Natasha Trethewey is the Poet Laureate of these United States. She teaches creative writing at Emory University. And like the pages that frame her art, she is Black and White. Born of mixed parentage on the Mississippi Gulf Coast Trethewey understands more than most, root and branch of racial intolerance and inequity.
The poems in Native Guard did not let me rest in the comfort of my middle-class; I finished the poetry but it was not finished with me. In a vague and impersonal way I know about slavery, cotton, sugar cane and the unspeakable crimes of Man's inhumanity to Man. But Trethewey brings it home. It moves in, it lives with you...it's uncomfortable and unsettling because it is "today."
Beyond Katrina is a chronicle of times past and present; poverty past, poverty present, worsened by government injustice. Gulfport, Mississippi like other costal cities was struck by Katrina's fury. Nature does not discriminate...people do. Katrina left a record of destruction and rubble; there was cleanup and rebuilding to do, so for a time work seemed plentiful. Federal funds sent for rebuilding were somehow diverted into widening and deepening the shipping channel...assuring a more prosperous future for Gulfport. City officials rewrote ordinances so that condemned or destroyed homes could not be rebuilt. This was accomplished by increasing the legal setback distance from the street to the home resulting in lots that were...with the stroke of a pen...too small for rebuilding. For the poor, their monument to Katrina (and the city fathers) was a naked slab of condemned concrete too small for building. In a word, they had nothing; legislated, homeless refugees in a city where many had lived for generation upon generation..
The Bible has an message for Gulfport and all cities practicing similar legal evils: These are the words of God given to Isaiah"What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor? declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty." Isaiah 3:15 [NIV]
Think on these things. ec