Update From Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children

We know that this update is long overdue and appreciate your patience in our getting it out.

First of all, we want to thank everyone again for all your support. We especially want to thank everyone who has sent love, clothes, and other donations to Flora, Marcy and others. We also want to give special thanks to those who donated computers, office supplies, fax and copy machines and furniture to help get our Lake Charles office off the ground.

It has not been an easy month. Our staff and members continue to struggle with the aftermath of both Katrina and Rita -- houses are destroyed, jobs are gone, offices are barely functional, loved ones need to be buried. Grieving and rage seem to be part of all of our daily realities as we try to fully comprehend what has happened and vision where we will go now that all has changed. Grief is both for our members and allies whose lives were lost, and for all of us whose homes are gone, whose lives as we knew them will never be the same.

We also grieve for a nation who has already lost interest in our struggle, a country that had an opportunity to rise up and declare an undying committment to eradicating the racism and greed which nourished these disasters, but somehow just hasn't. And we are rageful at a city and state who intend to rebuild the city of New Orleans without us and indeed exclusive of us. A city which continues to glorify the police and sheriffs despite proof that they left people to die in the city's jail and plainly killed others who were trying to escape the flood waters. A city that approves of contractors who exploit migrant workers - hiring them to do dangerous and hazardous clean up and then refusing to pay the promised wage or anything at all for weeks at a time. A state that allows for thousands to be evicted everyday with no dispute because those being evicted neither know nor can attend the hearing from their new "evacuation location" - but will arrive back home eventually to find a new lock on the door and their belongings on the corner with the rest of the trash on the street. A city and state that imply over and over that the city will be a better place without the poor and the Black despite the truth that New Orleans was built by poor people of color and destroyed by greed and racism.

We are not hopeless, we know our day will come. And we will still be here. We wont grieve and rage forever, but for now, our hearts are still heavy.

One thing that gives us hope is getting back on our feet. Our new Southwest LA office is located at 188 Williamsburg Street, Lake Charles, LA, 70605. Thanks to everyone who helped us, it is a beautiful office space and has most of what we need to keep on! We still need some desks and chairs and phones, but we have what we need to keep doing the work. Come visit us! For those who are wondering about our central city office, we still have our office space in New Orleans and Gina is working from there half time as the city gets back to its feet.

FFLIC was also finally able to meet as a staff and put together a new plan with priorities. We now have two main directives along with our ever-present organizing and juvenile justice reform work: 1) to locate every one of our members from the affected areas and as much as we can assist them with whatever their particular needs may be; and 2) work with other coalitions to document and bring attention to the stories and experiences of the survivors. This information and attention can be used to build demand for an independent investigation into the disasters and also ensure that the reconstruction of New Orleans not continue without the voices, desires and dreams of the people of New Orleans.

We have located many folks already and have distributed thousands of dollars to those who needed it. We have gathered clothes and furniture donations for our members. We are hosting a workshop this week on Human Rights Documentation for those of our members interested in interviewing and documenting survivors' experiences. We have travelled from DC to Los Angeles to Chicago to Atlanta and throughout Louisiana speaking and marching and talking and organizing in the hopes that that a unified coalition might evolve to lead us in this struggle and resistance. We have begun to work with a growing coalition of lawyers and organizers focused on ensuring that the reconstruction of New Orleans does *not* include a 7000 bed prison in its center, does *not* include a corrupt and brutal police force and does *not* include 2 dilapidated and dysfunctional juvenile detention centers.

We could go on and on but know that folks have much to read and do. Below are reports from our staff for folks who are wanting more detail about what our days and nights are like. Please know that we appreciate each and every one of your all's support and solidarity. We are still accepting donations: under the updates is a list of our and our members' wants and needs. All donations can be sent to our new office address. Thank you and much peace, Gina, Grace, Kori & Xochitl, FFLIC Staff


Grace, our Lake Charles organizer wrote the following update after a day of calls and searching for our members (*names have been changed):

"Mary* is living in a little camping trailer, with a leaking roof, in her driveway. They have received their Fema, Red Cross and food stamps. She was very excited to hear about FFLIC opening it's doors here next week. She told me Rhonda* and her family had to move and have gone to Philadelphia to start a new life. There apartment complex was next door to Vera's* and is torn up. Ms. Dana's* son, Steve* has run away twice in the last two weeks from Youth Challenge, been gone since Tues and she has no word on him. She has received her Fema and Red Cross but has yet to get her food stamps. I told her where to go and she is going to try next week. She is down mentally and struggling with Steve. She needs help financially and I will meet with her on Wed of next week. She is ready to get back to court and is very excited about the new office. She said Damon*, one of theboys she was working with when she was thrown out of court, was beaten badly by a guard that we know from JDC during the evacuation to Baton Rouge, in front of a van load of other kids being evacuated.

Miss Paula* is in very poor shape. Her son lost it 2 weeks ago. He was in a psychiatric hospital when he smashed his eyeball out with his hand and they have transferred him to a mental hospital in another parish. She is spending an enormous amount of money traveling all the way there to see him. She says he is completely out of it and the stress and fear I sensed from her end scared me. She seems close to losing it herself. I am meeting her tomorrow afternoon after she sees him to eat supper and see what support I can offer. I think we should also offer help financially for the cost of fuel and meals. What do you all think?

Carol* is at her breaking point after returning to find her newly remodeled house ready for the bulldozer. Her lodge that she rented out washed away and her mobile home she rented out with the roof gone.

All in Hackberry, one of our hardest hit areas near the coast. She says there is no way she could think of going to work now.

As I told all of you yesterday Vera* is ill and down mentally as well.

