Rebounding from Katrina
Taking Back A Community
The nearly 8,000 Vietnamese concentrated in a one-mile radius in New Orleans East were already suffering from high levels of poverty and unemployment when Hurricane Katrina hit. Residents of these fishing communities fled following the storm, and many of the residents from the areas hardest hit have yet to return. Driving through New Orleans East you can still see countless houses that have gone untouched since their owners fled nearly eight years ago.
Over 2,000 residents of the Vietnamese community in New Orleans East did return, however, to find a designated green space in the area turned into a landfill for debris after the storm. Thousands of community members protested the space being used as a landfill, and eventually they won the space back, albeit not intact. This was the first time “we Vietnamese actually felt like real Americans,” said one resident. “Before, we had just paid our taxes. Our community has become more engaged.”
Today, these same fishing communities have started using “aquaponics” to grow produce from fertilizers made from fish waste, adding another stream of income to their fishing economy. The Vietnamese living in New Orleans East now sell fresh produce to local restaurants as part of VEGGI Farmer’s Cooperative, portraying a community resilience that is a national and global inspiration.