13 Years After Katrina: Ruthless for New Orleans


I originally wrote this piece three years ago. My sentiments hold true today, and I felt compelled to share it on the 13th anniversary of Katrina with my Camelback community. The last paragraph is a little something new. 

What, you ask, am I exactly clear about? Well, thank you, for asking...I am clear without equivocation that it's ALL good.

Ten years ago, we never imagined that a Katrina event could happen. Not the natural phenomena of a super storm -- we do live in a costal community -- we choose to reside where storms do, naturally (and periodically) occur. But, what stunned us all was the utter lack of safety nets for the most vulnerable among us -- largely, the financially poor, the elderly, and the sick. Among them was my spunky kick-ass grandfather who chose to remain in his mortgage-free, 50-year-old home with his disabled boat tethered to the porch, "Just in case things took a turn for the worse." 

Well, the turn happened, and, it was the worse.

As our family (multiple generations and many branches) tried to comprehend the startling images on television, we dialed and re-dialed the sunken cell phone of our patriarch. With no answer, we reassured one another that surely the man we loved was still with us in this world. Each one trying to bravely tell and re-tell stories of his ingenuity and strength. We convinced ourselves that we would see him soon and, and in short order, hear the melodies of his infectious laugh and jazzy trumpet. Certainly, the man we all admired was somewhere safe, chewing a toothpick with his bare-baby-powdered chest telling us all not to worry.

After many anxious days, we got word that he was safe. And, as predicted, his story of survival, rescue (he managed to save several neighbors), and discovery is one that we shall tell for many generations to come.

Rescuers use an old row boat to evacuate children and an elderly woman from their flooded homes in Gulfport, Miss., after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast Monday, Aug. 29, 2005. ASSOCIATED PRESS.
Rescuers use an old row boat to evacuate children and an elderly woman from their flooded homes in Gulfport, Miss., after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast Monday, Aug. 29, 2005. ASSOCIATED PRESS.

I am grateful that he was with us for 8 more years. He was able to see more great grand babies born, attend my law school graduation, and dance at many, many more weddings (maybe one too many, but that's a story for another time). 

The facts of any tragedy or loss, are the facts. Unfortunately, we cannot reverse time for a do-over. We cannot learn lessons we didn't know that we didn't know. But, what we can do is not allow the sacrifice of life and safety that too many souls made during Katrina to be for naught. I shall never forget why so many died and why so many others found themselves in perilous situations: we neglected the most vulnerable among us...

Collectively, we long ago, turned a deaf ear to the on-going and persistent clamor of poverty and disenfranchisement in our city. So, I choose daily to make good on the lessons our brothers and sisters bore witness to, for us all -- the consequences of inequity and poverty are life threatening, life-changing, and life taking. I chose to be forever changed by what we experienced 10 years ago, and I would not care to return to who I was before that fateful day.


When a job posting for a new program lead at Camelback Ventures floated my way, I jumped at it. Aaron wrote of his vision for what a version of this city could be where good jobs, truly good, were attainable by the people who actually lived here. Whose backbone this city and its culture are built on. It resonates with me so fundamentally, and I am thrilled to be leading our new pilot for economic development in New Orleans and the creation of good jobs. If my story resonated with you, if you believe in what I believe, if you are committed to empowering our families and our neighbors, then I invite you to learn more about our new pilot and sign up for our newsletter at camelbackventures.org/goodjobs

- Nadiyah

In loving memory of Pawpaw, Leonard J. Morris. Husband, father of 9, grandfather to 26


In Loving Memory of "Pawpaw," Leonard J. Morris.

Husband, father of 9, grandfather of 26.