I have a doctor's appointment on Monday morning but after that I am going back to work hard. Everyone's need is just so great we must get things moving right away and I sense a place for all to come and support one another is a vital need at this time.

I was also thinking maybe we should hold a support group meeting and let folks just talk in the next two weeks and provide a good old FFLIC fried chicken dinner and plan for just for a couple of hours of sharing. Maybe Sat. the 29th in the early afternoon or the following Sun? This is what makes us FFLIC is coming together in the time of need and loving one another, plus it would give folks something to look forward to instead of just surviving day to day. Plus those that could help get things ready, it would give them a sense of purpose and things to do. How do your calendars look? I can handle all of the arrangements, alongside our members. Just need your time.

This has been an exhausting and heartbreaking day.

These are our people and their hurt is so real. I have finally stopped feeling sorry for myself and am seeing work much clearer than I have in a long time.

These folks have suffered so much. I found it hard to keep from breaking down and crying with them but God gave me the strength to offer them solace and support. This feeling I have now is similar to what I felt like coming home as the destruction I was seeing became worse and worse along the roads bringing us home. But now it is about our people and their hearts and their souls and I feel compelled to leave the whole mess I have here and go help others. This is the true damge of Rita and Katrina and there is no accounting for that in Bush's tallying of damages to the Gulf Coast.There is no account for this pain and hardship. Our fund will not be able to help these folks with this but it can ease their other worries and bring some peace to them that maybe what pulls them through.

Gina, Kori and Xochitl I love you all and am thankful to all of you for the support and love I receive from each of you. More thankful than any of you may ever know. We must take what we have between us and share it within our circle quickly, as I know where some of these folks are and I have been there. I have no doubt in my heart that without the folks of the JJPL and FFLIC I would have never had been able to get through those hours of darkness in my life that I believe most of the folks I have mentioned in this email are facing tonight. This is the unwritten part of our mission, the giving of ourselves in the hard times, that will draw folks in and make us stronger.

It is this need and giving that has created the LC FFLIC group that has remained united for so long. My plea is that you will come quickly and as wholeheartedly as possible. "

Co-Director, Gina wrote the following when she returned home for the first time:

"Ok, I'm writing this while I'm drinking the biggest daiquiri I could find on the westbank. It is with great sorrow and devestation Im writing this email. I just came from my house and well, I thought I would be prepared for what I would find. There is nothing that prepared me for what I would see there. I knew I had 5-6ft of water but the level of grossness was completely overwhelming. As I drove into the deserted city, I was shocked at the level of devestation found there. Trees downed everywhere, electical pole and lines spewn through the streets and absolutely no one in the streets other than military personnel. Cars and boats thown everywhere.

As I made it to my home, I expected to see my clothes and shoes all ruined, but as I approached my driveway I found my iron fence laying on the ground (mind you I could never open it cause I didnt have a key). The water line was above my sister and my moms cars and my bedroom door had rotted so it had given way and was ajar. I walked into what was my newly painted room, by yours truly, to find the paint peeling, clothes and shoes everywhere and my mattress still dripping wet. I dont need to discuss the stench. In my den, my sofa, dining table and refridgerator were thrown all over the floor, my wine and the cabinet over sink completely thrown on the floor. all the books that I have collected over the years, ruined. Ok, you guys know Im generally a "whatever" kind of person and I had already seperated myself from the material things but when I realized just how many of my photo albums I left behind I just lost it. I cant believe all of the memories of my children and my older dearly departed family just gone. When you pick up the albums they just crumble in your hands. I thought they were up high enough but obviously I was wrong. My foyer walls are now decorated with mold and mildew. I cant even imagine this house to be livable again. I didnt want to bring Jessica with me, but its a good thing she came as she at least had the foresight to go and get the clothes out the dirty clothes hamper as all of my things and the boys things are lost. I guess I am homeless and clotheless. This is unbelieveable. I'm not sure how I will recover from this emotionally. It's not even about the material things really, but knowing that each and every one of those items represented a moment in time that I will never get back, time shopping with a friend that I havent seen in years perhaps. Lord, I dont know how people will deal with this. I keep thinking about Ms. Collins* and other people whose entire house was under water. How will we ever rebuild this city..that is everywhere outside of the french quarter, garden district and downtown!!! To think as I look down my block and for miles on end that homes look this exact same way and hundreds of people will return to find the same thing. Those of you that pray and even those of you that dont please do so this time for me and my children and families all across the gulf coast."
For those who would like to continue to support FFLIC in our work,
please send all donations to 188 Williamsburg Street, Lake Charles, LA,
70607. We cant tell you how much we appreciate you!

Clothes for Ms. Lecia, a member of the Lake Charles Chapter of FFLIC
whose family lost everything:
Woman size 26/28 and 11/12 shoe; man size 36 pants 17neck shirt or
Large; 11 shoe; woman size 24 and 11/shoe; man size 48 pant and 3x or 19
1/2 neck shirt and 12 shoe
Please send to: Hotel Ramanda Inn, 2700 Hwy 82E, Greenville, MS 38701
and send us an email to let us know

For other members:
calling/phone cards
gift cards from places that sell furniture, clothes or gas
For our office:
folding chairs for meetings
office chairs
picture frames & other office decorations
a microwave
a coffee pot
a vacuum cleaner
a tv/vcr combo for video showings
tape recorders for use in documentation
children's books, toys and play area items

For the FFLIC Hurricane Relief Fund:
cash and check donations that will be used to help our members rebuild
their homes and their lives

xochitl [at] mediajumpstart [dot] org

From the Friends_of_fflic mailing list
To Subscribe
Send email to: Friends_of_fflic-subscribe [at] lists [dot] mayfirst [dot] org