft later today for comments.

Here is what we are calling for:

* We are calling for all New Orleanians remaining in the city to be evacuated immediately.

* We are calling for information about where every evacuee was taken. We are calling for black and progressive leadership to come together to meet in Baton Rouge to initiate the formation of a Community Oversight Committee of evacuees from all the sites. This committee will demand to oversee FEMA, the Red Cross and other organizations collecting resources on behalf of our people.

* We are calling for volunteers to enter the shelters where our people are and to assist parents with housing, food, water, health care and access to aid.

* We are calling for teachers and educators to carve out some time to come to evacuation sites and teach our children.

* We are calling for city schools and universities near evacuation sites to open their doors for our children to go to school.

* We are calling for health care workers and mental health workers to come to evacuation sites to volunteer.

* We are calling for lawyers to investigate the wrongful death of those who died, to protect the land of the displaced, to investigate whether the levies broke due to natural and other related matters.

* We are calling for evacuees from our community to actively participate in the rebuilding of New Orleans.

* We are calling for the addresses of all the relevant list serves and press contacts to send our information.

We are in the process of setting up a central command post in Jackson, MS, where we will have phone lines, fax, email and a web page to centralize information. We will need volunteers to staff this office.

We have set up a People’s Hurricane Fund that will be directed and administered by New Orleanian evacuees. The Young People’s Project, a 501(c)3 organization formed by graduates of the Algebra Project, has agreed to accept donations on behalf of this fund. Donations can be mailed to:

The People’s Hurricane Fund c/o The Young People’s Project 99 Bishop Allen Drive Cambridge, MA 02139

If you have comments of how to proceed or need more information, please email them to Curtis Muhammad(muhammadcurtis@bellsouth.net) and Becky Belcore(bbelcore@hotmail.com).

Thank you.

Notes FROM New Orleans

This just came to me from a friend who lives in New Orleans. Please feel free to re-post or forward to ALL your lists…

Please Forward

Notes From Inside New Orleans

by Jordan Flaherty

Friday, September 2, 2005

I just left New Orleans a couple hours ago. I traveled from the apartment I was staying in by boat to a helicopter to a refugee camp. If anyone wants to examine the attitude of federal and state officials towards the victims of hurricane Katrina, I advise you to visit one of the refugee camps.

In the refugee camp I just left, on the I-10 freeway near Causeway, thousands of people (at least 90% black and poor) stood and squatted in mud and trash behind metal barricades, under an unforgiving sun, with heavily armed soldiers standing guard over them. When a bus would come through, it would stop at a random spot, state police would open a gap in one of the barricades, and people
would rush for the bus, with no information given about where the bus was going. Once inside (we were told) evacuees would be told where the bus was taking them – Baton Rouge, Houston, Arkansas, Dallas, or other locations. I was told that if you boarded a bus bound for Arkansas (for example), even people with family and a place to stay in Baton Rouge would not be allowed to get out of the bus as it passed through Baton Rouge. You had no choice but to go to the shelter in
Arkansas. If you had people willing to come to New Orleans to pick you up, they could not come within 17 miles of the camp.

I traveled throughout the camp and spoke to Red Cross workers, Salvation Army workers, National Guard, and state police, and although they were friendly, no one could give me any details on when buses would arrive, how many, where they would go to, or any other information. I spoke to the several teams of journalists nearby, and asked if any of them had been able to get any information from any federal or state officials on any of these questions, and all of them, from Australian tv to local Fox affiliates complained of an unorganized, non-communicative, mess. One cameraman told me “as someone who’s been here in this camp for two days, the only information I can give you is this: get out by nightfall. You don’t want to be here at night.”

There was also no visible attempt by any of those running the camp to set up any sort of transparent and consistent system, for instance a line to get on buses, a way to register contact information or find
family members, special needs services for children and infirm, phone services, treatment for possible disease exposure, nor even a single trash can.

To understand the dimensions of this tragedy, its important to look at New Orleans itself.

For those who have not lived in New Orleans, you have missed a incredible, glorious, vital, city. A place with a culture and energy unlike anywhere else in the world. A 70% African-American city where resistance to white supremacy has supported a generous, subversive and unique culture of vivid beauty. From jazz, blues and hiphop, to secondlines, Mardi Gras Indians, Parades, Beads, Jazz
Funerals, and red beans and rice on Monday nights, New Orleans is a place of art and music and dance and sexuality and liberation unlike anywhere else in the world.

It is a city of kindness and hospitality, where walking down the block can take two hours because you stop and talk to someone on every porch, and where a community pulls together when someone is in need. It is a city of extended families and social networks filling the gaps left by city, state and federal governments that have abdicated their responsibility for the public welfare. It is a city where someone you walk past on the street not only asks how you are, they wait for an answer.

It is also a city of exploitation and segregation and fear. The city of New Orleans has a population of just over 500,000 and was expecting 300 murders this year, most of them centered on just a few, overwhelmingly black, neighborhoods. Police have been quoted as saying that they don’t need to search out the perpetrators, because usually a few days after a shooting, the attacker is shot in revenge.

