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Blog: Gulf Coast Justice

Oct 18, 2010 | By Casey Schoeneberger

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast five years ago this past August and September. These cataclysmic disasters provided an opportunity to rebuild an area safer and better than what the storm and man-made errors had destroyed, but unfortunately that opportunity was missed. Sadly, five years later, the government and the American people have yet another opportunity to rebuild the Gulf Coast following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. BP and our country have yet to respond adequately to this spill, but a window of opportunity remains available to demand accountability. 

Last week, Marge, Laura and I had the chance to sit down and discuss the oil spill with Salvador Samiento from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and Stephen Bradberry, the 2005 RFK Center Human Rights Advocacy Award winner.  Mr. Bradberry is the Executive Director at the Alliance Institute in New Orleans, which works to empower individuals and organizations to gain a seat at the table when it comes to determining how their communities are shaped following disasters.

Mr. Bradberry continues to advocate tirelessly for the people of the Gulf Coast who were displaced due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and is doing so again for people whose lives have been disrupted since the spill. He sees this most recent disaster as an occasion to renew the call for a Gulf Coast Civic Works Program, which would create 100,000 jobs to rebuild infrastructure and protect the environment from further ecological damage.  The Deep Water Horizon oil spill is—so far—not a missed opportunity, but a chance to create jobs and safety nets to guard against further physical and mental harm to the residents of the Gulf Coast.                                     

So often in the coverage of this disaster, we missed the humanity. We have not seen the food insecurity, the job loss, or the coinciding depression or domestic problems that are a direct result of the oil spill. Mr. Bradberry and the Alliance Institute have seen and documented the struggles that residents are facing and have given us a blueprint that would return a sense of security to the people of the Gulf Coast.                                               

That sense of security comes from healthcare clinics that would treat residents for the effects of the oil and contaminants all the way to oversight organizations that would ensure we are continuing to rebuild the Gulf to its former splendor and beyond. The RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights and the Alliance Institute cannot do these great things alone. They need advocacy organizations, governmental bodies, and individuals to keep demanding accountability so America does not miss another opportunity to return a sense of dignity and justice to the residents of the Gulf Coast. You can see more on the work of the RFK Center for Justice & Human Rights and their partnership with the Alliance Institute at http://rfkcenter.org/gulfcoast.