Within 24 hours of hurricane Ike’s landfall Friday, NAACP teams, trained by the American Red Cross, were on the ground in Texas and Louisiana providing aid.
“We want to ensure that the rights of African American victims are protected and that they receive equal treatment in the aftermath of the storm,” said newly elected NAACP president and CEO Benjamin Jealous. “With support from our members, partners and the public we can make sure the woefully inadequate response by federal and local authorities during Katrina are not repeated.”
Since Katrina, hundreds of NAACP members have completed American Red Cross training as certified disaster relief volunteers in their communities.
NAACP teams and U. S. Rep. Al Green, a former Houston NAACP branch president, surveyed the damage done to the congressman’s devastated district in Houston before heading to hurricane ravaged Galveston.
NAACP volunteers report that the devastation has left widely scattered debris, and homes with missing roofs in both Texas and Louisiana.
Authorities report it may be weeks or months before residents can return to survey the damage to their homes. Those who did not heed warnings to evacuate are finding themselves cut off from clean water, food, plumbing and electrical power, meaning no television, radio or phone service.
According to Gene Collins, co-chair of the Texas NAACP Disaster Committee, there is an immediate need for ice, water, food, toiletries and other comfort items for survivors.
Stefanie Brown, national director of the NAACP youth & college division, was stunned by the conditions that she witnessed as an NAACP volunteer.
“It quickly became evident that the effect of Hurricane Ike cut much deeper than the uncomfortable flesh wound portrayed on TV. To put it bluntly, people down here are suffering and need help. There was no food, no clean water, no operating toilets. In fact, in the words of Ms. Moore, “Galveston has been totally leveled-all infrastructure is gone.”
And although some people should be able to receive cell phone service, FEMA has secured all the networks resulting in no incoming or outgoing calls.
Brown said that NAACP volunteers spent most of their time strategizing over ways to ensure that all areas affected by the hurricane receive relief in a timely manner.
“Unfortunately Hurricane Katrina revealed that all people, especially communities of color, aren’t adequately assisted by traditional aid organizations-if they’re assisted at all,” said Brown. “But this time around NAACP members, trained and assisted by American Red Cross staff, are working diligently to help our communities in need.”
The NAACP has established a command center at its Texas State Conference office in Austin to coordinate its disaster relief efforts. Volunteers are also needed to help in the recovery effort. Persons interested in volunteering should call (512) 322-9457.