There is an atmosphere of intense hostility and distrust between much of Black New Orleans and the N.O. Police Department. In recent months, officers have been accused of everything from drug running to corruption to theft. In separate incidents, two New Orleans police officers were recently charged with rape (while in uniform), and there have been several high profile police killings of
unarmed youth, including the murder of Jenard Thomas, which has inspired ongoing weekly protests for several months.

The city has a 40% illiteracy rate, and over 50% of black ninth graders will not graduate in four years. Louisiana spends on average $4,724 per child’s education and ranks 48th in the country for lowest teacher salaries. The equivalent of more than two classrooms of young people drop out of Louisiana schools every day and about 50,000 students are absent from school on any given day. Far too many young black men from New Orleans end up enslaved in Angola Prison, a former slave plantation where inmates still do manual farm labor, and over 90% of inmates eventually die in the prison. It is a city where industry has left, and most remaining jobs are are low-paying, transient, insecure jobs in the service economy.

Race has always been the undercurrent of Louisiana politics. This disaster is one that was constructed out of racism, neglect and incompetence. Hurricane Katrina
was the inevitable spark igniting the gasoline of cruelty and corruption. From the
neighborhoods left most at risk, to the treatment of the refugees to the the media portrayal of the victims, this disaster is shaped by race.

Louisiana politics is famously corrupt, but with the tragedies of this week our political leaders have defined a new level of incompetence. As hurricane Katrina approached, our Governor urged us to “Pray the hurricane down” to a level two. Trapped in a building two days after the hurricane, we tuned our battery-operated radio into local radio and tv stations, hoping for vital news, and were told
that our governor had called for a day of prayer. As rumors and panic began to rule, they was no source of solid dependable information. Tuesday night, politicians and reporters said the water level would rise another 12 feet – instead it stabilized. Rumors spread like wildfire, and the politicians and media only made it worse.

While the rich escaped New Orleans, those with nowhere to go and no way to get there were left behind. Adding salt to the wound, the local and national media have spent the last week demonizing those left behind. As someone that loves New Orleans and the people in it, this is the part of this tragedy that hurts me the most, and it hurts me deeply.

No sane person should classify someone who takes food from indefinitely closed stores in a desperate, starving city as a “looter,” but that’s just what the media
did over and over again. Sheriffs and politicians talked of having troops protect stores instead of perform rescue operations.

Images of New Orleans’ hurricane-ravaged population were transformed into black, out-of-control, criminals. As if taking a stereo from a store that will clearly be insured against loss is a greater crime than the governmental neglect and incompetence that did billions of dollars of damage and destroyed a city. This media focus is a tactic, just as the eighties focus on “welfare queens” and “super-predators” obscured the simultaneous and much larger crimes of the Savings and Loan scams and mass layoffs, the hyper-exploited people of New Orleans are being used as a scapegoat to cover up much larger crimes.

City, state and national politicians are the real criminals here. Since at least the mid-1800s, its been widely known the danger faced by flooding to New Orleans. The flood of 1927, which, like this week’s events, was more about politics and racism than any kind of natural disaster, illustrated exactly the danger faced. Yet government officials have consistently refused to spend the money to protect this poor, overwhelmingly black, city. While FEMA and others warned of the urgent impending danger to New Orleans and put forward proposals for funding to reinforce and protect the city, the Bush administration, in every year since 2001, has cut or refused to fund New Orleans flood control, and ignored scientists warnings of increased hurricanes as a result of global warming. And, as the dangers rose with the floodlines, the lack of coordinated response dramatized vividly the callous disregard of our elected leaders.

The aftermath from the 1927 flood helped shape the elections of both a US President and a Governor, and ushered in the southern populist politics of Huey Long.

In the coming months, billions of dollars will likely flood into New Orleans. This money can either be spent to usher in a “New Deal” for the city, with public investment, creation of stable union jobs, new schools, cultural programs and housing restoration, or the city can be “rebuilt and revitalized” to a
shell of its former self, with newer hotels, more casinos, and with chain stores and theme parks replacing the former neighborhoods, cultural centers and corner jazz
clubs.

Long before Katrina, New Orleans was hit by a hurricane of poverty, racism, disinvestment, deindustrialization and corruption. Simply the damage from this
pre-Katrina hurricane will take billions to repair.

Now that the money is flowing in, and the world’s eyes are focused on Katrina, its vital that progressive-minded people take this opportunity to fight for a rebuilding with justice. New Orleans is a special place, and we need to fight for its rebirth.

———————————————–
Jordan Flaherty is a union organizer and an editor of Left Turn
Magazine (www.leftturn.org). He is not
planning on moving out of New Orleans.

———————————————–

Below are some small, grassroots and New Orleans-based resources,
organizations and institutions
that will need your support in the coming months.

Social Justice:
http://www.jjpl.org
http://www.iftheycanlearn.org
http://www.nolaps.org
http://www.thepeoplesinstitute.org/
http://www.criticalresistance.org/index.php?name=crno_home

Cultural Resources:
http://www.backstreetculturalmuseum.com
http://www.ashecac.org/
http://198.66.50.128/gallery/
http://www.nolahumanrights.org
http://www.freewebs.com/ironrail/
http://www.girlgangproductions.com/

Current Info and Resources:
http://neworleans.craigslist.org/about/help/katrina_cl.html